A great irony of the medical school application process is that at applicant pizza parties, it is the current students who are most heavily scrutinized. That is, of course, after you differentiate who among the sea of twenty-somethings are the current students and who are the applicants. From here, the small talk commences, until you, the applicant, pull out the hard-hitting questions you spent the entire flight into Lambert crafting. Do you need a car? Is St. Louis safe? What’s the deal with the curriculum? I, the current student, deftly parry your concerns with witty yet thorough responses, until finally, you deliver the coup-de-grace: Why should I choose WashU?
When asked this question during my first semester here, I would skirt around the fact that, well — it is WASHU — by throwing out platitudes about the collaborative environment, the diverse patient population, the research opportunities. But last November, I made the crazy decision to take an MD5 year after only one semester. The MD5 year is a year-long, non-degree conferring, research program designed to give medical students the opportunity to take a step back from medical school and do research, for whatever reason. Many invoke the MD5 between third year and fourth year, in order to pad their residency applications with field-pertinent publications for competitive specialties (read: orthopedic surgery), but there are myriad reasons why one may choose to pursue a research year. Personally, having proceeded directly from college to medical school, I felt I needed time to explore my burgeoning interest in research and more broadly, reflect on my goals as a person and professional.
This past year has been one of the most fulfilling and productive periods of my life. As I prepare to re-enter M1 classes, I feel a renewed and augmented sense of wonder and excitement for the field of medicine as well as profound gratitude for the opportunity to have left medical school behind for a year to pursue research, with no fear of administrative consequences. Perhaps most importantly, however, is that I now have an engaging and genuine answer to your dastardly pizza party question. Choose WashU not only because of the collegial faculty and students, the boundless resources, and the unmatched quality of its biomedical research, but because of the respect WashU has for you, the medical student, in choosing your own path to becoming the best doctor you can possibly be.