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Due to the continued risks associated with traveling abroad during the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19, PTS has made the difficult decision to put a moratorium on this program until further notice. 

PTS International Observers have the opportunity to observe the different components of trauma and emergency systems at VCU Trauma Center, including VCU Department of Surgery, Division of Acute Care Surgical Services, Richmond Ambulance Authority, and the VCU Center for Trauma and Critical Care Education, and more.

Scope of the International Observership Program -IOP

The goal of the IOP is to facilitate knowledge transfer from VCU Health System experts to foreign medical professionals through an informal shadowing program. Observers are given access to, the latest information, technology, clinical protocols, and best practices.The IOP offers international medical students, physicians and fellows the opportunity to observe our surgeons, physicians, and residents in practice and participate in discussions, patient-oriented activities and academic sessions.
The duration of the observership varies from 2 weeks up to 3 months upon the observers' academic level and objectives.

The IOP starts every first Monday of the month and a certificate of attendance will be issued at the end.
Observers are expected to maintain the confidentiality of VCU Health proprietary information.

The experience as an observer may include rotations on the different areas that compose a trauma and emergency system.

  1. Pre-hospital services/ EMS
  2. Trauma Bay
  3. Acute Care - surgery trauma Intensive Care Unit
  4. Post-Hospital Care
  5. Center for Trauma and Critical Care Education
  6. Performance Improvement Program
  7. Ultrasound in emergency and trauma

Current PTS Collaborative Partners / Host institutions

Within VCU:

  1. Department of Surgery, Division of Acute Care Surgical Services
  2. VCU Center for Trauma and Critical Care Education
  3. MCVH Performance Improvement Program
  4. VCU Center for Human Simulation and Patient Safety
  5. VCU Trauma Center
  6. International Trauma Systems Development Program (ITSDP)

In Richmond:

  1. Chesterfield Fire/EMS
  2. Richmond Ambulance Authority
  3. Life Evac

In the US:

  1. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (Pennsylvania)
  2. University of Maryland Medical Center, Shock Trauma Center

Outside US:

  1. Panamerican Trauma Society and its 18 affiliated Trauma, Critical Care, and Prehospital societies.
  2. "Universidad del Valle" in Cali, Colombia 


Various activities are developed at the different host institutions including:

1. Trauma Surgery - ICU 

Observe critical care management of surgical critical care patients via ICU rounds and participation in the discussions. The Observer will also participate in the weekly teaching seminars of the  Division of Trauma, Critical care and Emergency surgery.

2. Trauma Systems, EMS:  Center for Trauma & Critical Care Education (CTCCE)

At CTCCE the Observer has the opportunity to observe the various skills and  personnel needed for program planning and management, curriculum development  and program administration.  The observer will learn about  several different types of EMS systems in the commonwealth of Virginia including medical air services, and will ride with different rescue squads.   They will also participate in the trauma and EMS Training Programs and continuing  education programs conducted by CTCCE. The above skills and information is crucial for the organization and enhancement of EMS systems.

3. Division of Trauma Performance Improvement Program (PIP) & the Trauma registry

The participant will observe the Performance Improvement/Trauma Registry Coordinator who utilizes clinical expertise to abstract data, assign abbreviated injury scores and identify, report and follow up on quality issues. The PIP/Registry Coordinator also analyzes data and develops reports for statistics, research, and planning. The Observer will gain insight into the importance of the trauma registry as a tool for performance monitoring and continues quality improvement. The observer will learn the structure and operating processes of a Trauma Medical Audit Committee and the value of developing a peer review committee analysis of preventable pre-hospital and in-hospital factors contributing to trauma deaths.

4. Ultrasound in Emergency & Trauma

In addition, the rotation can be focused on emergency and trauma ultrasound training under the leadership of Dr. Paula Ferrada, with emphasis on echocardiogram and FAST of critically ill patients.

Learn about a recent observer's experiences:

APRIL 2018: Case Study Presentation at Trauma Grand Rounds 

The PTS International Observer and vascular and endovascular fellow, Andrés Fernando Domínguez-Calero, MD, traveled from Medellin, Colombia to observe trauma rotations at the VCU Health System in Richmond, VA in April. While observing at VCU Health System, Dr. Domínguez is under the mentorship of the VCU Trauma Center Director, Michel Aboutanos, MD and STICU Director, Paula Ferrada, MD.
Dr. Domínguez had the opportunity to present on the topic “Iatrogenic Aortic Trauma” at the weekly PTS International Trauma Grand Rounds, connecting with participants from India, São Paola, Baghad, Bangkok, Miami, and Portland.  Grand Rounds Flyer

March 2018: International observers appeared in the local news channel

The PTS International Observers from Cuenca, Ecuador were interviewed in the local news channel while rotating at the Richmond Ambulance Authority (RAA). Both observers, recent medical graduates, gained invaluable experience and knowledge by working side by side with pre-hospital professionals at RAA and emergency and trauma surgeons from VCU Health System. The International Observership Program seeks to make a difference in influencing foreign medical professionals' views, perceptions and knowledge on the 4 components of comprehensive trauma systems: Pre-hospital care, Acute Care Facility care, Post-Hospital care, and Injury Prevention Education.

To see the news note:

NOTE: This is for Observation only:
This program is strictly observational. A participant shall in no way be permitted to actively participate in patient care or direct contact, examination, research or other work during his/her observership.

Do you wish to participate?

  • If you wish to participate as a host center, please notify the ITSDP/VCU Coordinator of who the observership program coordinator is for that institution or center.
  • Participants who wish to observe activities at VCU, please contact the ITSDP Observership Coordinator for more information and requirements.
  • Observers who wish to observe activities at other participating institutions (other than VCU), please contact the ITSDP Coordinator, who will provide the contact information for that institution.

For more information Contact to: 

Nancy Valencia, MSc.

International Systems Development Coordinator


Phone: (804)828.8576


Division of Acute Care Surgical Services

Department of Surgery

Virginia Commonwealth University, School of Medicine

Richmond, VA 23298-0454

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