On Being a Female in Med School
So, you want to know about being a woman at medical school. I’m guessing you’ve been female for quite a while now, and I’m here to tell you a big secret about being a woman in med school … it’s basically entirely the same as it has been for the rest of your life. There are some groups focused towards us. The American Women’s Medical Association (AMWA) hosts events to promote women in medicine, discuss life-career balance, or raise money for heart disease, the major killer of American women. Med Students for Choice advocates for reproductive rights. But let’s be real, the major advice I have for you as a future woman doctor: When you start rotating through the hospital, you better have a good pair of flats!
— Caroline W., M1
On Being Male in Med School
1002, 1003 … Oh, I’m sorry … I wasn’t expecting company. Just doing my workout. Tuesday’s arms and back. I don’t know if you heard me counting, but I did over a thousand. You know it’s your ubulus muscle, which connects to the … um … upper dorsimus. It’s boring, but it’s part of my life. I’m just going to grab this shirt if you don’t mind. Just watch out for the guns … They’ll getcha. But in all seriousness, when I mentioned being asked to write On Being Male in Medical School a lot of students expressed confusion about the purpose of this article, which speaks to the general sense of collaboration and equality experienced between the male and female students at WashU. In my experience, the only difference between being a male at WashU as opposed to a female is the lack of bathrooms in our anatomy locker room (seriously, what’s that about?), and the challenge of matching ties to your short white coat for hospital visits. In addition, as a native St. Louisian, I can confidently say that there is something here for any bro. Whether your idea of a good time is sweating it out on the sports field, or contemplating the chiaroscuro exhibit at the (free) art museum, St. Louis has a little bit of everything.
— Jay D., M1
On Being LGBTQ in Med School
While Midwestern LGBTQ life might appear barren to coast dwellers, we can guarantee that WashU and St. Louis actually boast large and active gay communities. We came to St. Louis from Portland and Washington, D.C., cities recognized for their liberal-mindedness and lively gay burbs. Quickly, we grew partial to St. Louis’ charm. Manchester Road, the mainstay of gay culture within The Grove gayborhood, offers upwards of 10 gay bars and clubs (plus one lesbian bar), several eclectic restaurants and a brewery.
St. Louis is a haven for LGBTQ-goers within Missouri, and one need not fret over revealing your sexuality. Within the WashU community, you will encounter great camaraderie and unbiased support amongst your peers and faculty. Approximately 9 percent of the 2014 entering class identify as LGBTQ and two organizations help us to feel connected to the community: OUT Grads (a university-wide group that plans frequent social events, offering free food and drinks) and the LGBT Health Interest Group. Being gay will likely factor into your decision-making, and we hope you choose to join us at WashU and make this community even richer.
— Alex W. & Josh A., M1
On Being a Parent in Med School
Parenting, whether in med school or not, is a never-ending roller coaster of joy, despair, satisfaction, exhaustion and noise. Lots and lots of noise. Yet despite the time commitments of med school, parenting is completely possible, assuming you’ve got a partner or someone else available to do roughly 90 percent of it for you. St. Louis is a fantastic place for families, with lots of public parks, free museums, low rents and great schools. As a WashU student, you’ll also have priority for the WashU nursery school and can get involved with Washington University Medical Center Housestaff Auxiliary (WUMCHA), an incredible organization designed for spouses and partners of residents, students and physicians in the WashU medical community. Of course, there are other perks of having kids during med school, like watching your young child try to pronounce “orbicularis oculi” and always having someone available to practice your stethoscope skills. As an added bonus, by the time you earn enough money to be able to spoil your kids, they’ll pretty much be fully grown.
— Cris B., M1
On Being an Older Student
Like youth, med school is wasted on the young. As an older student, you may need to review the brachial plexus a few more times before it works its way into your aged brain, but you’re also able to empathize more when your patients complain of back pain, loss of hearing or a general increase in irritability. Patients, and even attendings, will also tend to think you know more than you do thanks to your gray hair. Spending so much time with a group of incredibly bright youths might make you feel all the older at times, but with practice you can learn to “vampire” some of their youthful energy right out of them (discussed in Physiology Block 2, p. 23). And your younger colleagues can explain all kinds of things to you, like the Facebook and sexting. In all seriousness, your “maturity” can help give you some perspective when the going gets rough. In speaking with other WashU elders, it is clear that our life experiences have only made us all the more thankful to be where we are. On the whole, I’d say being in med school as an older student is the cat’s meow!
— Cris B., M1
On Being Vegetarian in St. Louis
To all the brave souls willing to be vegetarian in the “meat and potatoes” Midwest, here’s some advice from a fellow veghead: Fight the omnivores to get to veggie options at the lunch talks. Next, leave Euclid Avenue for vegetarian restaurants. PuraVegan is a 100 percent gluten-free and vegan restaurant near school with lots of raw options and great smoothies/juices. There’s also a donations-based yoga studio attached if you want to be mindful and stomach full. Gokul is an entirely vegetarian and certified-kosher Indian restaurant on Delmar with an extensive menu and buffet. A bit further out there are two great veggie options: Tree House is a trendy all-vegetarian restaurant with interesting dishes that prides itself on making everything in house, and Lulu’s Local Eatery (a personal favorite) is a vegan restaurant that even carnivores will crave. Every dish is spectacular, but the buffalo cauliflower bites and sweet potato veggie burger are out of this world. Finally, find your vegetarian friends. We started a veggie potluck group with some of our classmates, and both the vegetarians and omnivores credit it as being the best meal we eat all week. What’s more fun than eating and hanging out with your friends? Potluck is life. Embrace it.
— Rachel S., M1
On Being Alcohol Free
Being alcohol free has been pretty easy. I’ve always been a firm believer that you don’t need to drink to have fun. I somehow managed to get through undergrad without ever attending a party, so you can imagine the first few weeks of medical school were a bit of a change of pace. There’s a significant amount of drinking in medical school, which shouldn’t be a surprise. At first, I was worried that I would be alienated for my decision to not drink, but I can safely say that’s not been an issue. Everyone here is mature and understanding; you won’t be pestered about your choice. Granted, I don’t go out much, but I still feel like I’m a part of our class and can live it up at plenty of gatherings. There are a TON of things to do in the city and people are always planning fun things that don’t require drinking to enjoy. Your decision to not drink shouldn’t stop you from getting out there and experiencing the joys of first year! Added benefit: You always get props for being a great designated driver (in theory) without having to do anything special!
— Amar S., M1
On Being African American
There are not many African-American students in medical school nationwide, and WashU is not an exception. That being said, I have loved my first few months here and have felt very much so a part of the student community. The Office of Diversity Programs is a great resource, whether you need support on a matter or simply want to stop and chat. In addition, a major source of advice and support is other students and residents of color who have made a great deal of effort to reach out to us M1s. In the wake of the events that have unfolded in Ferguson, many of my classmates have been open to understanding and eager to influence change rather than simply remaining insulated here in the medical center’s Central West End neighborhood. African-American medical students are also an important part of the St. Louis community as a whole. From talking to a patient’s daughter about her desire to be a doctor, to hearing an older patient simply say how proud she was to see me walk into her room at Barnes-Jewish, I’ve had unique opportunities to relate to the large African-American patient population here in the city.
— Avril C., M1
On Being Asian-American
As a recent transplant to St. Louis from Los Angeles, I found the Asian population here to be a bit sparse, but very friendly. During a student-run health care screening at Schnucks (our local grocery store), an old Chinese couple came up to me and basically told me their whole life story. I miss the vibrant Asian cultures in L.A., but since St. Louis is such a diverse city, I’ve never felt out of place anywhere. I do miss late night boba/bubble tea runs and really cheap sushi (see Food section, p. 71, for local options). There are a couple of good grocery stores in the Chinatown neighborhood located along Olive Street (Olive Supermarket, Seafood Market) and some tasty restaurants in that area too. There are fewer good Asian restaurants here, but many of them are definitely worth trying!
— Mindy G., M1
On Being Hispanic
So you’re Hispanic. You’ve survived the infamous chancla, and Sábado Gigante still plays at your parents’ house every weekend. You switch from English to Spanish without even noticing and still sing “sana, sana, colita de rana” to yourself when you get a papercut. Maybe you grew up abroad, or maybe you were raised in the States; regardless, you’re part of this perpetually proud family of crazy people and you love it. If you’re unsure how to keep connected to your roots while in St. Louis, don’t worry, the city has plenty to offer. For those wanting to get involved, you can volunteer as an interpreter for Casa de Salud, a clinic offering health and wellness services to new immigrants, or you can take part in any of the several festivals and events that celebrate the culture throughout the year. If you’re looking to let loose Latino-style, we’ve got that too. From salsa to cumbia, there are a couple of clubs to choose from (check out the Club Viva/Salsa section) and you can always find fellow classmates down to move it to some sweet, sweet Latin beats. The Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) and MedSpan are two organizations at WashU Med that also provide a way to share your culture with fellow Hispanic and non-Hispanic peers alike. In short, you’ll absolutely find a family here.
— Michael Del V., M1
On Being From a Small Town
I spent half of my life in Sparta, Tennessee, a bustling metropolis of 5,000 in the middle of a farming county where cows outnumber people, Protestant churches outnumber businesses, the only grocery stores are Walmart or Dollar General, and liquor sales are by-the-glass only. I also attended a small liberal arts college in another small southern town with an equally ironic name: Rome, Georgia. Coming from places where everyone knows everyone and all of their business and their mama’s, I was well-equipped to handle the social scene of a class of 123 people with whom you spend all of your time. Beyond that, St. Louis was an increase in excitement and bustle without being suffocating. There are festivals, events and places to go out when you need them (iTap!). The Central West End is friendly and so closely associated with the hospital it’s like our own small medical town. With such a close proximity to Forest Park, we are able to enjoy a little sun, grass and trees. It’s not quite Tennessee woods, but it’s a nice escape from concrete and glass.
— Julia K., M1
On Being From a Big City
In the months before starting medical school, two phrases were on a constant loop in my mind: “Yay, I’m going to WashU!” and “Oh my God, I’m moving to … Missouri …” As a native New Yorker, I had serious concerns about moving to the Midwest, but adjusting to St. Louis has been a lot easier than I expected it to be. I will not say it is just like New York City because that would be unrealistic, but St. Louis has a lot to offer. There are a bunch of really good restaurants, numerous bars and microbreweries, a cool arts scene and the amazing Forest Park. The best part of coming to St. Louis from New York has been how incredibly affordable things are here. All of the great things the city has to offer are way more accessible to someone on a student budget than they would be in a larger city. Overall, St. Louis is an approachable, affordable city and a great place to live as a student.
— Avril C., M1
On Being From the Midwest
Aside from the WashU undergrads, we Midwesterners probably have the least acclimating to do here in St. Louis. The rent is still cheap, the food is still delicious and the people are still unabashedly friendly (although nothing in Mizzurah holds a candle to “Minnesota nice”). While the culture itself is suited to your Midwestern lifestyle, the weather, if you come from anywhere north of Chicago, is not. 105 degrees and 90 percent humidity hit me like a ton of bricks on move-in day, and my Minnesotan heart is still a little hurt that there was no snow in December. Regardless, settling in here has been easy, as I’m sure it will be for you, too, once you get over people calling you out for your pronunciation of the word “bag.”
— Liz M., M1
On Being From the West Coast
Being centrally located, WashU attracts students from a wide geographic spectrum, including a good few from California and the Pacific Northwest. If that includes you, some of your first questions about St. Louis are probably about the weather. St. Louis summers are going to be a bit warmer than you are probably used to, and in particular, the humidity can be daunting at first. However, most people seem to quickly acclimate. As a bonus though, if you’re from Oregon or Washington like I am, leave your Columbia parka at home, because it rains much less! Otherwise, you will find the culture in St. Louis to be much like any city on the West Coast: The people are friendly, we enjoy good food and wine (yes, Missouri has good wineries) and the outdoors are readily accessible via the numerous parks in and around the city.
— Josh A., M1
On Being From the East Coast
While all the “On Being from the South/West Coast” students are busy fretting over how they’re going to survive their first “true” winter (WEAK), rest assured that whatever snow-gear you have will be more than enough (especially if you come from an area where school isn’t cancelled unless that two feet of freezing rain-turned-snowstorm happens exactly at 4:30 in the morning). While the weather here is what we could consider unremarkable/nice/pathetic, there could not be a more perfect city for you to spend the next four years/rest of your life. Imagine a mythical land that combines all the things you LOVE about a suburb with all the things you LOVE about a city. That’s St. Louis. Wait, what? Think quality, renovated, spacious apartments for half the price, most of the cuisines you love for cheap (though maybe fewer options than you’re used to), suburban traffic, happy Midwestern strangers that have the time to smile and wish you “Good Morning!” as you bike to class, incredibly cheap taxi fares, an incredible symphony orchestra (seven minutes by car), and a beautiful 1400-acre park ACROSS THE STREET complete with a zoo (free), art museum (also free), history museum (you’ll never guess … FREE!), trails, ice rink, science museum (planetarium included) … I could actually go on forever but you’ve got the rest of this wonderful book for that. There’s a reason the smartest people come here.
— Diana J., M1
On Being From the South
Roll Tide, and congratulations on being accepted at a medical school that experiences the phenomenon of snow each winter (‘Bama shuts down for a week at the first sign of frost). Last year, I was given the opportunity to leave the land of cheese grits, country music and confederate flags; turns out that driving eight hours into the wasteland north of Jackson, Mississippi, was not a mistake! Even if the people here have not yet discovered the grammatical utility of “y’all” or the health benefits of a daily glass of iced tea (sweetened!), the higher literacy rate and lower obesity of Missouri make up for some of the other negatives. Also, if you end up missing the Mississippi Delta too much, just drive a couple hours outside of St. Louis, where you can get an authentic deep South experience (complete with roadside BBQ and lemonade).
— Lucas T., M1
On Being from THE TEXAS
After the initial excitement of getting into WashU, the thought of leaving the greatest state in the U.S. was a little bit disheartening. Would I be able to stand month after month without country music, country dancing and Shiner Bock? Well, it turns out that I did not have to give up too much of that when I moved here. While I admit I have yet to find a bar with Shiner on tap, you can definitely find a six-pack at most grocery stores. On top of that, country music on the radio here is pretty on point and I’ve lost count of the number of times that “Wagon Wheel” and “Take Me Home, Country Roads” have been played at our post-exam parties. Last but not least, you might have to drive a ways north to get to St. Louis, but “Southern hospitality” undoubtedly has a firm hold on this city (and probably the rest of Missouri, too). In short, Texas holds a special place in most every Texan’s heart, but St. Louis is a close second!
— Cliff P., M1
On Being From Canada
So you’re Canadian, eh? And you’re thinking about coming to WashU for med school? First off, welcome! There’s a sizable group of us Canadians here, with a few representatives in each year of the program. We get together to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving and watch hockey games. (By the way, student hockey tickets are very affordable. You get a decent view of the game and the Scottrade Center is easily accessible from the medical school!) If you’re like me and you had apprehensions about “America” and you didn’t even know where Missouri was, have no fear! The people here are incredibly friendly and the transition was much easier than I expected. The Office for International Students and Scholars and the school administrators take excellent care of you. The weather is pretty similar to Canada’s (unless you’re from Vancouver). There are seasons, only winter is shorter. There are even some French influences here, although some place names are pronounced very interestingly (“St. Louis‚” for example).
— Brooke L., M1
On Being an International Student
Having grown up across three different continents, I was a bit nervous about moving to St. Louis. I knew little about the Midwest before coming, and I was afraid I’d spend the next four years talking about corn. Believe it or not, St. Louis has a lot to offer in terms of culture, arts, and diversity — and St. Louis’s Midwest niceness definitely grows on you! You probably already know that applying to med school as an international student is an uphill battle, and as a result there are only a couple of international students in each class. WashU’s commitment to diversity, however, ensures each class represents such a wide variety of backgrounds that you’ll feel right at home regardless of your passport.
— Jorge Z. R., M1