It’s not challenging to be an atheist or agnostic in medical school: Don’t be a theist or don’t be a gnostic. It’s so easy you will hardly ever think about it, and you will probably never be asked about it. It should come as no surprise that you will have plenty of good company among scientists and doctors. From Dr. Carl Sagan to Dr. Oliver Sacks, there have been many before you and there will be many after you. The consequence of this dominance is that there aren’t many reasons to advocate for atheism or agnosticism. There is no club (although you could start one). The closest thing you’ll find to activism is this blurb. That’s just fine with us, though: Our rationalism doesn’t need constant coddling. If you’re looking for support for your skepticism, look no further than the contents of every lecture.
– Toby M., M1
There is a great Baha’i community at WUSM and in the greater St. Louis area that hosts devotionals, study circles and different service activities throughout the city. It’s a really welcoming, supportive and ethnically diverse group. St. Louis also isn’t too far from the Baha’i temple in Wilmette, Illinois, so some people take a weekend trip to Chicago to visit and spend time there. It’s a really wonderful community!
– Gabby A., M1
Welcome to WUSM! If you’re looking for a community to worship with, a place to grow in faith, and a supportive staff to engage in discussion, then you’ve come to the right place. The Washington University Catholic Student Center (CSC) is one of the most vibrant Newman Centers in the country, conveniently located a short jaunt across Forest Park on the Danforth Campus (a five-minute drive, or two MetroLink stops away). It offers 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. mass on Sundays, a daily mass and soup (free food!) on Tuesdays and Fridays, Bible studies, happy hours, guest speakers (for example, Dr. Peter Raven and Fr. James Martin), and 24/7 access to study spaces that are outside the medical bubble. Medical school can be a challenging time, but the strong faith community at the CSC is an amazing resource for students seeking a faith community to plug into. Check out more information on the website: www.washucsc.org. Also, not to be overlooked, the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis is an architectural gem rivaling the cathedrals of Europe. With over 41.5 million mosaic tiles, it is the largest mosaic in the world. Located only a couple of blocks away from the Medical Campus, it is definitely worth checking out, whether you’re Catholic or not!
– Jackie K., M1
Medical school is a journey, an endeavor to understand the complexities of the human body and use that understanding to help others. You will experience abundant joy and overwhelming sorrow, life and death. Sometimes it goes by in a blur; make sure that you keep your eyes open. Never forget who is the true master of your life’s course, or who will be attending to you when the day is done. Take advantage of groups like the Christian Medical Association and find community, a local church to attend. There are lots of churches in St. Louis, and it’s not difficult to find a ride if you don’t have a car. These next four years will shape and mold you, but fear not, for we are in the hands of a master Potter.
– Dan L., M1
Despite coming from the diverse Bay Area, I was pleasantly surprised to find a vibrant and welcoming Hindu community in St. Louis. The Hindu Temple of St. Louis, which features a Jain prayer room and prasad that reminds me of home, is just 25 minutes away from the WUSM campus by car and has both regular pujas and larger events for special occasions. (See www.hindutemplestlouis.org for the full calendar.) The adjacent Mahatma Gandhi Center is also a stronghold of the Hindu community and organizes both religious and cultural functions throughout the year. If you are looking to get involved with activities that are more proximal (just prepping you for anatomy!) to the Central West End, fear not! The WUSM Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association hosts medical-school wide on-campus events with authentic Indian food and energetic dance and musical performances. And if that’s not enough, Ashoka (Washington University’s undergraduate South Asian Cultural Group) also plans several different events on the Danforth Campus including an annual Diwali show, a Holi celebration, a Garba, a Gandhi Day of Service and formals. (See www.ashoka.wustl.edu for more information.) Truly and honestly, the Hindu community is quite impressive, though the same thing cannot be said for Indian restaurants!
– Damini T., M1
Medicine is all about humanism. That is to say, medicine is about empathy and respect for our patients and our colleagues. It is about striving for excellence and skill. It is about fighting for justice and defending the defenseless. It is about cultivating virtues like honesty, perseverance and fortitude (even in the presence of terrifying sights and smells). It is about deeply valuing human life and endlessly battling against death and disease, its destroyers. So every good physician is a humanist of some sort, whether a secular humanist like myself, a religious humanist like many of my amazing classmates, or even someone who shuns the term but is still driven by most of the same fundamental principles.
If you’re interested in organized Humanism with a capital H, St. Louis definitely has organizations. In fact, St. Louis is home to one of the oldest and largest Humanist congregations in the world, the Ethical Society of St. Louis, with its own impressive building and a full schedule of regular meetings and activities.
– Weston M., M1
Our Muslim community at Washington University includes the Muslim Student Association of the Danforth Campus and of Saint Louis University, which both undergraduate and graduate students may join. Although our immediate Muslim community within WUSM is relatively small, our neighbors are very active and inclusive. Students at the Danforth Campus arrange rides to masjids (like the West Pine Masjid), host iftar and Eid parties, and organize Friday Jummah prayers. You can also attend Jummah at the hospital. Additionally, many Muslim students live in apartments close to WUSM (like Del Coronado) and there are plenty of opportunities to hang out outside of these formal events. In terms of socializing within your class — although it’s true that many social events involve alcohol, your classmates understand that everyone has different ways of having a good time, and you’ll never feel any pressure. There’s also many non-drinking social alternatives (see the Perspectives Section: On Being Alcohol Free).
– Fatima A. and Gazelle Z., M1
Having grown up in New York City, I was pretty surprised to find out that St. Louis is the city with the second-largest Jewish population in the Midwest! I will admit that I am not fully observant, but if you are looking for a Jewish community around WUSM, there are a few. At the Danforth Campus, Chabad and Hillel are very active, and there are two graduate student Jewish groups (JGrads for all graduate students and the Jewish Medical Student Association (for medical students) as well. During the High Holidays, there are Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Modern Orthodox and Reconstructionist synagogues around St. Louis that host services free for students. Overall, the Jewish community in St. Louis is incredibly welcoming, and you will be able to find a community to participate in at any level.
– Tamara C., M1
So you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and thinking of moving to Missouri for medical school? Well, don’t you worry! The Extermination Order was officially rescinded in 1976 and St. Louis is actually a pretty great place to be a Mormon. There’s a temple about 20 minutes away from the school and we are central to a lot of cool Church history sites. The single’s branch is a decent size (we’re almost a ward) and made up of a variety of people including a lot of graduate students and young professionals. Between Family Home Evening, Institute, branch activities, volleyball, basketball and soccer, there is something going on almost every night of the week. The family ward also has a lot of young student and resident couples and they meet in a building very close to campus.
– Michael M., M1
WUSM makes pacifism and activism awfully easy. Not a single person has tried to fight me since I’ve been here. More significantly, both the St. Louis Friends Meeting and our dear School of Medicine are deeply engaged in community service. The St. Louis Friends specifically work with the Instead of War Coalition and have an active Social Action Committee. Regardless of your religious affiliation, it’s important to have meaningful life experiences unaffiliated with your medical education. My participation in the Religious Society of Friends has given me a way to be in the world not as a future doctor, but as a human being. Our meeting house is downtown in a lovely space with big windows. You can hear birds singing during worship.
– Joshua P., M1