Angela L., M4 Enrollee
If you’re interested in population health, clinical outcomes research, and explaining repeatedly that you’re not actually doing an MPH, the MPHS (Master of Population Health Science) may be for you. The MPHS is a 10-month, tuition-neutral program usually completed after M2 or M3 year. Classes run from late August to early May (which means you get significant vacation time the summer before and after completing the MPHS). Core courses include biostatistics, epidemiology, and research ethics. Three concentrations are available: clinical epidemiology, health services, and psychiatric and behavioral health sciences. No matter which concentration you choose, you’ll gain experience with all aspects of the research process, including experimental design, statistical analysis, grant-writing, preparing for publication, and communicating research findings to the public.
While no thesis or capstone research product is required for completion of the MPHS, much of the coursework is applied, i.e. you can work on different aspects of your ongoing research project(s) to fulfill class assignments. MPHS program leadership can help connect you to possible mentors in your area of interest. For more information, check out mphs.wustl.edu.
Yang-Yang F., M1/2
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.
Xuan Q. & Megan M., M1s
Do you enjoy thinking about biomedical research, learning about clinical medicine, frequently eating delicious (and free) food, and hanging out with 25 other awesome people for the next 7-9 years who care about science and medicine just as much as you do? Then the WashU MSTP is for you! This program offers access to world class training in medicine and research with maximal flexibility, incredible support, and a lot of fun along the way.
We have the incredible fortune of being taken care of by an amazing director, Dr. Yokoyama, and by the greatest team of staff — Brian, Christy, Linda, and Liz. They are here to listen and to give you guidance no matter what questions or requests you have. Being part of the biggest MSTP program in the country means that whatever problem you run into, someone else has probably dealt with it before, and entire staff has been with WUSM MSTP for so long that they know exactly what to do. Knowing that we have a tremendous support system both from the amazing MSTP program staff and all of our classmates going through this crazy dual degree experience with us makes this so much less daunting.
We also have many opportunities to get to know students and faculty in different classes and departments. Once a week, we have a program wide dinner talk where you learn about people’s experiences at different stages of their careers, get exposed to the incredibly wide variety of possible research projects and mentors, and enjoy the wonderful catering. From the moment you are in the program, you have the opportunity to shape the program into an even better one than it already is. There is really nothing we would change about this program (and if we happen to come up with something, the program will probably make it happen).
Shariq K., M1
For most medical students, the summer between first and second year is the only time they will spend doing full-time research. Dr. Chung will give a number of presentations first semester about how to find a research mentor, so don’t worry about that too much. There are faculty in every department who are looking for med students to mentor during the summer. However, some faculty are more “med student friendly” than others as far as publishing, mentoring, etc. so I would suggest finding out if past medical students have worked with the professor you’re interested in doing research with, and speaking with them.
Cyrus Z., M1
WashU is a premier research university that provides unique opportunities for scientific exploration. From basic metabolism to human genome sequencing to microbiology, WashU has been at the forefront of advancing our collective medical knowledge. Most medical students start their research project during the summer after M1, but you can start as early as day 1. All you really need to do is email professors whose research you find interesting. One of the great advantages of being a WashU medical student is that many professors and physicians are more than willing to supervise and mentor you. Most projects are highly flexible both in terms of time commitment and direction, so they are truly what you make them. I personally have been working in the lab of Jeffrey Gordon, a renowned gut microbiologist, to understand ways in which bacteria can break down food in our gut. It is really exciting work and I get to use a supercomputer. But if you aren’t interested in working with bacteria or computers, there are plenty of supportive faculty who will work with you on something that you are interested in. If you happen to love research, you are most certainly in the right place.
Sid S., M1
MSTP students are required to complete at least two research rotations before starting grad school, but the program strongly encourages students to do some research on campus in the summer before the M1 year. About half of matriculating MSTP students do start early with research, aided by an advance stipend that helps cover living and moving expenses. Especially for matriculating students who took a gap year or more between college and medical school, spending 1-3 months in a lab before orientation is a great way to get acquainted with St. Louis, the campus, faculty/staff, other students, and what it feels like to clip on the WashU ID badge every morning. Starting early with a PI also opens up opportunities to continue the project through the M1 year and potentially into grad school. Interested students should begin directly reaching out to PIs as soon as a decision is made to attend WashU. Early research opportunities are open to matriculating MD students as well, although they generally take part in research during the summer after the M1 year.