In medical school, most of your class schedule will be determined for you as a standard curriculum you’ll share with the rest of your classmates. However, at WashU you also have the opportunity to take interesting classes outside the normal curriculum, called “Selectives”. Selectives fall into one of three categories: Basic Science, which includes courses such as Journal Club and Frontiers in Leukemia; Clinical, which includes courses like Advanced Medical Spanish I and Introduction to Emergency Medicine; and Humanities, which focuses on topics like Music in Medicine and Queer Theory. All first year students must take at least four Selectives: one from each category, plus one additional course from either Basic Science or Clinical. You can also choose up to two additional Selectives from any category for a maximum of six. The following section details some of the most popular Selectives here at WashU, to give you an idea of the interesting classes you can choose from to personalize your medical education.

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Advanced Medical Spanish

Jamie M., M1

Advanced Medical Spanish is one of the most popular selectives at WashU, and for good reason. For those with a background in the language, this selective will give you the tools you need to be comfortable working with Spanish-speaking patients. The selective spans the entire year, covering the History and Physical in the Fall and cultural aspects of Hispanic populations in the Spring. Additionally, you can continue to be involved with the curriculum throughout the rest of your years here. The biggest perk of this selective: If you stick with the curriculum through fourth year, you can take the national exam to become a bilingual provider, and this accomplishment is noted in your Dean’s Letter. Additionally, since it follows the Practice of Medicine curriculum, you will get twice the amount of practice as your classmates do with taking a history and performing the various aspects of a physical exam. Each aspect of the physical exam is taught by a Spanish-speaking physician in that area, providing us with the opportunity for both individualized practice and the chance to get to know more of the faculty here. Last but not least, you get to spend an hour every Thursday afternoon practicing your Spanish with friends!

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Art in Medicine

Samantha L., M1

I am not an artist, by any means, so I only signed up for this selective when several M2s told me how amazing it was. And they were right! It’s all about teaching us to be better observers, something that’s often lost in current medical education. We visit different art museums in St. Louis, which exposes us to different areas of the city and many types of collections. We first focus on observing without any interpretation. We then start to use those findings to build context and understanding. The course leader, Dr. Coughlin, easily bridges these exercises from looking at paintings/photos/sculpture to life as a physician. I’d highly recommend this class to anyone; no art experience needed at all!

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Intro to Emergency Medicine

Sharon A., M1

Ever wonder what you would do if you encountered a medical emergency out in the real world? I certainly have. And while this one six-week course has not quite prepared me for everything, it has definitely given me insight into how to deal with some of the more common medical emergencies. It’s also just gotten me super jazzed about the field of Emergency Medicine. Each class begins with a quiz review of the class before. Dr. Wichelman will start us off with something like this: “Your patient comes in with a snake bite! Quick! What do you do?” And from there, we go on a whirlwind tour of cardiac emergencies, trauma management, or toxicological conditions. Dr. Wichelman is so much fun to listen to because she has a wealth of relevant personal and professional experiences which she openly shares with us in detail. She also includes a lot of videos in her lectures — some are instructional, and some are just plain hilarious. We even spent half of one class analyzing an episode of the old TV show ER. Whether or not you’re headed toward a career in EM, I can guarantee you’ll have a good time while learning valuable information in this excellent selective.

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Intro to Newborn Medicine

Sasha D., M1

This class has been an amazing experience in my first semester. While in Practice of Medicine and other first-year courses we are mostly introduced to assessment of adults and their physiology, this selective allowed me to learn more about the differences in pediatric care. We covered alternative physiology of major organ systems and most common complications, but also got a chance to learn and practice a newborn exam. The class also covered nutrition and discharge planning, which were very new to most of the students. The highlight of the class was getting to know the parents of a child in the NICU. Each of the students was able to learn the parents’ story, their perspective on the difficult experience of effectively living in the hospital, and their fears, hopes, and happy moments with their child. Overall, it was a great opportunity to take a peek into pediatrics and neonatology.

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MSTP Journal Club

Sid S., M1

A long-running tradition of the WashU MSTP, the student-run Journal Club is an optional opportunity for each MSTP class to meet independently with free food and no supervising faculty to discuss science. Research papers are selected by students and cover a wide gamut of topics, ranging from hot-off-the-press, high-profile publications, to classic landmark studies, to papers that shouldn’t have ever seen the light of day. Most importantly, we get $250 each week to order whatever food we want, and a locked room so we can celebrate and commiserate as an MSTP class as loudly as we want. The 2017 entering class successfully petitioned to earn medical school selective credit for Journal Club, thereby destroying the previous record for highest enjoyment/work ratio of any medical school course in existence. Hopefully, this tradition will continue with future matriculating classes.

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Olin Grand Rounds

Ashima C., M1

Whether you’re shooting for an MBA or just have a passing interest in the business of healthcare and how it all works, Olin Grand Rounds is the selective for you. The course is led by phenomenal professors who give great insight into the field of medicine. Over the course of the semester, you’ll hear from the CEO of BJC, a patient living with HIV, and physicians who have faced malpractice lawsuits, to name a few. The diversity of lectures and talks combined with interesting business case studies are an incredible way to supplement all the science classes of first year. We’re going to learn a lot about how our patients will be affected by their health; this class teaches us how our patients will be affected by the healthcare system (insurance, pharmaceuticals, etc). And, because this class is through Olin Business school and is open to students across WashU, you can meet lots of new people too!

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Queer Theory

Cory B. F., M1

One of the most important goals of modern medical practice is to enact effective patient communication. To achieve this goal, I try to learn as much as possible about my patients and their cultural backgrounds. Queer Theory gave me the opportunity to build the conceptual framework necessary to understand the driving forces in the health care needs of LGBTQIA+ patients. Every class, we engaged in riveting discussions to critically examine primary sources or the academic literature. Our discussions were guided by an incredible series of guest lecturers from both the medical school and the Danforth Campus. I highly recommend the course to all students who want to learn more about themselves and their community.