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Medical Student Admissions > Student Life > The Dis-Orientation Guide: Our Students' Guide to WUSM > Medical School Experience


Medical School Experience

  • Physiology


    Course Master: Robert "Uncle Bob" Wilkinson, PhD (
    Blocks: 1-2
    Teaching Style: Lecture, with small-group discussion
    Grading: Five short answer and multiple-choice exams, homework assignments
    Passing: 70%*

    Physiology runs through both blocks 1 and 2. Opinion on the class is divided among those who love it or hate it, with no one in-between. The course emphasizes the big picture, so you need not worry about being tested on minutiae. Physiology is a nice break from other medical school courses, which reward students who memorize a laundry list of details. Uncle Bob, the course master, was one of the main advocates of the pass-fail system and wishes students learned for the sake of learning rather than for grades. If you learn the concepts, understand basic math, and make an effort, you should be fine for all your exams.
    *Physiology and Histology are combined as a single course called Cell and Organ Systems, so you have to pass both to pass the course.

    -Amir Esmaeeli, M2

  • Histology


    Course Master: Paul Bridgman, PhD ( Blocks: 1-2
    Teaching Style: Lecture, microscopic lab with partner
    Grading: Three exams, each with separate multiple-choice and cell-identification components, lab attendance
    Passing: 70%*

    Histology is like landing on an entirely different planet where everything is pink, darker pink, pinkish-purple, magenta, and - occasionally - bluish violet. Blobs blend into other blobs, and as Dr. Bridgman points to the "obvious" border between two very distinct layers of connective tissue, you may find yourself more than a little distressed at your complete inability to see this border. Histo is definitely one of the more frustrating classes of first year, just because it's completely new (for most people) and not very intuitive. My best advice would be to breathe, trust the process, and try not to take it too seriously - you'll lose your mind trying to name every cell. (Not even the TAs can do it.) The more you look at the slides, the easier it'll get, and definitely go to Bridgman's review ... It'll be very, very helpful in identifying the more high-yield stuff!

    *Physiology and Histology are combined as a single course called Cell and Organ Systems, so you have to pass both to pass COS

    -Grace Um, M2

  • Human Anatomy and Development

    Human Anatomy and Development

    Course Master: Glenn Conroy, PhD (
    Block: 1
    Teaching Style: Lecture; dissection lab with four to a table
    Grading: Three timed practical exams
    Passing: 65%
    Anatomy is (in my humble opinion) the most awesome class of the first block of med school. The main lecturers are the all-knowing Drs. Conroy (probably the most adorable married couple you'll ever meet), who are well-traveled anthropologists and excellent dissectors. You're in lecture for an hour every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning (which may or may not be useful to you), and then you head up to lab for a three-hour stint with your four-person lab group. There's always a number of seasoned faculty and fresh-faced TAs wandering around to help you identify whatever crazy anatomic variation you've found today (I make no claims on the veracity of their identifications), and weekly radiology lectures on whatever tortuous part(s) are being taught about that week. One of the coolest bits is the clinical correlation lectures, where various Wash U physicians talk about their specialties (neurosurgery, OB/GYN, orthopedic surgery) and why anatomy is important to their practice. Like it or not, dissecting your cadaver is the first big step in becoming a physician. This is the class where you will make your first incision, hold a brain in your hands, and find your favorite body part. So glove up, take a deep breath, and enjoy!
    -Elyse Aufman, M2
  • Molecular Cell Biology (MCB)

    Molecular Cell Biology (MCB)

    Molecular Cell Biology (MCB)
    Course Master: Bob Mercer, PhD (
    Block: 1
    Teaching Style: Lecture and weekly small group discussion
    Grading: Three exams with in-class and take-home portions, plus a few homework assignments
    Passing: Letter graded (the vast majority of the class gets As and Bs) but converted to Pass/Fail for MD/PhDs.

    Medical Scientist Training Program students can choose to take this graduate course in lieu of Molecular Foundations of Medicine. This class is the core course requirement for Programs in Cell & Molecular Biology, Computational Biology, Molecular Biophysics, Neuroscience, and Biomedical Engineering or Advanced Elective for Biochemistry. Most MSTPs opt for this route, since there are multiple incentives: you get credit in the med school, you get credit in the graduate school (which will reduce your course load in the first PhD year), and you earn two selective credits in basic science. Of course, there’s a reason for all those incentives: the course workload is intense! The weekly discussion requires you to read a scientific paper ranging from four to 20+ pages, and write a one-page summary and critique. Some faculty who run the discussion sections even require you to take turns making Powerpoint presentations for the papers. The problem sets can be difficult and time consuming. On the other hand, the lectures are very interesting and you learn a lot from various professors who are experts in their respective field of research. The biggest downer? The class is not recorded, so if you don’t want to miss out on knowledge, you'll have to find the motivation to drag yourself out of bed and walk to class at 8:30 a.m. twice a week.

    — Phat Huynh, M1

  • Molecular Foundations of Medicine (MFM)

    Molecular Foundations of Medicine (MFM)

    Molecular Foundations of Medicine (MFM)
    Course Master: Linda Pike, PhD
    Block: 1
    Teaching style: Lecture and some small group
    Grading: Two multiple-choice exams and three quizzes
    Passing: 70%
    Molecular Foundations of Medicine is your medical biochemistry, cell and molecular biology class. The first part of the course is mainly biochemistry — not exactly your traditional undergraduate biochemistry, but one where you can appreciate its medical relevance. Besides Anatomy, this course had perhaps the most clinical case studies in the first block – and that’s good for board exams! This is also the only class with audio recording in Block 1 (other lecturers are video-recorded) but frankly speaking, you can still follow along for the most part since slides are also posted. In addition, the course pack is extremely thorough, especially in the first part of the course, during Dr. Pike’s lectures. The second part of the course in cell and molecular bio consists of various expert guest lecturers, and this may take some time to adapt to. You won’t be able to rely on the course pack as much. MFM and Anatomy are the classes not reviewed in the second year, so you may want to pay some extra attention to these.

    — Kow Essuman, M1

  • Immunology


    Course Master: Andrey Shaw, MD (
    Block: 2
    Teaching Style: Lecture and occasional small group sessions
    Grading: One multiple-choice, in-class exam (80%), one take-home exam (10%), one online assessment (10%)
    Passing: 50%

    If I had to pick a movie as an analogy to Immunology, it would definitely be "Inception." And while it is true that they both begin with an "I", the similarities run much deeper. First of all, Immunology will both shock and stump you. With proteins that are produced by cells to act on those same cells to produce more of those same proteins, and memory cells that quiescently slumber to be awakened by some future kick, there's definitely a lot going on. But just like how "Inception's" soothing soundtrack keeps you from truly freaking out, the Immunology professors are there to guide you through the tangled mess of immunity. The class is phenomenally taught, and it's clear that the professors want to do whatever they can to help (whether that is throwing a Superbowl party in the auditorium or taking you out for beers to delve a little further into interferon). Logistically, the course is split into two halves: The first covers basic principles of immunology and the second covers clinical applications (transplantation, tumor immunology, etc.). The course pack provided and the recommended book are both useful and do a great job of summarizing all of the important information. And finally, Immunology does have some significant differences from "Inception." Most notably, it's amazingly applicable to everyday life (because who hasn't had a cold) and becomes crucial for understanding many of the diseases second year. And of course, there is a notable absence of Leonardo DiCaprio.

    -David Rubins, M2

  • Microbes and Pathogenesis

    Microbes and Pathogenesis

    Course Master: Henry Huang, PhD, and Scott Hultgren, PhD
    Block: 2
    Teaching Style: Lecture
    Grading: Three quizzes (15%), team project (15%), final exam (70%)
    Passing: 65%

    Gonorrhea, Anthrax, MRSA. Take your pick. Every terrifying pathogen you have ever heard about on the news (and a few more you hope to never hear about) will be explained in Microbes. The course is well organized, and on the first day you get a pack of Microbes cards. (Think Pokemon cards for med students.) The three quizzes cover bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. There is a review session each week to help you keep up with the material. I think the best part of the class is that it is clinically oriented. You get to learn about diseases in the context of actual cases, which makes for a much more engaging lecture.

    -Zachary Meyer, M2

  • Medical Genetics

    Medical Genetics

    Course Master: Susan Dutcher, PhD
    Block: 2
    Teaching Style: Lecture and small groups
    Grading: One problem set, quizzes, and in-class exam.
    Passing: 60%
    If you haven't taken a course on genetics before, don't worry. The nice thing about this course is that it starts off slow for the first two weeks to teach you the basics. The best part is that these lectures are optional for those of you who have taken genetics before. So enjoy that extra 1 ½ hours of sleep in the morning. Each week you're quizzed on three or four genetic diseases. This may seem like a pain, but they're actually very useful because they cover information that is likely to appear on step 1 (not that you need to worry about step 1 just yet).

    — Lauren Marks, M2

  • Neural Sciences

    Neural Sciences

    My dear first-year, let me introduce you to a man named Rob. Does Rob have a last name? I don't know, but he does have a Roundup. Let me explain. Neural Sciences, known around here as Neuro Block, is your final class of first year, the only course in third block. For eight (?) glorious weeks, your brain should be focused on one subject only - your brain. I say "should," because, well, it's beautiful outside this time of year, summer's just around the corner, and you're already kind of patting yourself on the back for the heck of a job you've done during first year. Enter Rob, a legendary man and TA who once upon a time made the most beautiful outlines of any ol' course you ever did see and left them to your class as his legacy. You will dissect brains and nerves in lab, make yourself dizzy learning neurological tricks in small group, and meet incredible brain surgeons in lecture. But at the end of the day, you can really relax, enjoy the block, and know that Rob has your back as he helps turn a complicated topic into a dream of a course. Neuro block is many students' favorite part of their year. Thanks, Rob.

    -Hallie Morris, M2

  • Practice of Medicine I (POM)

    Practice of Medicine I (POM)

    Course Master: Gregory Polites, MD
    Blocks: 1-3
    Teaching style: Lecture, small group discussions, practical sessions, various out of class activities
    Grading: Standardized patient sessions, multiple-choice exams
    Passing: 70%
    White Coat Ceremony makes you feel like a real doctor. Picking out your stethoscope and wearing it on your neck makes you feel even more legit. Sitting in an auditorium learning phosphorylation cascades and the physics of blood pressure doesn’t quite have the same effect. POM, or Practice of Medicine, gives us a chance to start learning the skills that actually feel like they are something we will use all the time as real doctors. The class has several parts, all of which provide us with doctoring skills that aren’t covered yet in any other class. We learn skills in history taking and performing physical exams and spend hours practicing so we can actually hear things out of our stethoscopes and do something with our ophthalmoscopes besides blind each other. We put all of these skills to work right away, going into the hospital with our fourth year clinical mentors to talk to patients and practice our physical exams. We even get to wear our white coats. Other parts of POM include doctor-patient relationship discussions, a patient home visit, and primary care physician shadowing sessions to better understand general practice. The workload is light, and class is usually actually enjoyable. And I’m not going to argue with any excuse to wear my white coat and stethoscope.

    — Erin Swor, M1
  • Textbooks


    This is simple. It’s different for everyone. I’m a reader, which means I bought a lot of textbooks. Other people can just listen to the lecture and get everything they need. Those types of people did not buy very many textbooks. None of the texts are really required in med school (although some people might try and tell you differently). First year is all about figuring out the way that you learn and study the best. Don’t go out and buy everything immediately, and don't let the upperclassmen trying to sell off their books scare you into shelling out. You’ll have some time before your first exams. Just feel it out and see what you like the most for each class. However, if you are desperate to get your hands on a book, Netter's Atlas of Human Anatomy is very highly recommended and is full of pretty pictures.

    — Kate Ott, M1

  • The True Meaning of Pass/Fail

    The True Meaning of Pass/Fail

    It's no secret that I have somewhat (okay, more than somewhat) of a Type A personality. I thought that adjusting to the mentality that a 70 percent is just as good as a 99 percent would be difficult until I took my first quiz. Not focusing on every little point has made my life so enjoyable. I have time to participate in different student organizations, shadow physicians, hang out with my awesome classmates, and drive out to a sports bar every Sunday to watch the Minnesota Vikings game. Pass/fail has never made me feel like I am learning any less. Pass/fail just allows my classmates and me to not feel guilty over having a life outside of the classroom. Good physicians don't just recite facts from textbooks; pass/fail simply fosters that attitude.

    — Allison Blonski, M1 
  • Second Year

    Second Year

    I was relieving myself at a urinal the other day reflecting on my kidneys. But unlike my micturitions during first year, I was no longer just thinking about tubules and transporters and ureters. No. Now, I was thinking about more; I was thinking about blood and pus and stones and all the other things that I was happy to not have streaming out of me. And in essence, that is second year. Not the blood-free urination, but the more. Second year is more of everything: more work, more interesting, more hospital time, more expectations of knowledge. And definitely more intense post-exam parties. One of the biggest changes between first and second year is the introduction of the honors/high pass/pass/fail system, instead of just pass/fail. However, the new system is not curved, so theoretically (and in some cases, practically) everyone can get honors in a class. And that leads to one notable "more" that is lacking: There is no more competition. Second-years still use WumsWeb and still send out class-wide emails with study guides, and the people who understand things still take time to explain them to me. And outside of studying, things become "more," too. Second years run most of the student groups and have reputations to uphold in intramural sports and can finally understand some of what is going on when shadowing. We also enjoy our weekends more, too. Logistically, second year is broken up into six blocks of varying length (between four to eight weeks) that cover the pathophysiology and pathology of each of the major organ systems. The Practice of Medicine course continues during second year and really hones your physical exam skills and teaches you what you will be doing in the hospital (differential diagnoses, presentations to attendings, writing prescriptions, reading imaging studies).

    -David Rubins, M3

  • Third Year

    Third Year

    In no particular order, third year consists of:

    • 12 weeks of internal medicine (one four-week outpatient, two four-week inpatient)
    • 12 weeks of surgery (four weeks general surgery, four weeks musculoskeletal, four weeks elective)
    • Four weeks of neurology + four weeks of psychiatry + four weeks wildcard (e.g., radiology, emergency med, pathology, etc.)
    • Six weeks of pediatrics (two weeks inpatient, two weeks outpatient, two weeks elective) + six weeks of OB-GYN (two weeks labor and delivery, two weeks gyn surgery, two weeks elective)

    Lecture is a few hours per week; shelf exams are at the end of every clerkship (except wildcard), and every day you show up in that sparingly used-until-now white coat (or scrubs, depending on rotation). Though all this may seem intimidating, it's the last chance to experience this variety before specializing in residency. For most people, third year is the most loaded year of medical school, but also the most rewarding; diseases you read about in the preclinical years become the patients you see on the wards. It's your first exposure to the real world (patients, hospital work-life, learning on the job) - so I liken third year to learning about life more than anything. And after spending much of your life sitting in class, you have a lot to look forward to this year!

    -Vivek Verma, M4

  • Fourth Year

    Fourth Year

    Of all the years in medical school, the fourth year has the most variety. At times you will be incredibly busy, but you also have plenty of down time. The entire year is made up of electives; so you finally get to choose what you want to do; however, at the same time, you start the residency application process. The electives you can choose from include clinical rotations, research projects, or reading blocks. Many people choose to do a subinternship or an away rotation early in their fourth year in their desired specialty. Compared to third year, you have fewer clinical rotations, but you will need the extra time for scheduling interviews. Overall, you have a larger responsibility in the hospital compared to third year, but you feel more confident in your abilities. Also this is the year where you start the residency application process. Talk to your advisors early in the year, but also realize that it is a long process. Most people try to get in their application in September, and November through January is interview season. The second half of the year is much easier, and you will have plenty of time to unwind.

    -Pavan Bhat, Medical Education

  • American Medical Association
    American Medical Association (AMA)
    The American Medical Association (AMA) is a nationwide organization of physicians, residents, and medical students. It is a powerhouse in Washington, D.C. and within the states where representatives actively advocate for the views of its members. Becoming a part of this organization gives you the chance to network with medical professionals around the nation, address/learn about health care policy issues on a national or state level, and, most importantly for incoming students, receive free Netter's Anatomy flashcards! First- and second-year medical students have always been the main power behind Wash U's student chapter and our program is only growing stronger. I encourage you all to get involved — if for no other reason than the chance to attend awesome conferences!

    — Nicole Benzoni, M1
  • American Medical Women's Association (AMWA)

    American Medical Women's Association (AMWA)

     It is a precarious time for women’s rights, and it is time for us to speak up. The American Medical Women's Association (AMWA) is an organization dedicated to enhancing women in health care and improving women’s health. It’s one of the most active clubs on campus, hosting two Awareness Weeks and sponsoring a regional conference. The Awareness Weeks highlight issues such as negotiating salaries, work/life balance, and the portrayal of women in health care. Our mentoring program matches female students with female faculty members based on career and lifestyle interests. Our book club explores the written works of female physicians and works exploring women in medicine. We engage in the community through volunteering at the Crisis Nursery and hope to develop an empowerment Girl’s Club with the CityFaces organization. Our chapter collaborates with Saint Louis University Medical School to raise money for the American Heart Association and a local Safe House through The Red Dress Affair and Vagina Monologues. So if you’re a woman, brother, father, friend, or colleague concerned about women’s health, AMWA is for you.

    — Lauren Martin, M1
  • Ballroom Dance Club
    Ballroom Dance Club
    Did you dance ballroom in college? Love “Dancing with the Stars"? Or have no experience at all but want to impress your girlfriend? Drop by the Ballroom Dance Club, with or without a partner, and let our experts show you how to move. We have weekly lessons for all kinds of dancing including waltz, East Coast swing, Argentine tango, cha-cha, Lindy Hop, West Coast swing, and more. No dance experience is necessary; we have people of all skill levels and backgrounds who come to our weekly events. Lessons are an hour each (more if you want to practice afterward) and are located on campus, which means you’ll have the added benefit of meeting people from other programs at Wash U. If all this isn’t reason enough to join, in the spring you will go to this awesome party called MedBall and you will want to impress everyone with your slick dance moves. Ballroom Club is the way to get those, so see you all on the dance floor!

    — Annelise Mah, M1

    If you feel passionate about making a difference in the health care of the underserved population, CHIPS is a great organization to get involved with. CHIPS organizes health fairs and screening events at churches, grocery stores, libraries, school gymnasiums and other locations around St. Louis. The events offer people in the community a chance to get their BMI, blood pressure and blood glucose measured and assess whether they are at risk for obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. As a Wash U medical student, you can volunteer to help take blood pressure and blood glucose measurements and offer counseling for nutrition and exercise. You will also educate people about topics like hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, smoking, and obesity. A wide variety of people attend the health screening events. Some people may have a primary care physician they see regularly, while others may have the misfortune of not being insured. You will work with CHIPS to help people find the resources most suited for their health care needs. CHIPS is a great opportunity to hone your clinical and communication skills while educating and empowering the people in the community with valuable health information. Plus, it may be one of the one of your earliest opportunities to use your new skills to make a difference in someone's life, and that's a great feeling.
    —Ishita Chen, M1
  • Health Professions Recruitment and Exposure Program (HPREP)
    Health Professions Recruitment and Exposure Program (HPREP)
    HPREP is an outreach program designed to get middle school and high school students living in underserved areas of St. Louis interested in science and healthcare. Despite its rather dry mission statement, HPREP is a ton of fun. Each week, we visit a local school and teach kids about basic lung and heart anatomy with cadaver organs, models and interactive demos. Highlights include showing a “Smokey Sue” doll that smokes real cigarettes and has all of the tar gather in a collecting tube to exhibit the grossness of smoking, informing high school boys that they could get erectile dysfunction from smoking, coming up with rap songs about the flow of blood through the heart and lungs, and bonding with your classmates over all of it.

    — Karly Lorbeer, M1
  • Institute for Healthcare Improvement
    Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI)

    We all memorized clever things to say about the state of health care in America for our med school interviews. It’s just what you do. If your interest in these issues goes beyond merely sounding sophisticated enough to get into med school, you should consider joining the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI). The IHI is one of the few interdisciplinary, inter-institutional bodies on campus that tries to address these problems. It affords you the opportunity to work with PTs, OTs, nurses and MPHs on questions ranging from outcomes improvement to organizational efficiency, not to mention research and shadowing opportunities with interested faculty.

    —Michael Slade, M1
  • Medical Interest Groups
    Medical Interest Groups
    Interest groups inspire, inform, and facilitate networking. Attend events, even when you think you're not interested. They cost minimal time, often provide food, and give you the broad exposures you need to (1) make an optimally-informed specialty decision, and (2) gain early appreciation for future colleagues. In addition, getting more involved (i.e. coordinating) helps demonstrate the commitment to a specialty that, in small fields, helps you on your residency applications. (Read: If you're gunning for ENT, start a new interest group.)

    — Francis Deng, M1
  • Pediatric Outreach Program (POP)
    Pediatric Outreach Program (POP)
    If you think you are interested in pediatrics and love spending time with kids, then the Pediatric Outreach Program (POP) is a perfect opportunity for you! You will be matched with a pediatric patient or their siblings and plan fun activities to do with them. I am matched with a little girl who has a brain tumor, but she is always cheerful, gleefully telling me about the Cheez Whiz with which she takes her chemotherapy pills. Her sister is also matched to a student, and their parents have told me how much both girls appreciate having someone that is there just for them and just for fun! We’ve made princess crowns and tutus, and another student even took his buddy to a Cardinals game! POP is great for the kids and medical students alike because we get to see how childhood illnesses affect kids and their families. I have learned about more than the biological basis of my buddy’s disease; I have seen the emotional burden of caring for a child with cancer, the financial distress caused by unending hospital bills, and — more importantly — a family’s ability to remain optimistic and trust their daughter’s medical team to do everything they can.

    —Celina Jacobi, M1
  • Saturday Neighborhood Health Clinic (SNHC)
    Saturday Neighborhood Health Clinic (SNHC)
    SNHC is the student-run free clinic at Wash U. Every Saturday morning, medical students diagnose and recommend treatment plans for eight to 10 patients with the help of a physician. As a pre-clinical student, you get a chance to talk with patients, practice taking a physical exam, and present cases: basically everything you learn in your Practice of Medicine class. And since you’re paired up with a clinical student, there’s someone with you to critique your style and teach you snippets of pathophysiology along the way. More importantly, more than 20 percent of the population of St. Louis city is uninsured, and over 25 percent are below the poverty line. Volunteering at SNHC is a great way to serve the St. Louis community using your newfound skills as a rising MD. There’s also a SNHC first-year selective, which involves helping coordinate the program. I haven’t done it myself, but I hear it’s a great way to explore public health. If you’re interested, be sure to put it as your top choice when it comes time to pick selectives!

    — Andy Mohapatra, M1
  • Schnucks Screenings
    Schnucks Screenings
    Sure, it’s one thing to learn how Korotkoff sounds work when measuring blood pressure or why high blood glucose is so dangerous, but it’s another thing to be able to measure blood pressure and glucose in actual patients. Initially, you will find yourself fumbling with blood pressure cuffs, stethoscopes, and lancets for finger pricking. (In my first Standardized Patient session, I nervously chuckled about some “technical difficulties” and had to ask the patient to help me unscrew the cuff. Perhaps the worst part is that this flub was immortalized through video recording.) To avoid this kind of embarrassment, you can get some practice on the lovely customers at Schnuck’s grocery stores through our free blood pressure and glucose screenings. They are extremely patient and thankful for the screenings, and you can help them find doctors and encourage them to live health lifestyles. It’s fun and great practice for you while reaching out to the community!

    — Cherise Meyerson, M1
  • Student National Medical Association (SNMA)
    Student National Medical Association (SNMA)
    The Student National Medical Association (SNMA) has the vaguest, most mysterious name of all the student organizations, and people are therefore often unaware of our purpose. SNMA is a nationwide, student-run organization, which serves as a platform for minority medical students, addresses the needs of underserved communities, and promotes cultural competency. The Wash U SNMA chapter is one of the most active in the region and provides a great networking resource. We interact with residents and faculty members through our Resident Lecture Series and faculty-hosted dinner parties. Our mentoring program assigns us to family groups from Wash U's Minority Association of Pre-medical Students (MAPS). We meet our colleagues at the Saint Louis University Medical School, St. Louis Physicians, and other minority physicians and students through Mound City Medical Forum and regional and national SNMA conferences. SNMA is affiliated with volunteering programs including the Health Professions Recruitment and Exposure Program (HPREP), Schnuck’s Health Screenings, Health Outreach Programs (HOP) and Culinary Medicine. SNMA is also responsible for hosting events for Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month. It is an excellent way to learn more, grow more, and get involved.
    —Lauren Martin, M1
  • Wilderness Medicine Interest Group (WMIG)
    Wilderness Medicine Interest Group (WMIG)
    If Powerpoint lectures, course packs, and practice exams make you feel like a withered shut-in, then you’re right, INDOORS BE LAME, OUTDOORS BE AWESOME. How does a 15-mile race through the woods peppered with a 3-mile canoe race, orienteering, survival skills, and simulated medical emergencies sound? The crowning jewel of the Wilderness Medicine Interest Group (WMIG) is MedWAR, which tests your mental and physical prowess. The WMIG is funded to send teams of three to four Wash U students to one of the MedWAR locations every year and compete. As long as you are healthy enough to hike for 6-10 hours, then you can compete. However, if your response was, “15 miles? UNACCEPTABLE, I demand a full-blown 20-MILE SPRINT,” then you should definitely do it to harness the competitive nature of the race. This interest group also hosts a camping trip in the beginning of the year, where you and your classmates can hang out, swim, and yard game it up before school starts. In addition, we plan other outdoor activities, practice for MedWAR, and attend conferences in the spring. If you love the outdoors, and learning practical applications to medicine, then WMIG is for you.

    — James Vandenberg, M1
  • Young Scientist Program (YSP)
    Young Scientist Program (YSP)
    Like teaching? Like working with kids of all ages? Want to encourage students to get into science? The Young Scientist Program wants you! YSP tries to improve the state of science education in St. Louis in a number of ways. You can volunteer to lead students through demos in subjects like basic anatomy, microbiology, neuroscience, and many more. You can help create teaching kits that teachers use in their own classes to get students engaged in learning about science by doing real hands-on experiments. You can collect scientific equipment to donate to underfunded schools. You can even take a passionate younger student under your wing and guide them into a career in science or medicine. St. Louis city schools are woefully underfunded and unequipped to help students achieve their potential; your involvement with YSP can directly impact young people in the community around you. If that sounds like something you’d like to do, join YSP!

    — Punit Vachharajani, M1

Only at Wash U
  • BigSib/LittleSib


    I love the BigSib/LittleSib program. You fill out a questionnaire and get matched with a big sibling from the second year class. In the beginning of the year, you’re invited to a BigSib/LittleSib picnic where you meet your big sib for the first time. Getting presents in my mailbox after exams and giving presents to my big during her exam week is so much fun! (Shout out to my lovely big sib, Amber Lin. She’s the best.) To be fair, the big sib assignment can be a hit or miss. If you’re lucky, you can develop a great friendship with a second year who is willing to help you out and baby you a bit. If you’re not so lucky, you’ll still have a contact in the second year who may be willing to answer your questions. Either way, it’s great to meet a M2 in the beginning of the year when you probably have a ton of questions about how best to survive M1.

    — Jenny Yu, M1 

  • Float Trip

    Float Trip

    So you went through WUMP (maybe), orientation week, and the beginning of classes. You have undoubtedly experienced enough bouts of debauchery and camaraderie to finally have the urge to hit the books. However, such a decision is unwarranted as FLOAT TRIP lies ahead. As a boy from the East Coast, the concept of cruising down a meandering river as part of a flotilla (read: rafts tied together) was foreign to me, but definitely one I now fully endorse. Whether you prefer shotgunning your way from sand bar to sand bar or crave a day away from the Central West End relaxing outdoors with your classmates, Float Trip is for you. For one Saturday in September, you can finally understand a place where your new home state is pronounced Miz-zur-uh and a love of baseball involves Louisville chugging in the great outdoors. Whether you remember the day or not, you can be confident that the time you spend on the river with your classmates will be the best bonding experience during your initial months at WUSM.

    — Paul Scheel, M1
  • Post-ExamParties and Other Class Social Events

    Post-Exam Parties and Other Class Social Events 

    Go to your class social events! Your classmates are amazing and friendly. You’re going to be spending about four years with most of them, so you might as well get to know them and actually hang out, right? Post-exam party themes are diverse and your social chairs will be eager to listen to your input. Not all class social events involve drinking, so even if you don’t drink, there are still events you can go to. Medical school can be difficult and stressful at times, so relax and take a breather by hanging out with your classmates. What’s more fun than discussing weird diseases like black hairy tongue and making nerdy jokes with people who actually understand what you’re talking about?

    — Jenny Yu, M1

  • Summer Research Before First Year
    Summer Research Before First Year
    Getting research on campus is as easy as pie. In the winter/early spring, email the mentors you're interested in working with, and once you've found a project, email Dean Chung, who will hook you up with whatever funding she can find. Alternately, ask Dean Chung to recommend PIs for you or apply to a specific program. The normal commitment is 10 weeks, plus a short manuscript and poster presentation. You get to move in early, explore the city, see all the sites while you actually have tons of free time, meet classmates (a handful of incoming students and tons of second years), and of course, gain lab experience. Even if you’ve never done research before, there are some awesome projects, both clinical and primary, in pretty much every field.
    —Annelise Mah, M1 
  • Washington University Medical Plunge (WUMP)

    Washington University Medical Plunge (WUMP)

    The beloved program known as Washington University Medical Plunge (WUMP) takes students through an orientation to St. Louis, public health, and the diverse population that Wash U serves. One week before orientation, an increasing percentage of bright-eyed, mostly clueless first-year students arrive in St. Louis. This year, two-thirds of the class came. Those students begin each morning with lectures from local experts and leaders on topics including public health, St. Louis history, primary care, family planning, health care non-profit organizations, and economic disparity. After a fast lunch, the same group of now-sobered, slightly less ignorant first years carpools to volunteer sites across the city. Students volunteer/tour/shadow at health organizations, homeless shelters, Planned Parenthood, the county jail, youth centers, and several more. Not to be thought old or lame, the tired students then spend nights exploring the St. Louis nightlife with all the awkward introductions and re-introductions of the first day of school. By the end of the week, these intrepid first years know far more about St. Louis, the health care they are learning to provide, and the classmates with whom they will spend the next four years. So WUMP is an invaluable introduction to your career, the city, its needs, and your class.

    — Brian Bouchard, M1

Medical School Facilities
  • Becker Medical Library
    Becker Medical Library
    You may be saying to yourself, "I have the internet in my pocket, why would I need a library?" The Becker Library understands this, and has moved into the new age of information. You can visit it in person and check out any of the thousands of books and journals in the collection, or you can log in remotely to the website and access all the latest medical literature without ever putting pants on. Plus, Becker has free copies of all your textbooks and a pretty awesome collection of rare historical books that you can look through any time. The library also gets traveling exhibitions from time to time, so you can learn about an aspect of medicine and history you wouldn't have expected. And when you need a change of scenery from the carrels, Becker has a pretty sweet decor for studying. Becker Medical Library: get your nerd on.

    — Punit Vachharajani, M1 
  • Danforth Campus

    Danforth Campus

    Just two short metro stops away, the stately neo-Gothic Missouri granite of the Danforth Campus reminds us that there is, in fact, another part of Wash U. Despite the usual swarm of undergrads, the Danforth Campus boasts several facilities that medical students might find useful. Jog to Danforth through the beautiful Forest Park, or work out at the Danforth Campus Athletic Center's gym, track, weight room, and pool with any routine that strikes your fancy. Time to study? Head over to the dedicated graduate student study spaces at the Olin Library that are accessible with your ID badge, and browse the collection at the Kemper Art Museum nearby for an aesthetically pleasing study break. As dinner approaches, walk to the culinary heaven of the Delmar Loop neighborhood with its various coffee shops and eateries and contemplate the deliciousness of your next meal. With all these places just waiting to be discovered, the only hard part is getting out of the med school bubble. So head on over to Danforth and see what all of Wash U has to offer!

    — Amy Xu, M1

  • Hospital Conferences and Grand Rounds
    Hospital Conferences and Grand Rounds
    Drop in whenever, blend in, absorb knowledge. It's chill. Unless it's for Surgery Interest Group (SIG), where there are limited spots and you have to let the real docs eat first.

    — Allison Blonski, M1
  • Room 100
    Room 100
    The McDonnell Medical Sciences Building’s Room 100, which houses the offices of admissions, student affairs and the registrar, will probably be one of the rooms you visit most often in first year (apart from Moore Auditorium). Why? Because there is free coffee, tea, and candy all day long (which is until 5 p.m.). Got a five-minute break between lectures? Getting coffee is the perfect time-killer. Studying and need a pick-me-up? Nothing coffee and candy can’t fix. It’s also the place you’ll go to pick up medical equipment and pay for events like Float Trip. Basically, Room 100 has you covered.

    — Julia Wagner, M1
  • Study Carrels
    Study Carrels
    I think it’s safe to say that I spend more of my waking hours at my carrel than in my bedroom. My carrel has a lot of really great things that my bedroom does not: snacks in my cupboard, my friends, and, most importantly, a spinny chair. With all these amenities, the carrels are definitely my favorite place to study. My perfect study environment is quiet-ish, but not silent or empty—which is exactly how the carrels are. My desk has lots of space to spread out, storage space to avoid lugging my books back and forth, and lots of friends nearby to answer my questions or provide me with a study break. Studying on campus is very convenient, whether you’re trying to sneak in some time in between classes, staying after school, or avoiding the distractions of studying at home. The kitchen/living room is a great spot for lunch, a break, or a quick nap on the couches. Best of all, free food tends to magically appear in the kitchen right when you need a study snack. The carrels are open 24/7 for students and are the best (read: least painful) place to spend a long night of studying.

    — Erin Swor, M1