As an incoming first-year student, I was feeling pretty lost when I arrived in St. Louis in August. I had no idea how to handle all of my new classes or find research opportunities, and it seemed like everyone else around me had all of that figured out already. Luckily, WUSM has an awesome advising program for its medical students. Like any other top medical school, WUSM has amazing, world-class faculty, but the difference here is that the faculty are actually super approachable and willing to help medical students. It’s incredibly easy to get in touch with anyone for shadowing, research or even just mentorship. At WUSM, the advisory process is even more structured, and each student is assigned to a specific advisory dean according to the society they are placed in. This makes it really easy whenever you have questions, because you already have a set person to contact. Also, it’s nice to have an assigned advisor because they remember you and follow up with you throughout the year. The advisors are there to help you to find research, figure out what student groups to get involved in, or even just to talk to you about adjusting to a new environment; basically, they’re your mentors for anything and everything related to medical school. The meetings are always productive, and can be as short or as long as you want them to be. Also, the advisors are given a stipend for these meetings, which means that most of the time, you’ll get some yummy snacks, too!
– Tina H., M1
One of the ways in which WUSM students are able to easily interact with faculty is through their randomly assigned academic societies, which were created in the ‘80s to try and bring students together outside of the classroom. There are three societies: Erlanger-Graham, Cori and Lowry-Moore. Each society provides students opportunities to hear speakers, engage in discussions with faculty, and access another advising and mentorship system. In addition, all three societies host several awesome social events throughout the year. During medical school orientation, the first years spend a lot of time doing service and social activities in their societies, which allows for a increased social interaction. We also get cool T-shirts and lots of society pride!
– Evelyn R., M1
Each M1 is paired with a student from the class above them who will serve as their big sib. Big sibs are great to talk to about navigating the first year of medical school because they have recently survived it. After the first Anatomy exam, many big sibs leave snacks or presents in the mailboxes for their little sibs (my big sib Phuong gave me penguin macarons, because she’s not-so-secretly an amazing baker). We get together every so often to check up on each other, and it’s nice to have an older student as part of your support system at WUSM.
– Victoria C., M1
One of my favorite parts about WUSM is that there is such a collaborative environment. We are all pushing ourselves to do our best, but none of us are really competing against one another. I like to call it being “intracompetitive.” The best result of this is the amount of resources that we create and share for each other during exams. For example, before our Practice of Medicine midterm, we were given a list of concepts that we were expected to know. Our professor told us we should work on it together. Somebody in our class created a Google Doc for this list, and we all took turns filling out different parts of the document. By the end of this, we had all helped create a complete and comprehensive study guide. One of our classmates even made a deck of online flashcards from this document! It was literally the only thing most of us used to study for the exam, and we completely trusted the information within. Subsequently, we all did well on the exam. Moments like these happen all the time at WUSM, and they definitely make the learning environment more productive and safe.
– J.R. P., M1
Dealing with Stress
Although attending medical school is a great honor, its academic and professional demands can at times take a toll on one’s mental and emotional well-being. Fortunately, there are 122 other people who are going through the same process and experiencing the same feelings that you are. My number one piece of advice for dealing with stress: Talk about it. You might think telling your seemingly cool, calm and collected friends about how you’re feeling will make them uncomfortable, but, believe me, most of them will be relieved that someone finally put into words the very emotions that they were all trying to hide. Spending time with your friends and helping each other to get through tough times is probably the easiest and most fun way to combat stress. Secondly, remember that nobody could possibly memorize all the information medical school classes toss at you, the exams aren’t designed to test minutiae, and the pass/fail system is your friend, so please don’t demand too much of yourself! Finally, if you feel that your stress levels are interfering with your quality of life and that you need help to redirect yourself, please do not hesitate to ask for support from the many excellent and completely confidential counselling resources that WUSM Student Health Services offers. Dr. Lisa Moscoso, the Dean for Medical Student Affairs, is always available to offer guidance on how best to connect with these resources.
– Gazelle Z., M1
Life Outside of School
You may be imagining life in medical school as a black hole in which you are wholly consumed by books and hospital call. You may be partially correct. But you are not completely correct. In fact, life does not stop in medical school. Your time here is a part of your journey, not just an annoying, intermediate step that must be endured. What do you do outside of studying and working that makes you feel joyful? Don’t lose it. Somewhere in this school, hospital or city at large is an outlet for whatever passion you have. Keep up relationships with the people you love and have left sprinkled across the country or globe. Build your community here with new, rich relationships. You are a cool individual. You have a lot to contribute. Don’t let that get sucked into a black hole.
– Christine A., M1