Welcome to Washington University School of Medicine! As you prepare to enter the next chapter of your life, the Dis-Orientation (Dis-O) Guide will introduce you to the ins and outs of life as a medical student.

Each Dis-O Guide is specific to the experiences of the class. If you are curious about something that is not presented in this year’s guide, we highly recommend checking out the Dis-O archives.

Before you enter our year’s guide, take in some words of wisdom from the Dean of the Medical School, the Dean of Admissions, and the medical student editors of the Dis-Orientation Guide.

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From David H. Perlmutter, MD

David H. Perlmutter, MD

Dear Members of the WUSM Entering Class of 2021, 

Welcome to Washington University School of Medicine.

You were each selected from a highly gifted pool of applicants based on what we believe is your potential to be one of the health care leaders of tomorrow. But just as importantly, you chose us. We are extremely fortunate that you have decided to begin your medical career at our school, where you’ll find a medical program designed to support your unique talents and goals.

The school’s mission — to conduct groundbreaking research, provide skilled and compassionate patient care and prepare the next generation of leaders in biomedicine — is complex, and its success requires the dedication of the community of scholars of which you are now a part.

As you experience the challenges and rewards of medical school, you’ll be surrounded by a diverse group of peers with extraordinary talents and abilities, as well as distinct perspectives. You will learn with them and from them as you form connections that will influence your personal and professional pursuits for years to come.

One of the School of Medicine’s greatest strengths is its faculty, whose members have an impact that reaches far beyond our school, into our community and communities around the world. They have chosen Washington University, as well, as the institution where they work to promote the mission of health care by training the next generation of physicians and scientists.

Mentorship is one of the hallmarks of the school, and students consistently cite their interaction with faculty as a highlight of their experience here. As you take your place within our collaborative learning environment, you’ll be encouraged to use your talents and time to advance science and serve others.

Like the school itself, the city of St. Louis is rich in culture and history, and it serves as an ideal location for you to gain an understanding of the challenges of modern medicine. Step outside familiar learning spaces and immerse yourself in the city’s diverse communities, many affected by disparities in health care.

You have chosen to begin this significant chapter of your life at an institution committed to helping you acquire the knowledge and skills you’ll need to achieve your full potential. I first chose the School of Medicine as a faculty member, and now I’m honored to lead this exceptional institution. Together, we will shape the future of medicine.

Best Wishes,

David H. Perlmutter, MD
Executive Vice Chancellor for Medical Affairs
Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor
George and Carol Bauer Dean, School of Medicine


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From Valerie Ratts, MD

Dean Valerie Ratts Profile Photo

The editors have graciously given me room to say, “Welcome to Washington University School of Medicine and the Dis-O Guide.” This is a document truly written by our first-year students for you. In our medical school, there are traditions, but much of what we do is consistently evolving. The Dis-O Guide provides a very up-to-date look at our school — its people, its spaces, and its strengths. This year’s guide also provides some background on how our students transitioned to (and thrived in!) St. Louis given the constraints and challenges of the pandemic. As you read this guide, you may be an applicant contemplating a big decision about where to attend medical school or a matriculated student moving into the Core getting accustomed to the Central West End neighborhood  and eager to meet  new classmates and to engage in the Gateway Curriculum.  Since 1987, the Dis-O Guide has been produced to show you an inside look into what Washington University School of Medicine (WUSM), our medical students, and the St. Louis region have to offer. Hopefully, while reading, you will smile and recognize a part of yourself in the descriptions.

The Washington University School of Medicine mission statement calls for the training of the next leaders in biomedicine in a culture that supports diversity, inclusion, critical thinking, and creativity. Attracting the very best students — as we have done and are dedicated to continue doing — is a key step in meeting this goal. The next step is to make sure we provide the knowledge, experiences, resources, and mentorship to support our students in the journey to an amazing medical career. For those still making a decision, this guide will show you some of the possibilities available here. For those who have made their decision, I like the suggestion that the Dis-O Guide will provide “insider advice” to a great medical school and education.

What advice can I give you? 1) Get to know your classmates. Like you, they are amazing. Many will become lifelong friends and colleagues. 2) Do not lose your enthusiasm. You are starting down a pathway that will require diligence, sacrifice, and hard work, but will also bring tremendous reward. Doctors play truly special roles in the lives of people. It is an honor and privilege to practice this profession. 3) Rely upon the skills and characteristics that have brought you to this point. Attitude makes a huge difference. You were chosen because you have unique, elite attributes that will allow you to contribute to meeting the challenges of health care and biomedical research in the future. And remember, as you grow in medical school, a famous quote by Robert Louis Stevenson, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.”

There are so many people at WUSM who wish to mentor, support, and develop young physicians. We hope the Dis-O Guide will be one source of information to assist you on your path to an unbelievably satisfying medical career.

Valerie S. Ratts, MD
Associate Dean for Admissions and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology