From Drs. Glenn Conroy and Jane Phillips-Conroy

“Have fun. This is not incompatible with learning!” – The cutest couple at WashU

What advice can we give you from the perspective of our many years’ teaching Anatomy here at WUSM (64 Phillips/Conroy years and counting…)?

About Anatomy:

  • Don’t let the huge amount of material overwhelm you. You will definitely not KNOW anatomy by the end of the course, but you will have achieved a level of familiarity and knowledge that you would never have imagined when you began the journey.
  • Enjoy the experience. Anatomy lab is a vital, wonderful place. You have to attend lab to pass the course, but you will soon find that you learn more here than you’ve ever learned anywhere: what lies beneath the skin reveals human commonality and individuality as written in the pattern of blood vessels, nerves and muscles.
  • Talk LOTS to your lab partners and the faculty. We love teaching you … Corral us if we don’t get to you as often as you’d like. Tell us you’d like more visits. Don’t be shy.
  • Consider carefully the wisdom of accepting upperclass students’ “advice” that you don’t need to work hard in Year 1. You do! Not competing is not the same as not working hard. Honor the wishes of the donors, your future patients, and the sacrifices made by your parents by learning as much as you can.
  • Have fun. This is not incompatible with learning!

About Life (i.e. medical school, but much more):

  • Exciting journeys are often beset by obstacles and detours. All can be productive. There are many guides to help you find the course. Seek them out; don’t wait for them to find you.
  • Take advantage of the many intellectual delicacies and delights offered you as a student at this most amazing institution.
  • Don’t forget to sample from the artistic buffet that St. Louis offers. Go to the symphony!
  • There’s more to eat here (and much better foods for you) than fried ravioli. Offset your 60 percent (free) pizza diet with fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Get outside! Forest Park is your backyard. We’ve seen coyotes, wild turkeys, great horned owls, redtailed hawks and more.
  • If your diet consists mostly of white or beige food you’re in trouble.
  • Realize that important, lifelong relationships may be forged in the Anatomy lab. We speak from personal experience!
  • Don’t forget to say hello when you pass us in the corridors!

— Jane Phillips-Conroy, PhD
Professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology and of Anthropology
Coursemaster, The Human Body: Anatomy, Development, and Imaging

— Glenn Conroy, MPhil, PhD
Professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology and of Anthropology
Coursemaster, The Human Body: Anatomy, Development, and Imaging

From Koon-Nah Chung, PhD

Visit Dr. Chung for guidance on research opportunities and ask her about her favorite rapper. Hint: He’s slim, and he’s shady.

Your first year at WashU is pass-fail. Form strong bonds with your classmates and support each other. You will spend the next four years with your peers, and they will be your life-long friends and colleagues. Get to know the faculty, administration, and staff. We are here to help you succeed. Find an advisor or mentor who takes an interest in you. Your mentor will help you navigate medical school, and if you’re lucky, you may get a home-cooked meal out of it. Stay grounded by volunteering in the community. Have fun and stay sane by getting involved in school clubs and continuing with your hobbies. Get to know St. Louis, where there is no shortage of entertainment, including the world-champion Cardinals, the world-famous zoo, the science center, the art museum and the botanical garden. In addition, there is a world-class symphony, many music venues and plenty of nightlife. Pay attention to your academics. Take your basic science courses seriously. They will come in handy in later years, and your future patients will thank you. Don’t worry about your residency match yet. Most importantly, get enough sleep, exercise and have fun. Oh, and if you want to do research, just email me (

—Koong-Nah Chung, PhD
Associate Dean for Medical Student Research
Assistant Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs
Director, Office of Medical Student Research

From Robert Mercer, PhD

The hilarious Dr. Mercer, brought to you by Diet Coke.

The next four years of your education will include some of the best and worst times of your life. During these years you will be expected to master a tremendous wealth of knowledge, all with the hope that you will do more good than harm. In the first few weeks you will be getting acquainted with your fellow classmates, the infrastructure of the medical complex, the medical school course load and life in St. Louis. If at anytime you need help with your studies, I invite you to seek out the faculty for assistance. Washington University is truly unique in that the faculty members are extremely accessible to the students. This open attitude allows students the opportunity to learn firsthand from experts in the fields of science and medicine. No other medical school can surpass this feature of Washington University.

While you are here, I urge you to take advantage of the many medical school activities and organizations. Participate in the student-run activities, the summer research program, and the wonderful summer Departmental Softball League. Above all please make an attempt to attend your classes! Only by attending classes are you able to directly ask questions and clarify points that you and your classmates may have missed.

The first year has pass-fail grading. Therefore, help your classmates. Learn for the sake of learning, not for a nonexistent letter grade. Enjoy your first year, because believe it or not, it will go by very quickly. Above all, work hard, play hard and don’t sweat the small stuff.

— Robert Mercer, PhD
Professor of Cell Biology and Physiology
Coursemaster, Molecular Cell Biology
Coursemaster, Physiology

From Gregory M. Polites, MD

“Just caught another kid who stole my credit card, har har har.” – Dr. Polites (ask him about this)

As first-year students, you are about to begin one of the most transformative experiences of your lives. One of the things that makes this experience so unique is that you will be sharing it with a relatively small group, your fellow first years; your medical family, so to speak. Almost all of you will become friends. Many of you will become close friends. And some of you will become best friends whom you’ll stay in touch with for the rest of your lives. So always remember that you are in this together. All of you, whether you admit it or not, are a little nervous. And that’s normal. But together you’ll move through this experience and do well. You will need each other — to learn from, to support, and to share times of both sadness and joy. So be kind to each other. Encourage each other. And make time for each other. If you do this you’ll find that this transformative experience is so much more rewarding because you shared it with those who did it with you. Good luck!

— Greg Polites, MD
Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine in Medicine
Course master, Practice of Medicine (POM) I and III

From Michael Awad, MD, PhD

Dr. Awad is possibly the nicest surgeon in existence.

I lived on the East Coast for most of my life and did some training on the West Coast, but I had not really spent any time in the Midwest. I first visited St. Louis when applying for fellowship and was very pleasantly surprised! So much, in fact, that I sought it out for my first job as a physician, and the rest is history! St. Louis has been a wonderful place to live and to raise a family. Even though I have been here for several years now, I am still finding new restaurants and new things to do every weekend. Your life and your friends inside and outside of the medical school will keep you balanced; seek them out. And remember that there are many people willing to help you whenever you need help — myself included. Don’t hesitate to come by the office or shoot me a message if you ever need anything. That is why we are here!

— Michael Awad, MD, PhD
Associate Dean for Medical Student Education
Assistant Professor of Surgery
Program Director, General Surgery Residence
Director, Office of Medical Student Education

From Wayne M. Yokoyama, MD, for All Med Students

Phew! You made it. You got into one of the world’s great medical schools and certainly the most selective. Things are going great — you’re excited about meeting new classmates, decorating your new apartment, starting classes, learning to be a doctor … . Then it hits you — there’s sooo much to learn! And it seems to be more important than ever that you memorize everything you hear in class and read in your textbooks. If you don’t remember that one formula from your biochem lecture, your (future) patient could die! Not only that, but it seems like all the other med students remember everything! Relax. Feeling overwhelmed is normal. Take a deep breath. Take another one. (That’s enough, otherwise you might pass out from hyperventilation! More about that in second year.) You’re here because we know you can do the work and that you will make a fine physician. If you’re still stressed out, you should know that there’s no embarrassment in getting help from others, be it your fellow classmates, family, or a counselor. The best advice I can give you is a perspective from my own anatomy professor who told me that he knew that our recall for his class material quickly waned with time. But he was confident that when we needed to use the material we forgot, we knew where to find it. And that we could assimilate and use it very quickly, certainly much faster than learning it for the first time. He was right, perhaps even more so in this age of electronic information and internet search engines where information is readily available, but it’s really helpful to have a good idea of what you are looking for and a sense for the accuracy of that information. So remember, there’s no room in medicine for know-it-alls because they simply can’t know it all!

— Wayne Yokoyama, MD
Sam and Audrey Loew Levin Professor of Medicine
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator in Medicine
Professor of Pathology and Immunology
Director, Medical Scientist Training Program

From Wayne M. Yokoyama, MD, for MSTPs

“Pause to think about what you’re learning and keep track of things that don’t make sense to you.” – Dr. Yokoyama

Pause to think…

You will learn how the human body works from head to toe, from gross anatomy to subatomic structures, at least as we understand it, circa 2015. This complete systems overview will be invaluable in helping aspiring scientists, not just MSTP students, relate research findings to the clinic. However, some of the current concepts and “facts” you will learn will prove to be wrong. That’s right (actually still wrong!). We just don’t know our ignorance (yet).

It is certainly much easier to learn the material if you just absorb it verbatim and don’t spend any time thinking about what you’re being taught. But I can now reflect on the lectures I heard as a medical student touting that the cause of peptic ulcer disease was too much acid. In retrospect, that couldn’t be right because acid is always there! I didn’t think about it then, but I should have because now we know (I think pretty conclusively) that ulcers are mostly caused by a bacterial infection! (More on that in second year.)

Pause to think about what you’re learning and keep track of things that don’t make sense to you. They will be great projects to work on in the future. (I am tempted myself to sit in on your classes to not only catch up but also to find great opportunities and problems on which to work!)

— Wayne Yokoyama, MD
Sam and Audrey Loew Levin Professor of Medicine
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator in Medicine
Professor of Pathology and Immunology
Director, Medical Scientist Training Program

From First Year MSTP, for MSTPs

As many of the faculty noted in this guide, you’ve finally made it. Shadowing becomes as easy as a phone call; practicing physicians will try to convince you that their specialty is worth your serious consideration. PIs will (with varying levels of aggressiveness) try to recruit you for their labs. WashU is invested in your success in a way that no institution has been before. In other words, as someone wiser than I put it, you’re the prettiest girl at the dance.

My advice is this: Use it. Talk to as many PIs as you have time to — inside and outside of your field. You might just find something you like that you’d never have considered. If you think a clinical guest lecturer’s job sounds cool, ask to shadow. Faculty don’t really say no anymore. Within the bounds of ethics and safety, everyone wants to help you get wherever you want to be next. You have to ask for that help, so make sure you do.

— Justin Porter, M1

From Lisa Moscoso, MD, PhD

“Life will bring challenges, so please ask for help or support if you need it. And participate in or lead a student-run program.” – Dr. Moscoso

You’re in. Congratulations! I am here to support you on your journey as you transform into a doctor.  Yes, transform into a Doctor! That will happen in the next four or more years.

There will be many joys and challenges on this journey. As you begin medical school, it will be important to develop a community of support to celebrate your joys and be there for you in the challenging times. Many of you may have an extended eCommunity, and I would encourage you to maintain that virtual community while growing relationships with classmates, mentors, other graduate students and others in St. Louis with common interests.

Balance will be a challenging virtue to achieve while you are a student and perhaps for the rest of your life. Know that you may find your life unbalanced at times. Medical school is demanding of your time and energy. However, you can be aware of what you may need to do to regain and maintain a healthy balance. Here are a few bits of advice that might be useful:

  • Build relationships that form a strong community of support. Quality is important here, not necessarily quantity. You need not look far. Many future lifetime friends, colleagues, mentors and advisors surround you.
  • Respect others in your actions and words.
  • Appreciate your family and friends. Stay connected.
  • Exercise.
  • Play outside.
  • Laugh.
  • Read for fun.
  • Notice something beautiful today.
  • Be grateful for something or someone every day.

Life will bring challenges, so please ask for help or support if you need it.  And participate in or lead a student-run program.

— Lisa Moscoso, MD, PhD
Associate Dean for Student Affairs
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Director, Office of Medical Student Affairs