Meeting your New Classmates

The Washington University School of Medicine (WUSM) admissions office is good at picking students who are both brilliant and fascinating. When I came to orientation, I knew that every person I met would at a minimum have some quality that raised the eyebrows of the admissions committee members and interviewers. I also knew every person I met had some desire that was so strong it propelled them to accept a spot in the Washington University School of Medicine Class of 2019. Every single day since the first day, it has been one of my joys to discover more about these people, my classmates. We have novelists and flautists, founders of charities and passionate advocates for social change. Every day I sit down in a lecture hall with the most intelligent and driven people I have ever met. It’s awesome.
– Joshua P., M1

Practice of Medicine

Practice of Medicine, or POM as we all know it, is an introductory course into exactly what you think it is: the practice of medicine. This course spans all three blocks of M1 and introduces you to the St. Louis patient community at large, the taking of a history, the physical exam and the development of our professional selves. These goals are achieved through truly unique experiences that start literally from day one of orientation. Throughout the year, we have the opportunity to hone our “doctoring skills” through practice in small group sessions, interactions with standardized patients (paid actors playing the role of patient), and communication with real patients not only here at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, but also at their respective residences during our Home Visit assignments. These experiences prove to be incredibly invaluable toward establishing your persona, skill and impact as a health care professional, and in learning about those individuals and communities who we’ll be affecting during our time here at WUSM and in the future.
– Yusef J., M1

In POM, you'll look within yourself to define the way you practice medicine. You might look within your own ear as well.
In POM, you’ll look within yourself to define the way you practice medicine. You might look within your own ear as well.

Learning to give a physical exam is likely going to be a bit frustrating and you will feel like you are going through the motions at first. Also, you might have to perform some exams that can be intimate and potentially embarrassing for you and the patient. The only answer is that you’ll pick up everything the more you practice (and you’ll get plenty of practice … eventually). However, it’s totally okay to not feel comfortable having your classmates practice the physical exam on you in small groups. Just talk to one of the faculty up front, and they can definitely make accommodations and help you out. POM lecture and small groups are mostly low key, but sometimes being a compassionate, empathetic, ethical physician is not intuitive. So try and engage, and even push back if someone says something weird (hey, it happens).
– Eileen C., M1


Anatomy lab: a forge for the fashioning of camaraderie and medical puns.
Anatomy lab: a forge for the fashioning of camaraderie and medical puns.

In my process of applying and matriculating to medical school, the prospect of Anatomy lab loomed over me as an intimidating, and at times unappealing, part of my medical education. With a browser history full of “how to cope with Anatomy lab in medical school” searches, I entered the first Anatomy lab session anxious, curious and very unsure of what to expect. Within the first lab session, I was making incisions and inspecting tissue while thinking about the very real person who had donated her body so I could learn. What was her favorite color? Is this really what a nerve feels like? Since this first day, my experience in lab has been many things: exciting after finding an elusive structure, stressful when trying to identify structures during an exam, and a struggle with feeling less than motivated to focus at 11:30 a.m. on a Friday (when class for the week ends at noon). Sometimes Anatomy lab has felt like just another course in my first-year medical school curriculum. I now realize that Anatomy lab, which has given me the most intimate contact with a human body I might ever have in my career as a physician, is one of my greatest privileges as a medical student.
– Ali H., M1


Medical school is not just about Anatomy class or learning physiology, but also about exploring other areas of medicine, whether it’s looking more closely into a specific specialty or examining an aspect of the health care system not usually covered until later in your career. WashU provides the opportunity to delve deeper into a variety of topics through first year selectives.

Students in Newborn Medicine taste human breast milk while learning about developmental medicine in the NICU at St. Louis Children's Hospital.
Students in Newborn Medicine taste human breast milk while learning about developmental medicine in the NICU at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Throughout the year, students are able to participate in four to six courses of their choice: one in the humanities, one in the basic sciences, one in the clinical sciences and one more in either basic science or clinical sciences. (Two more selectives may be taken in any of the aforementioned categories if desired.) A list of selectives will be provided at the beginning of your school year, but I’d love to point out some of the more popular for you to consider.
In the humanities, there are options such as the History of Medicine, Music and Medicine, Art and Medicine, Doctors on Film, and Medicine and Poetry. The most popular basic science course is Simulations in Cardiovascular Physiology. (This one fills up quickly, so make sure it’s one of your first picks on pit night — the evening you choose your selectives during the first week of school!) Some other basic courses include Simulations in Respiratory Physiology, Journal Club, and Frontiers in Leukemia. There are many choices in the clinical sciences: Clinical Correlations in the Neurosciences, Intro to Neurosurgery, Intro to Emergency Medicine I, Intro to Newborn Medicine, Intro to Surgery, Olin Grand Rounds (a business course), Public Health, Saturday Neighborhood Health Clinic (SNHC) and more! Whatever you pick, these classes can become some of the most interesting aspects of your first year curriculum by far!
– Natalie G., M1

The True Meaning of Pass/Fail

Sleeping around (campus) will become a regular part of your first year, but sleep peacefully knowing that everyone will pass with the same grade: “P”
Sleeping around (campus) will become a regular part of your first year, but sleep peacefully knowing that everyone will pass with the same grade: “P”

After a life of grades, it can be hard for many to understand what pass/fail actually means. It means that if you get a 70 percent (65 percent in Anatomy), you get the same grade as if you got a 100 percent (Pass). One could argue (and some do) that if you get a 75 percent, you studied 5 percent too much. Of course someone as studious as myself would never make that argument. In reality, pass/fail allows you to learn without worrying about every single detail, all of which would probably be forgotten 10 minutes after the test. It makes for a very pleasant learning experience first year, which we are often reminded of by second-year students, who are suffering through grades. Take advantage of the less stressful first year — become involved in community service, research, shadow and explore an area of medicine you’ve never seen before. This is a great chance to take advantage of all WashU has to offer.
– Conor W., M1