Anatomy team photos
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Thomas B., M1

As a disclaimer, I should inform the reader that I am interested in surgery, so there is a bias when I say that Anatomy lab will be the most engaging class that you take at WashU. Despite the bias, I think it is fair to say everyone enjoys getting a break from what can feel like a constant barrage of lectures. You start with a completely intact cadaver and eventually dissect every square inch, which admittedly is very intimidating. However, there is truly no better way to learn anatomy. At the same time, you also get the opportunity to practice your motor skills (shout out to any incoming hopeful surgeons) and solidify your understanding of the various physical exams you learn in POM.

But every medical school has a cadaver lab (right?), so what makes the WashU experience unique and better than the rest? That is an excellent question that is difficult to articulate in words, but it comes down to two things: your lab mates and the professors. Each cadaver is assigned four students, and each group forms a bond that lasts throughout your medical school career. I did not realize how much fun I would have each time in the lab just hanging with my group mates as we tackled the daunting task of dissecting a cadaver. Honestly, while dissecting is enjoyable when you get used to it, being a part of an Anatomy group and interacting with your team is what makes Anatomy lab worthwhile. I firmly believe that other school’s Anatomy groups don’t form the bonds with each other like those that are formed here at WashU.

Okay, so now let’s talk about the second thing: the professors. They are incredible. You can point to any little artery or vein or nerve (they seriously all look alike) and the professors can almost always identify it in two seconds. There are also always professors wandering around, so I rarely felt like I had to wait a long time for a professor to come by and answer a question. They are also very willing to set up appointments with you outside of lab time to review Anatomy. Any of them will do this for you, but I would highly recommend setting up an appointment with Dr. Ritzman before the exams. You’ll thank me later (again, it should be noted that you can do this with any professor and they are all equally great)! Finally, you haven’t lived until you’ve had a Dikranian Dissection. I honestly can’t even describe how Dr. Dikranian does it, but I don’t think I’d know heart anatomy if it weren’t for his help. I guarantee you’ll never get to experience the sheer awe of a Dikranian Dissection anywhere else.

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Faisal A., M1

One of the biggest strengths of the WashU curriculum is the ability to customize your education towards your specific learning style. If you’re an Anki fan or you’re open to learning about the power of spaced repetition, you’re in luck at WashU. During our year, we had a classwide initiative to identify class-relevant Anki cards from Zanki. This helped us synthesize the information, retain it for the long term, and gave us a sense of what may be important for future board exams. The teamwork and collaboration present at WashU is fantastic and you can use this dynamic to excel in your education. Good luck pressing the spacebar as you embark on your journey to spaced repetition success!

Matthew R., M1

Anki is one example of how our class has collaborated to ensure everyone’s success. Together, our student body developed crowdsourced Anki decks for our curriculum. They are continually updated, and your class can look forward to this wonderful resource. At the start of the school year, we’ll be hosting events to teach new students how to use the platform and provide guidance on flashcard decks, add-ons, and other curriculum-specific advice. Whether you’re new to Anki or already converted, we’ll help you to use this incredible resource to the fullest.

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Going to Class

Bruin P., M1

Having almost always attended my classes as an undergrad, it was the natural choice to be a consistent “class-goer” in medical school. I believe attending motivates me to be attentive while the information is presented (especially with “Poll Everywhere” questions) and to avoid getting backed up with recorded lectures, which are easy to procrastinate. In addition to staying on pace, I like getting my questions answered by expert physicians and world-renowned scientists on a daily basis. Most of our professors are entertaining and interactive, which can make lectures really fun! Although I appreciate different learning styles, I personally advocate for everybody to attend class at the beginning to get to know your awesome classmates better and see if it’s right for you!

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Not Anki-ing

Haley S., M1

Anki is a powerful study tool, but don’t worry if it doesn’t fit into your study routine! This flashcard-based system is beloved by many, but rest assured that more traditional study methods, such as lecture outlines, notes and group study, are more than sufficient for your medical school classes. You will cover an abundance of material in class, thus spaced repetition of lecture concepts is imperative for retaining information. You can do this with Anki, or just as easily by periodically reviewing your notes, quizzing yourself on lecture objectives, or scheduling weekly group study sessions. We all learn differently, so feel free to use the study method that works best for you!

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Not Going to Class

Anthony W., M1

As someone who stopped attending class the first week of medical school, I can say that not going to class is a feasible endeavor because all lectures are recorded and posted online, along with lecture notes, within a few hours after class. However, as with any studying habit, it has both its strengths and weaknesses. One of the major advantages is that you free up the time you would otherwise be spending in class. This may involve studying on your own, especially if you find it more efficient, or sleeping in (like I do) as most classes are in the morning. But with this type of studying habit, it is easy to fall behind on lectures as it’s all self-managed. As a result, discipline is required unless you want to cram all the lecture material a few days before exams. Fortunately, it isn’t as black and white as going, or not going, to class as some people find one class worth attending and other classes not so much. As you will find with many things in medical school, a lot of your studying habits and, in general, your decisions will be up to your personal preference and what works for you.

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Pass/Fail Curriculum

Ann I., M1

Having a pass/fail curriculum has without a doubt improved my medical school experience. The transition to medical school can be overwhelming: there is always more to learn, and studying can become all consuming if you let it. With a pass/fail curriculum, however, there is no need to be anxious about grades. Because the scores for passing range from 65% to 70% depending on the class, you can rest assured that you will do just fine as long as you are confident with the bulk of the material. This means that you don’t need to spend every spare minute studying, and instead you can invest some of your time into the other things you are interested in, whether that’s volunteering, conducting research, spending time with family and friends, or even just relaxing. Not having the pressure to get straight A’s or to be top of the class allows for a great work-life balance. It also allows for collaboration, as there is no incentive to compete with your classmates. In my class, people are constantly sharing resources they’ve discovered and study guides they’ve created, and everyone genuinely wants to see others succeed. While some people might worry that it will be harder to motivate themselves without the extrinsic motivator of letter grades, I have not found that to be the case. Personally, I have found that I still put in the same effort that I did when I had a grade point average to worry about, I just don’t have the worry that came along with it. The pass/fail curriculum helps to create a great atmosphere at WashU where test scores are important, but they aren’t everything, and I think this leads to a much happier student body.

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Resource Sharing

Vinay P., M1

Students routinely share their resources with the class via Slack.

Med school without a doubt is a tough experience, filled with mountains of new information and streams of endless facts. Luckily, you’re not alone! WashU has a very collaborative environment and students share study resources all the time. Our class maintains a Slack channel for each class where we share useful mnemonics, study tips, and other resources.In addition, older students are always happy to provide advice on how to approach studying for a particular class or exam. No matter how hard classes get, it never feels like we’re studying alone!

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Studying at Home

Ann I., M1

While there are some mandatory labs and lectures in medical school, a large majority of your time is open for you to study in whatever way works best for you. I choose to spend most of my study time at home because I like the flexibility that it gives me. When I’m at home, it’s really easy to make myself a quick snack or to go to my apartment gym without having to plan things out in advance. Of course, it’s also really easy to get back in bed and watch Netflix, so studying at home might not be the best for you if you are easily distracted. Overall though, I really like being able to largely set my own schedule and study where I am most comfortable.

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Studying in Cafes

Ashley A., M1

During orientation, Bridget O’Neal (the assistant dean and director of financial aid) gave a presentation on how to cut out small expenses from our budget, such as daily coffee. So logically, when classes started, I promptly restarted my Starbucks addiction with full force. I tried studying in other locations, but I’ve found that coffee shops work best for me (I will end up taking a “night nap” if I study in bed). They have great ambient sound for studying, and the hustle and bustle can serve as a visual break from your screen. Granted, depending on the day and time, your favorite tables by the window might be occupied, but if you’re lucky, someone will bring their dog in to get a puppuccino, and that is always a blessed addition to any study day.

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Studying in the Carrels

Vikram P., M1

Aaron G. and Jonathan Y. during a carrel study break.

So far, I’ve done around 90% of my studying in the carrels. The carrels are an area where each student is provided a desk with drawers to leave and lock up anything they’d like to have around while studying. Students decorate their carrels with pictures, bring computer monitors, store snacks or personalize their carrels in any way that makes it feel more like home. I really like the carrels for studying because it is a relatively quiet environment while also providing a social aspect for study breaks when needed. I sit near friends, so whenever there’s a question about class material or a need for a distraction to take your mind off of school, there’s always someone there to talk to. The carrels also have a kitchen and a lounge with a newly installed massage chair, as well as a new nap pod.

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Studying in the Library

Anthony W., M1

Jessica C., Mari G., and John W. study on the first floor of Becker Library.

The Becker Library is a versatile study space due to its multiple floors that each has its own “studying culture.” On the first floor is an open space that contains many large tables where groups of people can work, which leads to opportunities to meet and study with classmates. Although quieter discussion is possible, there is still an underlying agreement to keep an environment that is conducive to studying.  As you climb the floors, there are more options for more private studying with personal carrels and even private studying rooms. These areas generally are silent studying spaces, so for those that require absolute silence, you will thrive here. Finally, there is the basement, which is, personally, where I love to study. There is a mixture of open tables, so groups of people can congregate, and individual carrels for those who prefer to study alone. There is even a skylight so one can see small glimpses of the outside world and a couch that is highly coveted for napping. Overall, if you are either looking to try out library studying for the first time or already a library veteran, you will probably find all you need at Becker (there is even an office that provides free coffee and candy for when you want to take a step back from stuffing your brain with material).

Some fresh memes created by our geniuses Jack B. and Aaron G.