Exposing Medical Students to Orthopedic Surgery Subspecialties

The Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation welcomes visiting senior medical students, though space is limited. We follow recommendations from the Coalition for Physician Accountability’s Work Group on Medical Students in the Class of 2021.

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine seniors get first preference for our clerkships. When space allows, we accept visiting fourth-year medical students who:

  • Cannot access an elective in their specialty of interest at their home school 
  • Require an away rotation for graduation or accreditation at their home school

We give preference to students at Nashville’s Meharry Medical College.

Program Overview

Positions: Varies
Duration: 1 month
Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt

Our orthopedic surgery clerkships give you hands-on experience in all aspects of orthopedic surgery, helping you integrate medical and surgical knowledge by caring for patients with musculoskeletal conditions, including oncology and pediatrics, in both inpatient and outpatient settings. As part of our program, you will work as part of our multidisciplinary team, focusing on initial evaluation, preoperative and postoperative management and intraoperative surgical procedures. 

Your course will include:

  • Call: During your clerkship, you will share in the call experience, working independently to provide patients with casting, evaluations and splinting. 
  • Didactic sessions: Through one-hour discussions each morning before surgical cases or clinic, you will participate in didactic sessions that will help you integrate medical and surgical knowledge in the care of patients.

All visiting students follow Vanderbilt's Fourth Year Class Calendar. And, when you arrive, you must complete a Bloodborne Pathogen Training Session. 

Residency Program Candidacy 

As a visiting medical student, we consider you a candidate for our Orthopaedic Surgery Residency program. We complete formal residency program interviews during your month-long visiting rotation. 

Subspecialty Clerkships 

Our orthopedic surgery clerkships provide exposure to one of eight subspecialties.

Adult Hand

During this rotation, you will learn to provide initial evaluation, pre-operative and post-operative management for adult hand surgery patients. Caring for patients with congenital hand deformities and musculoskeletal hand injuries, you will gain experience in both inpatient and outpatient settings. 

Adult Reconstructive Surgery

Working alongside our joint replacement experts, you will improve your surgical knowledge in caring for orthopaedic patients.

Adult Spine

Through exposure to caring for patients with spine related deformities and injuries in the hospital and at outpatient clinics, we provide an introduction to outpatient assessment and inpatient management of people with a wide variety of spinal disorders. 

You will learn to properly assess patients with:

  • Low back pain 
  • Spinal injuries with neurological involvement

You will also participate in the emergent, preoperative, surgical, postoperative hospital, and outpatient diagnostic and therapeutic care of patients.  

Adult Trauma

Working alongside the Chief Resident, you will help care for orthopedic trauma victims and patients with musculoskeletal injuries. Through this experience, you will learn more about emergent, preoperative, surgical, postoperative hospital and outpatient diagnostic and therapeutic patient care.

Foot & Ankle 

With the guidance of our Chief Resident, you will gain an in-depth understanding of the evaluation and management of:

  • Arthritis
  • Common deformities
  • Neuropathy 
  • Orthotic management
  • Pedorthic management
  • Sports-related injuries
  • Tendonopathies


During your clerkship, you can expect to gain hands-on exposure to musculoskeletal oncology, learning the medical, pathological, radiological and surgical aspects of patient care. 

Pediatric Orthopaedics 

Working in both inpatient and outpatient settings, you will assess and manage pediatric orthopedic surgical patients. With this exposure to patient care, you will learn decision making protocols, how to evaluate the child, pertinent history taking and treatment options.

Sports Medicine 

During this rotation, you will work in our Sports Medicine Center and the operating room, alongside our Attending and our Chief Resident, caring for patients with athletic injuries and all injuries of the knee and shoulder. 

Application Process and Requirements

You must meet certain requirements to apply for an orthopedic surgery clerkship, including:

  • Being in good standing at an accredited U.S. allopathic medical school
  • Obtaining approval from your Dean
  • Showing proof of adequate health insurance and professional liability insurance coverage  

At Vanderbilt, we use the VSAS (Visiting Student Application Service). When you submit your application, please:

  • Apply to Surg-General Ortho and we will assign your rotation schedule when you arrive
  • Include a letter of recommendation (ideally from an orthopaedic surgeon) 
  • Indicate your first, second, and third choices of orthopedic subspecialties. If no preference is listed and you are confirmed as a visiting medical student, you will be placed on any available service.

Please apply at least 8 weeks in advance.

Helpful information about our clerkship program:

  • A $150.00 registration fee is required to confirm your spot as a visiting medical student.
  • Availability for visiting students will open after Vanderbilt students are scheduled in May. 
  • Students are notified by email when they are accepted for a visiting student rotation.
  • Visiting student elective applications are considered in order of receipt. 

For more information about our clerkship program, contact Shannon Mullens, program coordinator, at