High Stress and Disaster Drills at Cut Suit Week


Nestled in the outskirts of San Diego, there is a village with telltale signs of chaos: blown-up cars, blood stains, smears of black smoke on walls, and spent bullet shells wherever you look. Every year, a fresh crop of second-year military students come to this place to build upon their emergency medicine and trauma skills at what has become known as “Cut Suit Week.” The village, built on the Stu Segall Productions lot, allows for a myriad of emergency scenarios: a stabbing in an apartment complex, a car accident, a terrorist with a bomb, and more. In one of the warehouse-style buildings, there is a realistic emergency room and several operating rooms, which allows students to receive and treat patients.DSC_0452

Cut Suit Week (more formally titled the Intensive Surgical and Trauma Skills Course) is a week-long event that simultaneously provides training to the students and various law enforcement agencies, such as the Border Patrol, the California Highway Patrol, and Chula Vista Police Department. The event is hosted by Strategic Operations (STOPS), makers of the cut suit, in collaboration with RVU’s Military Medicine Track team (and several faculty members along for the wild ride). Every day, students were thrust into back-to-back scenarios (for a total of 45) in which they rotated their roles: as patients, as ER physicians, as trauma surgeons, or simply as observers, standing in the catwalks above where they could watch the action unfold below.

DSC_0129In the OR, thirty-five surgeries were performed by students on the cut suit, a human-worn surgical simulator. Despite the realism of the situation, teaching moments were offered at every turn. While performing a surgery, the simulator was able to be paused in order for the training surgeon to provide instruction to the student. Uniquely, though, students were also allowed to fail: “Students are allowed to make mistakes so that they learn how to recover from them,” said Kit Lavell, Executive Vice President of STOPS. “It is truly a return to the [concept] of ‘See one. Do one. Teach one.'”

Along with RVU, other schools participated in the course: Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences and College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific at Western University of Health Sciences. “Going into the week, I really didn’t have any expectations,” said one KCUMB student. “It had been a long time since I was excited about anything school-related. From Day 3, I absolutely loved it. I loved learning in that environment and…the faculty was amazing. That week in San Diego helped me to re-find my ‘why’ as in ‘why do you study medicine?’ I can honestly say I am excited about medicine again.”

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