Contact Us

Medical Education
Health Science Center
1400 W. 22nd St.
Sioux Falls, SD 57105
Office Hours
Monday - Friday
8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Welcome to the Office of Medical Education

The Office of Medical Education (OME) at the University of South Dakota (USD) stands on the fundamental of being together in teaching, innovation, and compassion. We strive to model our values of excellence in education, research, and service.

The Office of Medical Education serves as the centralized office committed to providing the M.D. curriculum and educational support for faculty and students including orientation, course delivery, assessment, simulation, course and faculty evaluations, and accreditation. We are a vital resource for our affiliate hospital and clinic sites in providing clinical education to our medical students.


Excellence in
Medical Education

The Office of Medical Education is focused on building student competency in patient care, medical knowledge, practice-based learning and improvement, interpersonal and communication skills, professionalism, and systems-based practice.

Three Pillar Curriculum

Our curriculum is organized into three pillars that span the course of four years.

Three Pillars

Students participate in foundational biomedical sciences in parallel with foundational clinical sciences over the course of the first 18 months. The clinical foundation courses are integrated with two medical foundations courses and eight organ system courses. The grading is pass-fail in the first phase of the curriculum. The Pillar 1 curriculum has been developed with an emphasis on limited lectures, early clinical exposure, active learning, case-based small groups, and high-fidelity simulation.

Over the next 12 months, students participate in seven core clerkships through longitudinal integrated ambulatory experiences interleaved with hospital-based education, formal didactics and a focused rural family medicine block experience. Students are located on one of three clinical campuses – Rapid City, Sioux Falls and Yankton- and in rural communities across the state through the Frontier And Rural Medicine (FARM) Program. The first semester of Pillar 2 is graded pass-fail, while the second semester of Pillar 2 introduces letter grades to allow students to begin to distinguish themselves.

Over the last 16 months, all students complete selected required rotations including two surgery sub-specialty experiences, an emergency medicine rotation, and an acting internship (sub-internship). Students will also participate in a capstone rural family medicine experience during this phase of the curriculum. The remainder of this time students have the flexibility to pursue elective rotations, research, away rotations, and global health experiences. Students can also select from a variety of courses on medical ethics, medical humanities, and health policy. Grading in this phase of the curriculum is based on letter grades. A transition to residency course and a professional development course serves as the final requirements in the M.D. program.

Pillar 3 schedules vary per student. Students can make their own schedule but attached are two different draft Pillar 3 schedules.

Department Resources


Sydney Bormann

Success story Sydney Bormann.
What I love about USD is the welcoming and supportive atmosphere. Faculty are committed to our success and there is a genuine sense of collaboration. Graduates consistently have competitive board scores and successfully match into all specialties. As a South Dakota native, USD feels like home. The experiences I have had as a medical student at USD have made me even more passionate about practicing in SD after residency. A unique aspect of USD is the various campuses across the state. Having multiple sites gives students the ability to tailor their medical education to their specific career goals. We get hands-on experience and the opportunity to work closely with clinical faculty as early as our first year. USD offers opportunities to get involved – volunteering at student run clinics, working with faculty on research projects, serving in class leadership roles, or attending interest group meetings led by upperclassmen, there's no shortage of opportunities to pursue their passions.

Sydney Bormann

USD SSOM Class of 2024

A FARM Program research process.

FARM Program

As part of Pillar 2, our students have an opportunity to practice medicine in rural areas for 9 months. Our Frontier And Rural Medicine (FARM) program helps to promote the number of physicians wanting to practice rural medicine in South Dakota.

Learn More
A scholar's day presentation in progress.

Scholarship Pathways Program

The Scholarship Pathways Program (SPP) is an opportunity over the full duration of medical school for research and presentation opportunities. Students have an opportunity to be awarded extra funds toward tuition, as well as funds towards travel and materials to present their research.

Learn More
Students in the Parry Center studying.

Parry Center for Clinical Skills & Simulation

The Parry Center is an advanced clinical environment that allows for state-of-the-art simulation for real-patient experience. Students can learn in a safe and effective environment that fosters collaboration and hands-on experience prior to real-world patient encounters.

Learn More
The entrance of the Wegner LIbrary.

Wegner Health Sciences Library

As South Dakota’s premier medical library, The Wegner Health Sciences Library supports health care, education, and research for the medical school and partner organizations.

Learn More
Exterior of the Sanford School of Medicine Building in Sioux Falls.


Assessment of students at the Sanford School of Medicine (SSOM) takes many forms and is integrated into the education process throughout the three pillars of the curriculum. Assessment can be formative or summative with objectives derived and mapped from the six medical student competency domains SSOM follows. Students are assessed during courses and clerkships through quantitative (NBME subject examinations, OSCEs, written exams, attending assessments) and qualitative (written or verbal feedback) methods.

Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)

OSCE (Objective Structured Clinical Examination) is a multi-station, clinical skills assessment method that is based on objective testing and direct observation of student performance. Studies have shown that this is a valid method to assess clinical skills and competencies that are fundamental to the practice of medicine.  The USD SSOM administered its first OSCE on August 10, 1996, to students at the end of the third year of medical school.  The event has occurred yearly since that time. The OSCE expanded in 2002 by using standardized patients to portray medical conditions.  In 2013, the OSCE further expanded by partnering with the Parry Center for Clinical Skills and Simulation as the permanent home.  This allowed the inclusion and use of state-of-the-art clinical testing software, infrastructure, and high-fidelity patient simulator manikins. On January 26, 2021, the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) discontinued the USMLE Step 2 Clinical Skills (USMLE Step 2 CS) examination, putting greater responsibility on medical schools to ensure graduates have acceptable interview and examination skills.
An OSCE in process.

The end of Pillar 2 OSCE consists of six clinical stations utilizing standardized patients and/or simulators and covers a range of common medical conditions affecting various age groups and genders.  Interpretation of radiographs, EKGs, and other tests may be included as a separate station.  Competency skills assessed in detail include patient care, medical knowledge, interpersonal and communication skills, and professionalism.

OSCE stations are monitored by trained observers who score student performance on history taking, physical examination, information sharing skills, and interpersonal skills.  The graders use an approved checklist for each station to score student performance. OSCE stations are followed by a post encounter activity, which is typically documentation of a patient progress note.  Interpreting findings or answering quiz questions can also be expected.  The post-encounter activities are also graded.  The standardized patient evaluation of student checklist scores are also part of the interpersonal and communication skills competency course grade.
An OSCE in process.

All students are required to pass this OSCE or remediation to graduate. The OSCE is helpful in preparing students for medical practice and reflects the curriculum at the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine.  USD SSOM students have fared exceptionally well on USMLE Step 2 CS.  OSCE’s former director, Dr. Hearns, and the OSCE committee created a Practice OSCE case bank for use by all clinical campus administrators and coordinators to help prepare our students for the high stakes OSCE. The Practice OSCE activities at the remote clinical campuses have benefited from B-line software advances that allow for remote use for note writing and grading. With the removal of the USMLE Step 2 CS, OSCE will have a greater role in assessing students’ abilities. The OSCE needs to be accurate, efficient, and rigorous as the premier clinical skills examination for our students.

The OSCE has in the past few years been a primer for the USMLE Step 2 CS. It’s grading rubric has attempted to mirror the CS. Students were required to write an enhanced progress note, a contrivance used on the CS, but dissimilar to USD SSOM’s progress note style. We now have an opportunity to modify our examination to test what is being taught in our school. Additionally, we have an opportunity to add more evaluation on empathy, kindness, and compassion when giving bad news.

SSOM faculty and staff with special knowledge and interest in clinical skills assessment formed a committee that is charged by the Office of Medical Student Education to plan, design, and implement all activities necessary to conduct the OSCE. The committee meets monthly. 

Please contact the individuals below with questions about the OSCE.

  • Benjamin Aaker, MD, FACEP, Associate Professor, OSCE Director and Committee Chair
  • Jantina Burke, Administrative Support
  • Kayla Keeler, Administrative Support

Meet the department

Get to know the faculty and staff in the Office of Medical Education. Our team are experts in their fields, contributing research and scholarship in health care and leadership. Learn more about the Office of Medical Education by viewing our organizational chart.
Bio Image for Faculty Member Kayla Keeler

Kayla Keeler

Program Assistant I
Bio Image for Faculty Member Alan Sazama

Alan Sazama

Assistant Dean, Pillar II Director
Bio Image for Faculty Member Byron Nielsen

Byron Nielsen

Clinical Professor / Pillar 3 Director
Bio Image for Faculty Member Tiffany Semmler

Tiffany Semmler

Academic Assistant
Bio Image for Faculty Member Bruce Cuevas

Bruce Cuevas

Associate Professor


Educational Faculty
Bio Image for Faculty Member Rebecca Lustfield

Rebecca Lustfield

Evaluation & Assessment Specialist
Bio Image for Faculty Member Jaymi Russo

Jaymi Russo

Evaluation & Assessment Specialist
Bio Image for Faculty Member Valeriy Kozmenko

Valeriy Kozmenko

Director-Parry Center
Bio Image for Faculty Member Benjamin Aaker

Benjamin Aaker

Interim Associate Dean, Medical Education

Cole Tessendorf

Success story Cole Tessendorf.
Not only is the curriculum top-notch, but I was blown away by all the options for extra-curricular involvement. The amount of clinical experience, networking, and medical knowledge I've gained is unmatched, and I am so happy that I chose to attend medical school at USD.

Cole Tessendorf

USD SSOM Class of 2025