Adjusting to medical school can be difficult. Here, graduating M4s and some of our M1 class’s most popular WUSM faculty share words of wisdom on how to make the most out of your time in St. Louis.

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From Catherine Xu, M4  

Catherine Xu

I feel incredibly thankful to have the opportunity to offer advice as an M4 in the Dis-O guide. From the days when I was an Editor for my class’s Dis-O guide as an M1 to now, I can only say, WOW time passed by really fast! 

Here are some things I found helpful along the way. One is don’t give up on your interests. Whether it is hobbies (yes Netflix counts as a hobby), specialty, or research interests, you have plenty of time in the preclinical years to pursue all your interests! Really take advantage of pass/fail and make every day what you want it to be. You will never learn all the things (no matter how much you study), so if you accept that early, you can enjoy the learning process and save time for everything else. Second, make time to hang out with your friends, especially during those busy clerkships. I think I saw my friends the most during third year of medical school when weekends were few and far in between. We somehow all knew that it was important to get together, decompress and celebrate our shared experiences. Lastly, don’t be afraid to change your mind about what you want to be! Explore everything as much as you want to, you won’t know how you will like it until you try! Know that you will be well supported by the school every step of the way and won’t have to figure it out alone.

Whether you feel excited or intimidated to begin your medical school journey, just remember that it truly goes by in a flash, so have fun and enjoy all the experiences and cool people you meet along the way!

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From Jessica Kuo, M4  

Jessica Kuo

Welcome to WashU! Be excited because although medical school is tough, you are going to make lifelong friendships and go on rotations that you may never experience again. Here’s my tips on making it through unscathed: 

  • Take care of yourself. Whether that’s hanging out with classmates, family, or continuing outside hobbies; try to take breaks from medicine and don’t feel guilty about it! Focus on taking care of yourself first. These are skills necessary for any career in medicine. 
  • Don’t follow anyone else’s timeline. People don’t always talk about it, but some classmates need more time to study for Step or do rotations slightly out-of-order to maximize their success. Although the administration doesn’t advertise these situations, it sounds like faculty are extremely supportive of students’ decisions and individual needs. Looking back, I realize I did not have to follow the timelines that other people set, and I certainly would have been less stressed by these arbitrary deadlines! We all get to the finish line at our own pace. Remember that many students struggle at some point during these four years and support your classmates! 
  • Keep an open mind in choosing your specialty. I came to medical school thinking maybe I wanted to pursue ophthalmology, got involved in research, and then on my third year rotation, realized I hated microscopic surgery. As you’ll probably see on Match Day, many students end up matching in fields different from their M1 preference. When you shadow, try to imagine if you would enjoy the work you see the residents doing. 

Remember to look at the big picture and enjoy your med school years!

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From Lauren Behlke, M4

Lauren Behlke

A lot of what I wish my M1 self had known going into medical school boils down to: Know Yourself.

  • Know your own studying style. In the first couple of years, it is easy to get caught up in how everybody else is studying or to get stressed that you may be studying wrong. Take the time to learn about your own learning, how you learn best and know that you can block out any other studying “buzz” that comes your way.
  • Know your unique strengths. You have them! We all do! Learn them and appreciate them. Pull on them whenever you get the chance and share them with your classmates if you can use your strengths to help others.
  • Know your limits. You have them! We all do! Learn them and listen to them. Reach out when your limits are being pushed. Your classmates have limits too. Your residents, attendings, mentors and patients have limits as well. Asking for help is a sign of maturity and strength.
  • Know your uncertainty. O.K., getting to medical school has been your goal for a long time. You’ve made it! Now what? Sometimes it feels like we should have the rest of our career figured out early on in medical school. I assure you; you will finish medical school and still not have the rest of your career figured out. So, don’t stress about the uncertainty. Enjoy the learning process, immerse yourself in this incredible opportunity, and try to take it one day at a time.

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From Michelle Chung, M4

Michelle Chung

First of all, congratulations on matriculating into medical school! Take a moment to really appreciate what an accomplishment that is and realize how awesome you are to have reached this far. Remember that you deserve to be here, that no matter what obstacles you face or how stupid you feel at times, you deserve to be here! So, some things:

  • Quality over quantity, especially when it comes to studying. There are an infinite number of resources out there and a whole lot of material to cover, but sometimes it’s not about the number of hours you study, it’s the method you’re using. Some people love Sketchy, some people prefer organized lectures, others like Anki. Make sure to explore all the different options to find a way that works for you — it’s a whole different ball game than college. The library has a learning specialist who can help you figure this out, definitely make sure to take advantage of those resources!
  • Make time for yourself! Medical school is busy, and it can often feel like there’s always more studying or work that should be done, but practicing self-care is incredibly important in preventing burn-out and keeping you happy during these four years. Grades and test scores may be important to you, but your individual health is worth significantly more. As a wise man once said, you only live once.
  • Take care of yourself. Our health insurance at WUSM is amazing (as someone who paid a total of one $20 copay for surgery), and that includes behavioral health resources. We have some amazing in-house psychologists and plenty of amazing outside providers as well, so don’t hesitate to reach out. Medical school is a stressful time, and honestly, everyone could use a helping hand at times. Don’t keep it to yourself.
  • Don’t lose your hobbies — and find some new ones. Those activities you did during college and/or your gap year? Keep those, they’ll make you feel more human. It can be anything from sports, dance, music, whatever. We all need a break from the studying slog.
  • Don’t forget the world around you. With so much work and studying on your plate, it can be easy to isolate yourself and lose touch with your friends and family. But remember, just because you could be studying more doesn’t mean you have to and hanging with your friends is definitely more fun.

Enjoy your time in medical school. It’s the perfect time to start building the foundation of what you want your future to look like! It’s one more step towards true adulthood — balancing your happiness and fulfillment with your work is important.

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From Will R. Ross, MD, MPH

Associate Dean, Diversity

Dean Ross
(Photo Credit: Office of Diversity, WUSM)

Welcome to Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis! On your arrival, the beauty, vitality and progressive spirit of the Central West End will captivate you, and most of you will decide to reside in this very charming neighborhood. However, several blocks from the medical center, you will find neighborhoods that have been unable to reach their full potential. The St. Louis region is not immune from the social ills that plague our nation’s urban core: inadequate housing, high rates of joblessness or lack of livable wage jobs, underperforming public schools, insufficient support of public health. As one of the largest employers in St. Louis, we have a responsibility to be diverse, inclusive and responsive to the needs of our community. We stand by our efforts to create a workforce that can fulfill our mission of advancing human health in a culture that supports diversity, inclusion, critical thinking and creativity. We pledge that everyone – no matter his or her race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or sexual preference, national origin or disability and regardless of position – should feel welcome and appreciated as part of our campus community. We accept our unique urban enclave for all its glory and will not shy away from engaging with the St. Louis community to help eliminate the social factors that contributed to health inequalities. As an incoming student, you will be immersed in the fascinating world of scientific discovery and medical innovation, but you will not be allowed to forget that the true purpose of medicine is to uplift the human condition. We hope our service learning opportunities will compel you to become a force for good in the St. Louis region. Many of you will go on to become leaders and volunteers in the Saturday Neighborhood Health Clinic, Casa de Salud Health Clinic, the Nutrition Outreach Program and other student-run programs that collaborate with the St. Louis community. During your years in medical school, make sure you connect to the greater community and experience the tremendous personal satisfaction of service; acknowledging the marked difference you can make on the lives of those less fortunate. Allow yourself to be trained, in essence, in our medical center without walls. Your overall experience as a medical school student will then be much more rewarding at Washington University School of Medicine.

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From Koong-Nah Chung, PhD

Associate Dean, Medical Student Research

Dean Chung
(Photo Credit: Robert Boston)

You will spend the next four plus years at WUSM with your peers, and they will be your lifelong friends and colleagues. Form strong bonds with your classmates, collaborate and support each other. Get to know the faculty, administration and staff. We are here to help you succeed. Find an advisor or mentor who takes an interest in you. Your mentor will help you navigate medical school, and if you’re lucky, you may get a home-cooked meal out of it. Stay grounded by volunteering in the community. Have fun and stay sane by getting involved in school clubs and continuing with your hobbies. Get to know St. Louis; there is no shortage of entertainment, including the world-champion Cardinals, the world-famous Saint Louis Zoo, the Saint Louis Science Center, the Saint Louis Art Museum and the Botanical Garden. In addition, there is a world-class symphony, many music venues and plenty of nightlife. Pay attention to your academics. Take your basic science courses seriously. They will come in handy in later years, and your future patients will thank you. Don’t worry about your residency match yet. Most importantly, get enough sleep, exercise and have fun. Oh, and if you want to do research, just email me (

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From Lisa M. Moscoso, MD, PhD

Associate Dean, Student Affairs

Dean Moscoso

Welcome! I can’t wait to meet you! I am one of a team of people who are here to support you on the road to becoming a doctor. There will be many joys and challenges on this journey. As you begin medical school, it will be important to develop a community of support – to celebrate your joys and to team up with you in your challenges. By all means, attend to the important business of maintaining relationships with your friends and family, but be sure to invest in growing relationships here as well.

What you have heard is true: medical school will be demanding. There will be stretches of time when balance will be hard to find. However, with a little attention, and assistance if requested, you will learn important tools and techniques to regain and maintain a healthy balance. Here are a few bits of advice that you may find useful:

  • Build and maintain warm-hearted relationships. Quality is important here, not quantity. Remember that lifetime friends, colleagues, mentors and advisors surround you. Let them in!… the sooner the better.
  • Remember what brings you joy and intentionally carve out time for it.
  • Do what you love.
  • Respect others in your actions and words.
  • Assume positive intent in your colleagues. Doing the opposite takes too much energy.
  • Stay connected to your family (or family of choice).
  • Play. Outside when you can.
  • Laugh as often as possible. Choose companions who multiply laughter.
  • Read for fun.
  • Notice something beautiful today.
  • Be grateful for something or someone every day.

My staff and I are here for you. Ask for our support when you need it!

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From Timothy T. Yau, MD

Course Master, Practice of Medicine I

Dr. Yau

For the last 4 years, I have been the director for the year-long Practice of Medicine course, where students learned all the “non-science” stuff that is necessary to becoming a great physician. With the exciting change around the new curriculum, I’m not quite sure how to introduce myself, but the advice remains the same.

The qualities that will make each of you outstanding doctors is so much more than test scores, which all of you already are capable of. We’ll teach you all the things you expect – how to communicate with and examine patients, how to formulate diagnoses, how to interpret labs and tests. But you will also learn how to see your patients as individuals, how to involve them in patient-centered decisions, and how to navigate the complicated societal and structural barriers to their health. The amount of information you will learn in the next four years is both staggering and intimidating. But the learning will not end there, and you are not empty pitchers to be filled with knowledge until you are full. You will never stop learning, and you will have opportunities over the next four years to do things that you may never again do in your lifetime. I am a kidney specialist, but I still delivered plenty of babies as a third-year medical student! Learn for the sake of learning (rather than just to pass the test) and you will find the pursuit of knowledge more worthwhile, meaningful and longer lasting. Your individual path to fulfill your potential to be a great doctor will be decided by you. Faculty like myself are your mentors, role models, guides, and colleagues in this journey.

Lastly, we hope you are eager to learn, but also want you to ENJOY your medical school experience. Some of the strongest bonds are forged here, and you will need support from family, old friends, and the new friends you will make. Get outside, eat some good food, and have a drink to relax. Take time to enjoy things that make you happy, whatever they are! This advice sounds generic, but I live by my own words: I play traditional Irish music at least twice a week and enjoy competitive video gaming. Last year we even started the official WashU Gaming Club! I have two consoles and three instruments in my office to take the occasional break. You’re always welcome to stop by for a game of Smash or to play a tune!

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From Amy L. Bauernfeind, PhD, and Kari L. Allen, PhD

Directors of Anatomy

Dr. Bauernfeind

Dr. Allen

Dear Students,

Welcome to WUSM Anatomy! We hope you will enjoy your Anatomy experience as much as we love teaching it. Human anatomical dissection is a rare and privileged experience, and you will learn more from the process than from any textbook. Our body donors have given you an incredible gift from which to learn the geography of the human body and the variation therein. Take this gift seriously and honor their wishes, but enjoy the experience.

The Anatomy lab is a vibrant place where you will spend much of your time engaging with faculty and peers as you work through the structures assigned for that week. You will dissect as a team with three of your peers, exploring the material through tactile discovery. Although there is a huge amount of material in the anatomical sciences, try not to let this overwhelm you. We are training you to be doctors, not anatomists. You will not retain every detail of the subject, but you will become familiar with the language and concepts of anatomy with more immediacy than you may have thought possible. Work closely with your team and take advantage of the presence of the faculty and teaching assistants.

Remember that having fun is not incompatible with learning! We look forward to working with you in your exploration of the structure of the human body.

Section Editor

Marina  Nguyen

Marina Nguyen

Advice Section Editor

I grew up in Cupertino, California. I later traveled a full two hours away to attend University of California, Davis, where I majored in neurobiology, physiology and behavior. In my free time, I enjoy reading fantasy novels, playing video games, singing, and planning theme park trips. Fun fact: In my freshman year of undergrad, I sprained both of my ankles in the first week.