As someone living with multiple chronic illnesses/disabilities, it was really important for me to go to a medical school/grad school that had good health-care coverage and the flexibility to work with students needing accommodations. The medical coverage here is phenomenal — everyone at Student Health Services is super friendly, there is essentially no wait time for appointments (you can get in and out within minutes!), Dr. Winters is always available after hours via email if any urgent matters arise, anything done at Student Health (blood work, tests, etc) is fully covered, and most specialists within the WashU network are covered with only a $20 copay. Dr. Winters is wonderful at coordinating care with all my providers, and helped me establish a medical team to manage my multiple chronic medical conditions (diagnosed both prior to and during my time at WashU). Dean Moscoso is a true advocate for students needing accommodations — she arranged for me to get testing accommodations for a medical condition I had before medical school, advocated for me to be tested for a learning disability (which resulted in a learning disability diagnosis) after some academic difficulties during the first semester of medical school, helped me get a second set of accommodations for the learning disability, and also guided me through the enormous task of applying for accommodations for Step 1. Finally, there is currently a new group being developed, the WashU chapter of the Alliance of Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses in Medicine (ADACIM). This group is connected to the larger ADACIM national organization and is being established to build community for chronically ill/disabled medical students and allies. Becoming doctors (unfortunately) does not make us immune to chronic conditions or disabilities, but I can confidently say that WashU is able to handle any and every situation that might come your way!
Bruin P., M2
I feel confident in my lifelong decision to abstain from drinking — largely influenced by understanding my own personality and family history — and have never felt held back from social events because of it. No matter your rationale, I promise that you will find your amazing WashU classmates to be very supportive and mature. My biggest advice is to not feel daunted about making your own choices! You will not be alone. Just remember to focus on being together and enjoying each other’s company rather than passing judgment. Whether it’s post-exam partying, weekend clubbing, or late-night kicking back with friends, bonding with your classmates will be a major highlight of the first year.
Bruin (right) with his anatomy group at the AMWA Red Dress Event in January.
Cassidy T., M1
Having been born and raised in Southern California, I have always been surrounded by a large Asian community, and there was no dearth of great Asian food. Truthfully, I was a bit apprehensive about moving to St. Louis because of the relatively smaller Asian population compared to San Diego. However, since moving to St. Louis, I have found that my fears were unwarranted. I have been able to find a great community of Asians at WashU, as well as those who share an interest in Asian culture. In terms of food, I was pleasantly surprised to find places for good Vietnamese food, ramen, sushi, and more. There are also huge Asian grocery markets nearby, with Asian snacks galore and every ingredient you would ever need to recreate your favorite dishes.
Ian M., M1
St. Louis is a city with a loaded history of racism, disparities based on race, and unequal access to opportunity for people of color (POC). WashU is an institution that is cognizant of their contribution to these harsh realities, and is invested in addressing these issues in the WashU community, as well as in the Missouri communities surrounding us. As a Black student, I feel immensely supported by Student National Medical Association (SNMA), the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and community organizations for POC, and know that my hopes for the betterment of POC in medicine and society are also a priority of theirs. Additionally, being in St. Louis, which has a vibrant POC community, has allowed me to interact with more POC organizations, communities, and individuals than I’ve ever had the opportunity to anywhere else I’ve lived. I feel empowered here, and I know that the fight for equality for POC is also being fought by my peers, educators, and mentors.
Austin H., M2
Like most universities, most WashU students and professors seem to lean blue. Several student groups and events promote single-payer health care, pro-choice, and similar ideas. And you’ll learn about the gender spectrum in Genetics and Anatomy. There currently aren’t many student groups for conservative ideas. That does not mean WashU is not welcoming to conservatives though! Your peer group will come from all around the country and the world. This broad range of students includes many viewpoints, including some that will have similar views as you. In my infrequent political discussions with classmates, I am often surprised by how much we agree.
Missouri is currently a red state (although nowadays being red doesn’t necessarily mean being conservative). St. Louis has had a Democrat mayor since 1953 and is predominantly blue. But you’ll see plenty of Trump bumper stickers on the freeway and there are pro-life marches and similar civic events throughout the year. WashU makes an amazing effort to teach you about St. Louis’s history. During orientation, we learned of the failed attempts by the government to help its poor/disadvantaged. Nearly all of the government’s attempts failed or even made living conditions worse for the people it aimed to help. I lived in Baltimore for two years and St. Louis feels very similar. The historically left-leaning city government has struggled to fix some issues. Don’t get me wrong, I love living here. It’s a great city, but its history is instructive to me regarding certain policies and their effects.
My fellow conservatives and I could certainly do more at WashU to make our voices heard in the form of student groups, events, etc. Even so, the primary focus of everyone at WashU is helping students become excellent physicians. Most days, at school and at social events, politics are not discussed. When I have discussed politics with classmates/professors, each discussion has been civil and respectful. If only our politicians could behave similarly.
Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions when you get here!
Elizabeth J.D., M1
I was worried about not fitting in when I moved to St. Louis as an undocumented Latina with DACA, but I do have to say I was proven wrong in that aspect. I feel pretty safe and like I belong here. We have a vibrant community of students who identify as Latino here. Many of them are from all parts of the world. LMSA here is also popping. They host so many fun activities like the summer picnic in Forest Park, where we met other upper-level students and some residents over yummy tortas. Usually, there are also fun events where we go dancing to clubs like Viva and Dos Salas, which all have different Latin music, that I hope to go back to when it is safe. The food around the Medical Campus is also pretty bomb. There is this restaurant called Burro Loco that has the best tacos and ceviche around campus. There are also several grocery stores; the biggest one is El Torito. In terms of patient care, we have MedSpan where we can get certified as Spanish-speaking physicians and practice clinical scenarios. We also have the opportunity to volunteer at Casa De Salud, where patients are mainly Spanish-speaking. This year some of my classmates and I formed a student club called Rayos Contra el Cancer (RCC), which we hope to partner with some of the radiation oncology faculty and implement a curriculum to teach interested physicians in Guatemala about new methods and technology in oncology. Through RCC we also hope to develop a donation drive to bring necessary medical supplies to clinics in South America. The great thing about WashU is that you can get involved in the Latin@ community at different levels, locally and internationally.
Caellagh M., M1
My partner and I were curious about what it would be like for us to live in Missouri as an openly gay couple. So far, we have been warmly welcomed by the well-established WashU LGBTQ community! The student group LGBTQMed has been around for a long time and has partnerships with the faculty group OUTMed and the school administration. Every year they host small dinner parties with faculty, offering a chance to find mentors within the school. If you are more interested in the scholarly stuff, there is a strong interdisciplinary network across campuses, lunch talks hosted during the year, and a center on campus with a team of physicians from a bunch of different specialties who serve the transgender or gender diverse population, just to name a few of the opportunities. The city of St. Louis itself also has a pretty robust community of people with diversity of genders, sexual orientation and expression — historically located in The Grove just south of campus (with some great drag shows and clubs to visit when COVID isn’t an issue). Of course, like everywhere, there is work to be done — but there is also a strong and tight-knit community of people who are here to support you.
Tony Y., M2
Locate Missouri on a county map of the 2020 elections and you will spot four pockets of blue amid the sea of red. Bluest among these is the city of St. Louis, where over 80% of votes cast went to Democrats. Not only does St. Louis as a whole lean liberal, some of its more progressive areas like the Central West End and The Grove are found right by the Medical Campus. And as you get to know your classmates, the faculty members, and the physicians at WUSM, you will likely find that many of them have left-leaning politics. All of this is to say, if you worry about leaving behind liberal bubbles for the Midwest, rest assured that you will find peers here who share your passion for progressive causes, whether it be racial justice, health equity, reproductive rights, poverty alleviation, or any other initiative. You will find faculty mentors eager to support your advocacy efforts. You will certainly find friends with whom to vent about the state of U.S. politics.
Hopefully by now I’ve convinced those of you who identify as progressive that you needn’t be apprehensive about moving to St. Louis, and that you will feel welcome at WUSM. But what I wish to convey to you, more importantly, is that you are needed here. St. Louis is a city deeply wounded by injustices both historical and extant, from the legacy of segregation and gentrification that formed the Delmar Divide, to the racial disparities in health outcomes that are now being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. We as medical students have a responsibility to oppose these injustices and demand redress for harms done in partnership with local organizations. Since Missouri is a red state, it is important that we advocate for progressive policies, engaging openly and productively with those who hold opposing political views. We come to WUSM not merely to find the comfort of an ideological bubble, but opportunities to serve those in our community who are suffering.
Aravinda G., M1
Having both grown up and gone to college in St. Louis, I can tell you there are an abundance of opportunities to celebrate your South Asian heritage within the area. First, there are cultural events put on by both SLU and WashU’s undergrad campuses, which are open to all students. These include celebrations for Holi, Diwali, Navaratri, Onam, and many more. There are also cultural showcases put on by both universities where cultural dance (Garba/Bhangra/Raas/South), garb, and food is shared with the community.
In terms of restaurants, there are plenty of opportunities to sample South Asian cuisine in the area. The closest restaurant would probably be Rasoi. It is in the Central West End so one could argue it is within walking distance. There is also an abundance of international grocery stores nearby, such as Seema, Ambica Foods, and Bombay Bazaar if you are looking for ingredients or snacks.
Finally, the biggest thing we love to do is share our culture with other classmates. I’m glad to have classmates with whom I can dance, discuss Bollywood movies, and even enjoy South Asian cuisine!
Jake H., M1
WashU is a great place to find a clinical research mentor. I reached out to a resident during the summer before school to express interest, and he helped me find a clinical mentor and get involved in a research project. We are currently working on a health-care policy project as well as a clinical outcomes project. Both my faculty mentor and the resident have been very responsive and supportive. There are a plethora of research opportunities — from the bench to big data and everything in between. If you need a mentor, all you need to do is ask.
Nick F., M1
At my undergraduate institution, I was an employee of the Student Wellness Center and did a lot of outreach focusing on mental health and well-being. It was important to me that I attend a medical school that shared my emphasis on wellness and the mental health of students. I found that environment at WashU not only in administration, but also in my fellow students. WashU not only provides counseling available through Student Health Services, but also has students serve as Peer Advocates to whom you can reach out to discuss any concerns about school, life, or anything else. Members of student government also serve as members of the Student Wellness Committee, where they meet with faculty to discuss mental health concerns and how to address them. The community of medical students at WashU is also very friendly and inclusive, which positively impacted my mental health especially during the pandemic. Overall, the resources and activities provided by WashU combined with the welcoming nature of the student body makes WashU a great place for medical education and preserving student wellness.