Chase R., M1
Even in 2018, having a “Y” following that “X” chromosome provides men with a number of advantages and privileges that we enjoy, without noticing, every day. The most important thing to do in this position is to respect and advocate for our peers, especially the lucky half with a double dose of “X”. This is also the time to broaden your perspective on what it means to be a man, understanding that each person can have his or her own interpretation of what that means. Lift weights and watch college ball on the weekend or get down on the dance floor to the magic of Queen B herself. This portion of your life is an opportunity to do some introspection and use the advantages that were given to you by birth to better the lives of those around you.
Carrie S., M1
Too often, female medical students still have this conversation:
“What are you going to school for?”
“I’m in medical school.”
“That’s great! We definitely need more nurses.”
“No no, I’m in medical school.”
“Oh, okay. So where do you go to nursing school?”
It amazes me that the assumption that women are nurses and men are doctors is still prevalent. Women in medicine across the nation are still working hard in hospitals, clinics, and administration to be regarded as equal to men. Even as current studies show that in general, female doctors have better patient outcomes – better prevention, mortality, and re-admission rates – we’re still fighting. Women are still underrepresented in leadership roles and recognition for success, and they are still paid less than men in medicine.
At WashU, we’re at the forefront of changing that. Incredible physicians such as Dr. Victoria Fraser, chief of medicine, Dr. Lynn Cornelius, chief of dermatology, and Dr. Susan Mackinnon, chief of plastic surgery, have risen in the ranks to become high-profile chiefs at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. The amazing women studying at the medical school are passionately paving their way to push against gender inequality in medicine under the guidance, mentorship, and inspiration of these and other extraordinary female doctors at WashU. Through the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA), student leadership coordinates mentorship between female students and faculty to provide guidance in everything from CVs to research to life advice. I have no doubt that WashU students will succeed in making that impact we are aiming for!
Nithya L., M1
Not drinking can sometimes seem like an automatic barrier to going out to events at clubs and bars because — let’s be honest — who likes hanging out with drunk people when you are stone cold sober? But whether you don’t drink due to medical concerns, religious reasons, or because Coke is really just the better option anyway, YOU CAN STILL HAVE FUN! I love going out dancing with our class because a big group of us go and it’s always a good time! The post-exam celebrations have fun activities, food, and dancing apart from alcohol that you can still enjoy. If that’s not your jam, then there are a vast variety of different clubs and activities that are available to WUSM students. There are board games, table tennis, basketball, rock-climbing, a cappella, trivia nights, movie nights, and many many more options for you to pick from! Ultimately, not drinking is in no way a barrier because the WUSM students are extremely supportive and there is no dearth of fun opportunities. One word of warning, beware of the crazy “friends” who make you take hot sauce shots.
Zach J., M1
I love to exercise. I raced triathlons for UCLA the last couple of years and probably trained too much, but being on the team with some of my best friends was a highlight of my college experience. When I moved to St. Louis, I was worried that I would not be able to continue exercising, let alone the volume that I was used to. However, this turned out not to be the case. Given the abundance and efficiency of study materials here at WashU, I have had plenty of time to run, bike, and swim, while also probably studying more than I need to. Forest Park is a great place to run and go on short bike rides, the undergrad campus has a nice pool, and just outside the city are tons of trails, country roads, and small lakes. I’ve also had enough time to play intramural soccer. There’s a strong spirit of athletics here and it’s always good to take a study break to get your blood moving again. Plus, through the tri team I’ve met some cool people from the other WashU-affiliated schools! It’s really the people you hang out/work out with that define your experience here, and so far I’ve loved WashU.
Tiffany W., M1
Often used in sweeping references, the term “Asian-American” does little justice to the enormous variety of life experiences and family backgrounds you may bring to the table. While Missouri may have a relatively lower population percentage of Asian-Americans, WashU has many students and faculty with whom you will find valuable cultural common ground. Rather than letting a fear of isolation discourage you, explore both sides of your hyphenated ethnic identity, perhaps through a student group like APAMSA. Then use your valuable platform to build bridges with those who might not fall inside the same checkbox as you! P.S. Ask around for food recommendations! 😉
Jason M., M1
Coming from Atlanta, and then a liberal undergraduate institution, I was nervous about moving to St. Louis. However, my experience at WUSM has been incredible. St. Louis is a complicated city and the faculty and staff here do a great job of educating the class about how past events have shaped factors of inequality here, as well as empowering students to get involved with and make a difference in the local community. Within the medical school, the faculty and students also work to create a welcoming and engaging community for minority students. No place is perfect, but there are numerous channels in place to ensure that WUSM maintains a positive and supportive learning environment for everyone. My peers of all races here have continually impressed me with their willingness and ability to engage in difficult discussions and contemplate the impact that privilege, or lack thereof, has had on their lives. Being black in medicine has its challenges, but WUSM arms you with the resources to thrive here, and St. Louis provides an opportunity to live, work, and play in a large black community.
Tiffany W., M1
As a medical student, you will soon come to understand intimately that the human body, in all its fleshly beauty and complexity, is a stage on which an age-old battle is playing out. You will be reminded that your days are a mere handbreadth, and in the moments you find you have come to the limits of your own ability, turn your eyes upon the Good Shepherd. Remember that you were knit together in your mother’s womb, and that even the very hairs on your head are all numbered. Take the time to treasure your fellow travelers on this journey, and learn how to give an answer for the hope that you have and to love others with the love given to you. Seek out community through WashU’s Christian Medical Association and the many local churches, and take advantage of the Global Missions Health Conference held in early November. You are on an adventure that will alternately or simultaneously fill you with fear and wonder, but be at peace, for the author of our lives will bring the story to completion.
Mitchell L., M2
School, and medical school in particular, should be a time of growth, and growth does not come from being comfortable. WUSM is like many other universities in that the conservative voice tends to be in the minority. At times this can be challenging, but that challenge is a good thing. Being surrounded solely by people who agree with you tends to foster group polarization without necessarily grounding ideas any further. There is nothing inherently wrong with leaning right (or left) as long as you have a strong enough foundation to support your beliefs. Being a conservative at WUSM means that you will frequently meet people who come from a completely different point of view and so have arrived at quite different conclusions. If you are careful to be respectful of others, then I think you will find your experience here to be enjoyable and transformative.
Dayana H., M1
Although the Hispanic community in St. Louis is smaller than those in larger cities, it is a very tight-knit community. Because the community is smaller, there are fewer resources, so being here has allowed me to make a bigger difference than I would have made in a larger city. I have interpreted at various locations, and it has been so rewarding to see how grateful patients are. I have been able to help out at the Saturday Neighborhood Clinic, El Torito Health Screenings, and Kingdom House. Casa de Salud is another great resource for the Hispanic community that I hope to get involved with soon. The number of Hispanic medical students at WashU is also small (for now), but we are close and it allows us to share our culture with the rest of our classmates! It has also opened up a lot of volunteering opportunities because we are in high demand. Our Latino Medical Student Association chapter is continuing to expand its extracurricular volunteer work, advocacy, mentoring, networking, and social activities. Although the Latino student population is small, I love knowing that our efforts will actually make a difference and help shape our community.
Outside of school, Cherokee St. is the main place to find various Hispanic restaurants, taquerias, panaderias, and grocery stores. One of my favorites is Taqueria Durango. Closer to campus is Burro Loco (their margaritas are on point). For dancing, Friday is Latin night at Siam and Saturday is Latin night at Club Viva. Lastly, there are some beautiful festivals: Dia de Los Muertos at the Missouri History Museum, the Greater St. Louis Hispanic Festival, and Fiesta in Florissant next June. Although I was not sure what to expect in St. Louis, I feel right at home.
Matt L., M1
The WashU community is, overall, an accepting place for people of all gender identities, gender expressions, and sexual orientations. There are people proudly representing all the letters of LGBTQ (and beyond) in the preclinical years alone. Organizations throughout the medical school, such as LGBTMed, STATS (for HIV education), and OUTMed, collaborate to offer a variety of organized events throughout the year related to LGBTQIA-relevant topics. Furthermore, students from big cities are sometimes surprised to hear that St. Louis has its own LGBT-friendly neighborhood called the Grove, a favorite spot for nightlife for students of all identities. That said, there are certainly still obstacles that come with being LGBTQIA+ in medicine, and such topics are not too frequently covered in the core curriculum. You will have the chance to learn more about these problems during orientation, through various student groups, in selective class courses, and in various lunch talks, so take advantage of these opportunities when possible. There’s plenty of work still to be done, but WUSM always seems willing to do it, and improvements are being made regularly. Feel free to reach out to individuals or student groups if you have questions or want to get involved!
Ioana F., M2
If you come from a liberal background, it may be tempting to regard Missouri as only a solidly red state on the border between the solidly red South and the more-or-less red Midwest. Yet moving here rapidly reveals that things are far more politically complex! You will probably find that individuals at WUSM itself tend to be more left-leaning. Missouri has a long history of Democratic governors and a Democratic Senator. Events two years ago in Ferguson and one of the closest races for a national Senate seat during this past election (featuring the Democratic candidate putting together a rifle blindfolded!) have also placed Missouri at the center of some of the most important policy and political battles of our day. I would recommend keeping an open mind, trying to learn as much as possible about the different political perspectives you are likely to encounter and becoming involved by advocating for liberal policy ends in the community. Living here provides a lot of opportunities to support issues ranging from reproductive health rights to Medicaid expansion to social justice, and there are many valuable organizations right here at school that are driven by WUSM students. Change must happen in places that need it, so welcome to Missouri!
Amir K., M1
Does it feel weird to check the “Caucasian” box sometimes? If so, then you might be Middle Eastern. Not to worry, WashU is infinitely warmer to your heritage than the demographics forms you’ve been filling out your whole life. There’s always a solid handful of Middle Easterners to bond with in your class, and yet another handful in the class above. There’s a few authentic spots to eat in town and they’re reasonably priced too. All in all, WashU (and metro St. Louis) welcomes and encourages expression of your ethnic identity.
Fatima A. & Gazelle Z., M2s
Our Muslim community at Washington University includes the Muslim Student Association of the Danforth Campus and of Saint Louis University, which both undergraduate and graduate students may join. Although our immediate Muslim community within WUSM is relatively small, our neighbors are very active and inclusive. Students at the Danforth Campus arrange rides to masjids (like the West Pine Masjid), host iftar and Eid parties, and organize Friday Jummah prayers. Jummah is also held at the Interfaith Chapel at Barnes-Jewish South Campus. The Interfaith Chapel and the Danforth Chapel on the first floor of Olin can be used as prayer rooms. Additionally, many Muslim students live in apartments close to WUSM (like Del Coronado) and there are plenty of opportunities to hang out outside of these formal events. In terms of socializing within your class — although it’s true that many social events involve alcohol, your classmates understand that everyone has different ways of having a good time, and you’ll never feel any pressure. There’s also many non-drinking social alternatives (see the Perspectives Section: On Being Alcohol Free).
Jamie M., M1
In medical school, you will encounter people who have a wide variety of religious beliefs — and many who are not religious at all. No matter what your background or beliefs (or lack thereof), you can have as much or as little contact with religion as you desire. If you want, you can have interesting conversations with your religious classmates and learn about their upbringing, cultures, and beliefs. Alternatively, you can avoid the subject entirely, and no one will think anything of it. Whatever you choose to do, though, respect is crucial in talking with both your classmates and with your future patients.
Caroline S., M1
WashU’s immense diversity is an asset in many ways — it’s exciting, challenging, inspiring, enlightening— but it can also be intimidating. You’d think that religion would only make this diversity more complicated, especially since religious life at WashU is more vibrant than one might expect. Religious diversity does contribute to the complexity of different perspectives here, but it creates more connections than it does divisions. I’m Jewish, and have therefore been able to grow closer to other Jewish medical students who attend High Holy Day services or plan Hanukkah parties with me. I’ve also met Jewish students from other graduate schools at Rosh Hashana dinner, and I often seek advice from my interviewer after my friends and I spent Shabbat dinner with him and his wife. Beyond my Judaism, however, being religious at WashU has allowed me to connect to people of different faiths who are thinking about similar religious questions. As a class, we are experiencing many “firsts” together: our first clinical experience, our first nearly-failed anatomy exam, and our first human cadaver. Being Jewish, and talking with my friends about what their religion means to them, has helped me to process these “firsts” and find meaning in them. Being religious has not distracted from the larger medical school community that I am a part of, or from the medical science that I am learning. It has enriched it.
Ashima C., M1
There’s no dearth of South Asian culture in St. Louis. Here, you can find anything from food, music, or movies to holiday festivals or places of worship. Speaking to Indian culture specifically, my friends and I have visited a handful of Indian restaurants across St. Louis, have attended a dance party in the Central West End hosted by a Bollywood DJ, and have access to the latest Bollywood releases which frequently run at a local AMC within driving distance from WashU. Of course, we’ve also had plenty of Bollywood watch parties in the Del Coronado TV room. On campus itself, we have the Asian and Pacific American Medical Student Association (APAMSA). The student club hosts a Diwali/Festival of Lights celebration every year — be sure to sign up to choreograph for or be in your class’ dance performance for this because it’s a ton of fun! Additionally, the Hindu Temple and Sikh Gurdwara of St. Louis are not too far (~30 minute drives) and are great places to get to know the South Asian community of St. Louis.
Katie J., M1
Can you imagine anything better than coming home to a huffy spike-potato after a long day of school? Yeah? Okay fine, me too … but once she stops being a little grump and remembers that she loves (tolerates?) me, she can be an awesome study buddy and overall mental health boost! Luckily, the Central West End tends to be super pet-friendly. Most of the apartments allow pets and there is at least one pet shop and vet within walking distance of the school. If you’re looking for something a little less sharp than a hedgehog, cats seem to be a popular choice among my classmates (including one of my roommates, who adopted two adorable kittens just a few weeks into the school year). Though it can sometimes get a little bit stressful having to take care of a pet on top of schoolwork, it’s definitely worth it when that little huffy spike-potato becomes slightly less huffy/spiky and cuddles into your arms!
(Side note: having a pet is awesome, but having a roommate with a pet is the actual best — all of the benefits with none of the work. Highly recommended.)
Jamie M., M1
Medical school is an exciting time, but it can also be stressful at times. Many students travel far from home to attend school, often for the first time. The pressure to do well, even in a pass-fail system, can still feel overwhelming. Whether or not you’ve experienced mental health issues in the past, you may find that medical school places additional strain on your mental wellbeing. Luckily, WashU has numerous resources in place to ensure that you have the support and care you need. “Wellness Wednesdays” hosted by Student Support Services provide students with a variety of relaxation and self-care activities, including yoga, pickup basketball games, and mindfulness meditation. Intramural sports teams and fitness-centered student clubs provide opportunities to maintain fitness and reduce stress. Additionally, Washington University has several wonderful, compassionate psychologists on staff who are trained to help students manage the unique stresses that come with medical education. You can easily schedule an appointment with one of them at any time, or get a referral to see the staff psychiatrist. Above all, your professors and the administration are completely understanding of the many stresses that medical students can face, and are willing to make accommodations to ensure that all students have the resources and support they need to thrive in medical school.