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Class Resource Development Group (CRDG)

Paul L., M1

Since this was the first year learning from the new Gateway Curriculum, our class’s student government has created a student committee called Class Resource Development Group (CRDG)! CRDG makes it easier for students to share their study resources with each other, and so far, CRDG has compiled and hosted a set of student-developed study guides, Anki card decks, and lecture transcripts. The wealth of study resources that are shared before each exam is a testament to how collaborative all the students are at WUSM!

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Clinical Immersions

Rebecca L., M1

The Gateway Curriculum gives students the opportunity to complete three 3-week Clinical Immersion experiences during Phase 1. Students will get to rotate through Ambulatory/ED, Inpatient, and Procedural settings, and develop their clinical skills, knowledge of social and health systems sciences, and professional identity. Altogether, the Clinical Immersions provide an in-depth look at different types of specialties that goes beyond a single shadowing encounter. Gaining this type of exposure so early in your medical education is invaluable, whether you have an idea of what you might want to pursue or have no clue at all. As an undifferentiated medical student, the Clinical Immersions were a key factor in my decision to attend WashU!

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Christina S., M1

Our class is divided into 12 “coaching cohorts,” each with around eight students and one physician coach who we will be with during our four years of training. Our coaching sessions have ranged anywhere from discussing social inequalities to serving as a safe space for dealing with any struggles we are facing. For me, coaching has been a useful time to deconstruct what we are learning in school, reflect on pieces of our professional development, and serve as an opportunity for longitudinal relationships within our class and with a physician mentor. It is something I look forward to every single week!

 With COVID-19 this year, our coaching sessions remained one of the few face-to-face sessions in our curriculum, which became an invaluable opportunity for me to see others and find support from classmates as we all began this journey during such a strange time. We weren’t able to have our traditional White Coat Ceremony this year but instead celebrated the beginning of our medical journeys with our coaching groups. Sharing that experience with my coaching cohort is one of my favorite memories of medical school so far and something I’ll treasure forever! 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is GatewayExperience_Coaching-1024x637.jpg (Pictured from left to right) Coaching cohort pals Lydia Z. (M1), Christina S. (M1), Rowan G. (M1), Justin V. (M1), and Joshua P. (M1) pose for a picture wearing their new white coats![/caption]


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Community Engagement

Shannon C., M1

As someone who is interested in integrating community engagement with her medical career, I was initially skeptical about choosing WashU given the institution’s historical emphasis on the biomedical sciences. I then learned about the new Community Engagement thread in the Gateway Curriculum. A quote that stuck with me after Second Look was that community engagement in the new curriculum would not just be “taking blood pressure at a supermarket or volunteering at a free clinic.” The curriculum creates a space to critically reflect on where we really stand on the spectrum of community engagement as medical students.

I can now say that I have not been disappointed by my decision. The Gateway Curriculum provides a solid foundation in community engagement for all students and is grounded in the unique, complicated context of St. Louis. Audrey Coolman and Kaytlin Reedy-Rogier, our amazing Community Engagement leads, are also incredibly collaborative in allowing students to shape the curriculum. They are always open to meeting about new initiatives and are just generally incredible resources because they are well-connected with different organizations and institutions in St. Louis. And trust me, there will be no shortage of new ideas and opportunities to collaborate with your fellow classmates on issues from environmental justice to intimate partner violence to voter rights, just to name a few. I am constantly inspired by my classmates’ commitment to racial and social justice and their willingness to delve into difficult conversations.  There is no doubt that practicing anti-racist medicine and promoting health equity is much easier said than done. During our Community Engagement sessions, we are pushed to confront this uncomfortable reality and reflect on how we can actually incorporate these principles into our unique paths in medicine.

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Explore Curriculum

Kouen L., M1

The Explore component of the Gateway Curriculum allows students to discover their interests in the medical field outside of classwork. The program encourages the students to think about the different career paths they can take when they become physicians: educator, innovator, researcher, and/or advocate. Thus, there are four pathways that the students can choose: Education, Innovation, Research, and Advocacy & Global Health. 

During Phase 1, students are invited to weekly noon sessions to learn about some of the activities or research associated with each pathway. These sessions are great opportunities to connect with faculty and find potential mentors. There are also fantastic Pathway Leads who are more than happy to guide students during this process.

There are four weeks of a required Explore Immersion in spring of Phase 1, where students get to learn more about the foundational concepts of the pathway they selected. This is continued in Phase 2, where students are provided opportunities to further explore their career interests during clinical rotations. During Phase 3, students can have up to 16 weeks of elective time for another immersive engagement with their projects and can even choose to pursue dual degrees based on their projects!

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Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP)

Elizabeth J.D., M1

Washington University in St. Louis has one of the largest Medical Scientist Training Programs (MSTPs) in the country; our class has 21 students! This means that they have the funding, structure, and support to train successful physician-scientists. Something that makes our program the best in the nation is how dedicated the directors are in including students from diverse communities. To me, that was really important in deciding to choose WashU because I am a DACA student. I wanted to go to a place where I felt included, and this has been more than true here. Our program leadership is very receptive to student input. A few of our program’s strengths that stand out are that our program offers fantastic cutting-edge research, an inclusive community, and flawless integration with the medical school curriculum.

To me, it was essential to go to an institution that could provide me with cutting-edge research opportunities in basic immunology. WashU has a track record of training superstars that go on to change the medical field. We have 24 Nobel laureates, with 18 in physiology or medicine. We are also one of the top NIH-funded medical schools. Faculty here are very responsive and supportive of training medical and graduate students. When I went to virtual second looks at other schools, I noticed that some of their rockstar faculty had, in fact, trained at WashU MSTP! 

WashU also has a strong community of international students who are caring and willing to mentor you. There are international students from nine different countries in my cohort, and the MSTP does a great job in promoting diversity within the program. When our program directors were approached about not doing enough to recruit Black students, they didn’t shy away from the conversation. Instead, they offered to hold a town hall session about this issue, and they committed institutional funds to create a summer program to recruit and mentor underrepresented students in medicine. I feel safe being a DACA student here. The program directors assured me that if my immigration status changed, they would have my back. So, I encourage people to join this welcoming community where MSTP leadership truly listens to its students. 

Finally, our MSTP is well-integrated into the medical curriculum. We have weekly longitudinal journal clubs that are aligned with the medical curriculum and keep us engaged with discussions with upper-level students and faculty. Overall, WashU’s MSTP is the best choice I could have made for my training. All students who want to get a foundational training to become a physician-scientist should consider joining WashU MSTP!

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Medical Student Government (MSG)

Yupeng L., M1

Serving in the Medical Student Government (MSG) has been an incredibly rewarding and eye-opening experience for me. For the first time, I have been able to see all of the work and time that goes into creating and delivering a world-class medical educational experience. Furthermore, I truly feel privileged to represent my classmates, all of whom are astoundingly insightful and motivated future physicians. Being involved in MSG has shown me that our faculty and administration really are here to help us succeed. I could not be prouder to be a part of an institution with both caring faculty and amazing students. 

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Abigail B., M1

In my opinion, the grading system is one of the most important considerations when choosing a medical school. While going through the process myself, I knew that my study techniques and stress levels of undergrad could not be sustained throughout another four years. I needed a medical school that cared about my school-life balance and encouraged individual competence over competition. So, discovering that many schools opt for a pass/fail pre-clinical grading system was life-changing!

This system of learning lets us be self-motivated, devote extra time to topics that interest us, and engage in extracurriculars without agonizing over achieving a certain letter grade. Especially while adjusting to a new school with a new curriculum in the middle of a pandemic, I would say that we all appreciated this peace of mind even more. Don’t get me wrong, achieving competency or “just” passing in med school is a challenge in itself, but I can honestly say that the shift in my approach to schoolwork when moving away from traditional grades impacted my mental health for the better. And true support from classmates, in the form of (so many) shared study materials and the willingness to help out anyone struggling, really made me feel like we were all on the same team and we all are capable of being successful, rather than competing amongst ourselves.

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Phase 1 Modules/Integration

Yupeng L., M1

The Class of 2024 is the pioneering cohort of the Washington University Gateway Curriculum, a novel accelerated medical curriculum that is divided into three phases. In Phase 1: Gateway to the Foundations, students learn most of the scientific foundations of medicine. This phase is the equivalent of a traditional curriculum’s pre-clinical years. In Gateway, this phase is divided into seven modules based on body/system and function (e.g. Brain and Behavior, Circulation and Breathing, etc.). Spaced throughout these modules are three 3-week long Immersions, where students will rotate across various hospital settings and develop valuable clinical skills to associate with their expanding knowledge. Phase 1 also features Explore, a month of structured activity that allows students to explore areas of interest in medicine ranging from research to global health. 

In contrast with older curriculums that essentially sort content areas into isolated blocks, a hallmark of the Gateway Curriculum is that it features integration of various topics and disciplines at both micro- and macro-levels of the curriculum. From a broad perspective, it places an emphasis on integrating community engagement and clinical skills longitudinally throughout Phase 1. In any given week, students will cover a range of interdisciplinary topics such as the genetics of B-cell lymphoma, community-level strategies to reduce firearm violence, and the financial burdens of living with cancer. The integrative nature of the Gateway Curriculum equips students with the necessary knowledge and experience to best serve their patients and communities, whose problems reflect the systemic complexity of the real world.