From Glenn Conroy, PhD, and Jane Phillips-Conroy, PhD

Professors of Anatomy

"Have fun. This is not incompatible with learning!" – The cutest couple at WashU
“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 (66 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!

From Koong-Nah Chung, PhD

Dean of Research

Visit Dr. Chung for guidance on research opportunities and ask her about her favorite rapper. Hint: He's slim, and he's shady.
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, collaborate 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. There is no shortage of entertainment, including the world champion Cardinals, the world famous zoo, the science
center, the art museum, and Forest Park. 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 (

From Will Ross, MD, MPH

Associate Dean for Diversity

Dean Ross poses with students.
Dean Ross poses with students.

Welcome to Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis! While the latter distinction (in St. Louis) was added to differentiate us from other similar sounding, high-performing medical institutions that don’t provide as much free food, we’ve found our association with St. Louis to be one of mutual benefit. On your arrival you will be captivated by the beauty, vitality and progressive spirit of the Central West End, and most of you will decide to reside in this very charming neighborhood. My wife and I raised two daughters in the Central West End and would not have dreamed of being anywhere else in St. Louis.

However, several blocks from the medical center you will find neighborhoods grappling with generational poverty and escalating rates of sexually transmitted infections and chronic diseases. Even more, you have all witnessed the tremendous social upheaval in Ferguson, a small town within North St. Louis County. The St. Louis region is not immune from the social ills that plague our nation’s urban core: inadequate housing, high rates of joblessness or lack of livable-wage jobs, underperforming public schools, insufficient support of public health, and bias, whether explicit or unconscious, towards communities of color, as evidenced by police profiling of African American and Latino males. As one of the largest employers in St. Louis, we have a responsibility to be diverse and inclusive. We stand by our efforts to recruit a workforce that can fulfill our mission of advancing human health in a culture that supports diversity, inclusion, critical thinking and creativity. We pledge that everyone – no matter his or her race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or sexual preference, national origin or disability and regardless of position – should feel welcome and appreciated as part of our campus community. We accept our unique urban enclave for all its glory, and will not shy away from engaging with the St. Louis community to help eliminate the social factors that contributed to the crisis in Ferguson.

As an incoming student you will be immersed in the fascinating world of scientific discovery and medical innovation, but you will not be allowed to forget that the true purpose of medicine is to uplift the human condition. We hope our Washington University Medical Plunge (WUMP) and Diversity Retreat experiences will compel you to become a force for good in the
St. Louis region. Many of you will go on to become leaders and volunteers in the Saturday Free Health Clinic, Casa de Salud, the Nutrition Outreach Program, and other student-run programs that collaborate with the St. Louis community. During your years in medical school, make sure you connect to the greater community and experience the tremendous personal satisfaction of service; acknowledging the marked difference you can make on the lives of those less fortunate. Allow yourself to be trained, in essence, in our medical center without walls. Your overall experience as a medical school student will then be much more rewarding at Washington University School of Medicine. In St. Louis.

From Gregory M. Polites, MD

Assistant Professor, Division of Emergency Medicine
Former Course Master for the 
Practice of Medicine

"Be kind to each other. Encourage each other. And make time for each other." – Dr. Greg Polites
“Be kind to each other. Encourage each other. And make time for each other.” – Dr. Greg Polites

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 will 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!

From Ali Houston-Ludlam (a First-Year MSTP) for Other MSTPs

First, make time for the things that bring you joy. Taking time to do what makes you happy is just as important as any school-related activity you do. Along these lines, make time for the people in your life that aren’t MSTP or in the medical school. They will often help you gain some clarity and peace when you feel overwhelmed or disenchanted with medical school. Regarding school activities: Don’t say yes to every interesting opportunity/group/event. WashU is a wonderful place with much to offer, which can make it harder to carve out the time you need to take care of yourself — academically and otherwise. There may be times that you miss research or feel like you’re removed from science. You’re not alone in feeling that way, and many of your MSTP classmates will probably feel the same. It’s helpful to me to think that this is part of the process that will help you do better science in the future. Lastly, utilize the guidance and support offered by many people — your classmates, the “older” MSTPs, and the MSTP admin in particular — to help you along this unique and exciting journey.

From Lisa Moscoso, MD, PhD

Dean of Students

"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
“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 maintain that virtual community while growing face-to-face relationships with classmates, mentors, other graduate students, and others at WU and 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 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, build 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.

From Linda Pike, PhD

Course Master for Molecular Foundations of Medicine

"Participate in physical activities that you enjoy, that keep you fit and that reduce your stress. Stress reduction is key." – Dr. Pike
“Participate in physical activities that you enjoy, that keep you fit and that reduce your stress. Stress reduction is key.” – Dr. Pike

Medical training and medical practice are mentally and physically demanding, so staying healthy is really important. It is never too early to develop the kinds of habits that will hold you in good stead over the long haul. Taking care of your body is an important part of maximizing your mental focus. Study hard, but know when you have reached the point of diminishing returns and take an activity break. You will learn more efficiently and feel better. Participate in physical activities that you enjoy, that keep you fit and that reduce your stress. Stress reduction is key. Develop a group of friends you can look to for support during the inevitable low points. And you are what you eat, so eat healthy foods and avoid sugar binges. Except for chocolate-covered raisins. They’re good any time.

From Brian T. Edelson, MD, PhD

WUSM Class of 2004 and Course Master for Immunology

WUSM Alum Brian Edelson is now Assistant Professor of Pathology and Immunology.
WUSM Alum Brian Edelson is now Assistant Professor of Pathology and Immunology.

Enjoy first year and don’t get overwhelmed by the details. See the big picture. You will never again have this amount of free time to explore what interests you in biology and medicine. If you find a topic you like, go to the library, find a comfy spot, and read about it in real books, not just on your laptop! You will get to touch the pages and you will remember more this way. Take the time to do more than just watch videos of your lectures. Come to class and enjoy listening to great teachers in person. Actively take notes by hand during lectures and you’ll need to study less later. You will also gain a stronger connection to the material, your classmates, and to the faculty.

From Wayne M. Yokoyama, MD

Director, MSTP

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

For all M1s:
No know-it-alls
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 (not just
academic) 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 that it existed and 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, a sense for the accuracy of that information, and how to use it. So remember, there’s no room in medicine for know-it-alls because they simply can’t know it all!
For MSTPs:
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 2016. 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!)