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Art to Heart

Eve M., M1

I love art and have been painting ever since I was a little kid. During my undergraduate studies, I was able to engage in a visual arts community. I knew that when I got to medical school, I would want a similar community of creative peers. After I committed to WashU, I joined the Groupme of our incoming class. The Groupme buzzed all summer long with memes and musings about what the school year would bring us. But one particular message really caught my eye: it was about art. It was from a girl who I had never met named Koeun L., who said, “kinda wanna start an art club here … don’t think there is one.” Lots of classmates chimed in, including myself and another classmate, Amanda L., supporting this awesome idea. Amanda and Koeun connected that summer over their shared interest in art, and I connected with them later on in the fall when we all got to St. Louis. I was ecstatic to connect with people who shared not only similar artistic passions, but also an interest in medicine.

Amanda and Koeun hadn’t missed a beat with planning the art club. They brought me into the fold, and we decided to call our effort “Art to Heart.” Art to Heart’s mission is to foster a community at WashU to appreciate/create visual art and to use art as a tool for community engagement within the greater St. Louis region. For our first programmed event, we organized a virtual paint night for medical students over Zoom, in true Bob Ross fashion. To prepare for the event, Amanda, Koeun, and I made several trips to Blick, an art supply store on the Delmar Loop, in search of the art materials we needed to distribute to our classmates who were participating. We got boba tea after each trip to Blick, which has quickly become one of my favorite traditions. It is a joy to share our interest in art not only with each other but with many of our classmates. We had over 40 participants, and it was such a fun and relaxing way to spend the evening with everyone. We could not have done it without institutional and peer support, which we got in spades. Our next effort is to make masks for non-profit organizations in St. Louis who are in need of PPE. It’s inspiring to see peers coming together and applying their skills to help others. I feel quite lucky to have found a creative community in Art to Heart and look forward to what we can craft next.

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Making Friends During COVID

Evan L., M1

To be honest, I was actually quite worried about starting med school. I had spent almost my entire life in California, from three years old to the moment I moved here. I had made lifelong friends with whom I had gone through all the various stages of early adulthood chaos, and who I felt knew me more fully than anyone. I had also spent four months living with my parents while working remotely during the early COVID-19 lockdowns, so I was pretty sure I didn’t even know how to interact with people my age anymore. The thought of starting over with a bunch of potentially gunner med students in a very foreign environment frankly sounded kind of terrible.

I am very, very relieved to tell you that I worried for no reason. I had been afraid of not having the closeness I had with my friends from home, and to be honest, there is inevitably a period where you have to rebuild that with your classmates here. That being said, I found it really natural to find people I enjoyed spending time with (and there were a lot of them, fortunately), and found it similarly easy to make and deepen those friendships. Your classmates will be such an incredibly talented yet kind, well-rounded, and down-to-earth group of people (people always joke that WashU chooses really well, which I always rolled my eyes at until I got here). Even with COVID, people have been incredibly willing and creative with finding safe ways to meet and spend time with each other. The hilarious thing about going to med school is some people are extremely organized and a little type A, so there is no shortage of open-invite spreadsheets and group chats to check out various restaurants/ spots around the city. Similarly, people are 1) very fit, so if that’s your jam, you will have plenty of people with whom you can exercise/explore new activities and 2) generally willing to try new things and meet new people. I’ve had so many warm (but safe and socially distanced) memories here — potlucks, swimming, brewery nights, hot pot, running, coffee shops, cat cafes, trying takeout from new restaurants, climbing, dinners in the park, dog walking, ice skating, zoo trips, drive-in movie nights, and of course, all the other med school experiences like squadding up in the library and celebrating after tests. Overall, I’m really grateful for our class community and for all of the colorful friendships I’ve been lucky enough to find here. I also hope and trust that you will find your people here, no matter what that looks like.

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MSTP Journal Club

Kenzie L., M1

One month prior to beginning their first research rotation at WashU, the incoming MSTP students developed a journal club with a curriculum focused on social justice and anti-racism for the summer of 2020. Through this journal club experience, we not only covered important topics related to the communities we were about to serve and the history of marginalization and racism in science and medicine, but we also bonded as a cohort … over Zoom! At a time when health, safety, and social connection are dramatically impacted by the global pandemic, our journal club created a unique opportunity to socially connect with future classmates over topics critical to effectively addressing health and safety in our medical and scientific communities. After three planning meetings and five journal club sessions, we all felt significantly (yes we did stats) more comfortable contributing to a diverse array of discussions surrounding race in science and medicine within our MSTP cohort. Once we arrived in St. Louis, it was evident that the journal club had dramatically enhanced class bonding, purely through Zoom encounters where we taught each other and discussed relevant social justice topics. Students became acquainted through personal discussions and preparing presentations in groups. We were honestly genuinely surprised how well we got to know each other and how much we learned, so we decided to write an op-ed for FASEB and we are continuing the journal club throughout the year. We hope to assist the incoming class to plan a similar MSTP journal club as well.

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Mug Cakes

Ruple J., M1

What is the only thing that will inevitably cheer medical students up when it’s cold and dark outside and school work is piling up, when we can’t hang out or study with our friends freely without wearing masks and being socially distanced, and when everything feels gloomy? Free food, of course! And what kind of food? MUG CAKES!

Mug Cake Monday began during the first module as a wellness pop-up event to relieve some stress before our final module exam. It was a virtual event in which a team of students compiled ingredients for 10-15 different flavors of mug cakes that our classmates could sign up for. We had flavors varying from “Bring Back Summer Strawberry” to “Pumpkin Cheesecake” to “I miss traveling – Biscoff inspired.” After picking up the ingredients, we all participated in a Zoom “baking party” on Monday night to assemble and bake our mug cakes together. The event was a huge success, with over 80% of our class participate in the event! While we were baking, we all got to socialize and talk about anything and everything on our minds. We met so many people so fast through the class-wide Zoom and it was overall just such a fun experience to be a part of! Mug Cake Monday quickly became a tradition in our class and we made it a goal to have at least one mug cake event per module as an “end of module celebration.” Recently, it has even gotten implemented into our Society Cup competitions to see who can make the most creative and cute mug cakes to score points for their society! This event has been so fun to put together and participate in, and we hope to carry on this tradition even when in-person classes begin again (hopefully soon). We look forward to you all joining in the baking fun and hope to pass on the reigns of this yummy tradition to your class once we transition out of Phase 1!This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2021-01-04-at-12.47.49-AM-1.png

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Resiliency Group

Ilana O., M1

Some M1’s chose to participate in a pilot resilience group facilitated by an M4. Each week, this small group of WUSM students across different class years met over Zoom and participated in a discussion based upon a “Resiliency Toolkit” written by a local St. Louis therapist. This space provided a unique opportunity for us to check in with one another and share personal experiences relating to this topic. I really enjoyed getting to know members of my M1 class in a deeper way through these sessions and found the practical tools we learned extremely valuable. Developing a support network is a critical part of transitioning to life in medical school, and this group made it easy to create those connections.

Section Editor

Kevin  Yin

Kevin Yin

Finding Community Section Editor

I’m Kevin, and I was born in Shanghai, China, but moved around a lot growing up and now my family lives in Toronto, Canada. My first time living in the U.S. was when I started at Washington University in St. Louis for my undergraduate studies, and now I am continuing my life in St. Louis through the Medical Scientist Training Program (yay for St. Louis!). In my spare time, I love knitting, anything related to food or fitness, and most importantly spending quality time with my dog Roux.