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On Being Buddhist

Colin M., M2

Though I was raised Buddhist by my parents, my own exploration of Buddhist thought and philosophy coincided with my interest in pursuing a career in medicine, both of which blossomed during my sophomore year of undergrad. Compared to other religions, Buddhism can have somewhat less of a community aspect, but the monastery just outside of my hometown was essential to my practice, knowledge, and development. As with most cities in the United States, there is a small but active Buddhist community in St. Louis; Wat Phrasriratanaram is the main Theravada center, and there are more Mahayana options available if those are of interest to you. The humanism and compassion intrinsic to the teachings of Buddhism lend themselves very well to a career in medicine and were undoubtedly influential in my choice to make medicine and research my career; the tenets of medicine align very well with the Eightfold Path, and there are few other careers that are so inseparable from science while being simultaneously based on generosity, virtue, and compassion. I’m not very vocal about my upbringing or practice due to the fear of being exoticized or categorized as “new-agey,” but if any of you reading this are curious about Buddhism or just want to talk, feel free to reach out to me, as I really enjoy talking about it!

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On Being Catholic

Christina S., M1

Welcome to WUSM! WashU and St. Louis offer a vibrant Catholic community. Many students, residents, and physicians attend mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, a stunning church just around the corner from the Medical Campus. Others are active members of WashU’s Catholic Student Center, which offers everything from Bible studies and service opportunities to social events with graduate students across the university. Medical school is a whirlwind of a time filled with questions about human meaning, and I have been grateful for the support and guidance of friends and mentors within the Catholic community while exploring answers to these questions.

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On Being Christian

Elizabeth C., M2

St. Louis has a large Protestant Christian community with many churches within just a few miles of campus. I attend The Journey church located in Tower Grove, which has many young people that attend, including other Wash U students. Other churches within a couple miles of campus that some WashU Med students attend include the Central West End church and One Family church, both of which have a relatively young congregation and are very welcoming. For those wanting to get involved in a Christian group on campus, there is a Christian Medical Association (CMA), which includes not just med students but PT and OT students as well. Even though practicing faith in medical school can be challenging with the demands of school, it’s a great opportunity to grow and connect with people in the community, outside the WashU bubble.

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On Being Hindu

Kushi M., M2

St. Louis has a pretty large Hindu community for a smaller-size city. The biggest Hindu temple is a traditional South Indian temple in Town and Country, which is about a 20-minute drive from campus. It is a great place to worship. They have many events there throughout the year, and if you get on their mailing list you will be informed of most Hindu things going on in the area. If you go there around lunchtime on the weekends, they usually have a meal for prasadam as well. There is also a Chinmaya Mission Sunday School in Kirkwood on Sunday mornings, close to the temple. Their community is quite tight-knit, but it is mostly for children.

There is also an ISKCON temple near Saint Louis University, about a 30-minute walk down Lindell or 20 minutes if you use the MetroLink and get off at the Cortex. This is a wonderful community that is very welcoming. At their Sunday Feast program held on Sunday evenings, they have a full hour of kirtan, a full hour of lecture from various scriptures, and dinner prasadam. Many devotees here are heavily involved, so if you’re looking for a serious weekly congregation, this is the place you’ll find it. The ISKCON community also does a lot of home programs in families’ homes in the suburbs as well, which are wonderful and can really provide you with a family here. A Swamiji visits fairly often (I think four times a year) as well, and gives lectures in the temple and in people’s homes. I come here regularly, so I would love to introduce any newcomers to the community. There are many people in the community that are willing to give you a ride to/from the temple or any of the home programs if you need it.

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On Being Jewish in STL

Jared G., M1

When I initially committed to WashU, I was a little apprehensive that there would be limited (or no) Jewish life in St. Louis. To my surprise, I’ve been delighted to find that WashU and St. Louis actually have a vibrant Jewish life that is easily accessible. Central Reform Synagogue is only a 5-minute drive from the Farrell Learning and Teaching Center (FLTC), and Chabad Central West End is similarly distanced. JGrads, an organization for Jewish graduate students and young professionals, is run through Chabad Central West End, and holds events, get-togethers, and services fairly frequently. This has included providing Erev Rosh Hashanah dinner, Sukkot services, and Hanukkah gift bags. The rabbi and his wife are exceptionally kind and interested in building relationships with Jewish graduate students, and they’ve certainly made me feel welcome in the Jewish community at WashU. Additionally, the Jewish Medical Student Association has held socially-distanced and virtual events, including a Zoom challah bake and a tashlich service in Forest Park. The Jewish students in the first-year class have a GroupMe that we’ve used to coordinate meals and check in with each other on the holidays. The opportunities are definitely here for the taking, and how much you choose to engage is completely up to you! Barnes-Jewish is a great place to be Jewish and to dive into this aspect of your identity.

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On Being Muslim

Arwa M., M2

Coming from a Catholic undergraduate institution, I spent four years before medical school hyperaware of being a Muslim minority, especially because of the hijab I wear on my head. However, these four years were critical in developing my religious identity and in my learning how to “be Muslim” in a setting where there were not many other Muslims around me. These are the experiences I brought into WashU with me, but being Muslim here at WashU is very different from being Muslim at a Catholic university. Of course, with such a large medical center, there are people of all different religious backgrounds walking around campus, and that’s something that the institution recognizes. For instance, there are multiple interfaith chapels — one in the hospital and another right by Moore Auditorium lecture hall — where students can pray (prayer rugs included). There is also Friday prayer in the hospital chapel every week, which is a great opportunity to meet other Muslim students and faculty. There are multiple mosques around the city, including one right on the Saint Louis University undergraduate campus, about a mile away from FLTC. The Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis is a large mosque that has a very active community, and there are plenty of opportunities to get involved if you wish to do so. In addition, the CAIR Missouri branch is active and always puts on events around St. Louis, so that is another opportunity to work with the greater Muslim community. All in all, WashU does a great job of accommodating Muslim students, and St. Louis has a Muslim community that is not only welcoming but dedicated to their work in the city and the surrounding areas.

Arwa receives her white coat from Dr. Gregory Polites.