On Being a Woman in Medical School

Friends and fellow WUSM students group together after receiving their white coats.
Friends and fellow WUSM students group together after receiving their white coats.

Being a woman in medical school is pretty much exactly like it has been for the last 20+ years of your life. However, there are some unique obstacles that women face in the profession of medicine, and WUSM offers many resources to help us learn about these obstacles and best tackle them. Exhibit A: the Forum for Women in Internal Medicine organizes talks and networking events focused on allowing younger women who are just embarking on their careers to seek advice and mentorship from experienced, successful women leaders in medicine. Likewise, the WUSM American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) also provides such events to promote women in medicine, facilitate discussion of important issues (work-life balance, salary negotiation, challenges in seeking leadership positions), and to help raise money for heart disease, a major killer of American women.
– Damini T., M1

On Being a Man in Medical School

Two students work together to learn radiology in preparation for an Anatomy exam.
Two students work together to learn radiology in preparation for an Anatomy exam.

What is it like being a man in medical school? This is something I didn’t think about before I started this article, because there’s really nothing special about it. Sure, our Anatomy locker room doesn’t have a bathroom (which still doesn’t make any sense), but our classes are the same, our expectations are the same and our career goals are the same. A female medical student is as successful as a male. That also goes for the kind of male you are. The TV male doctor is always beautiful, with a chiseled jaw, sculpted torso and deep-set, smoldering eyes. The kind of person that makes it easy to study muscular anatomy. If you’re that person, great. If you’re not, great. No one will judge you if you’re awkward, or quiet, or nerdy, or childish, or interested in music and art and crafts. You can be a nerdy shut-in and still become an orthopedic surgeon – the so-called jock specialty – if you want to be one. Patients don’t care. Be who you are as a male in medical school. Embrace yourself and the world will embrace you.
– Nirbhay J., M1


Being professional, you’ll find, largely hinges on looking conventionally masculine, feminine or straight. There won’t be discussions on whether to be out to your patients, why patients might be hesitant to be out to you, or why any of it matters. People object to asking patients for pronouns/preferred names because it’s “awkward,” as if doctors never ask “awkward” questions, or as if being gender-inclusive isn’t necessary. If you attend the free, on-campus LGBTQ Ally Workshop, hosted by the LGBT Health Interest Group (LGBTHIG), you’ll be in the company of around 7 percent of your classmates. To meet others, keep an eye out for LGBTHIG’s Faculty/Student Brunch.
– Eileen C., M1

I’m a bisexual woman (no, I’m not in a phase, and my queerness persists despite the gender of my partner(s)). Not only is the global medical-industrial complex built to exclude LGBTQIA+ people, but it actively fulfills that purpose in keeping out trans, gender-nonconforming and non-binary folks, for the most part. But queer students here at WUSM are working on building a more inclusive and accountable community for ourselves and challenging oppressive power structures. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.
– Jordan S., M1

On Having a Family in Medical School

From my informal research, I have discovered that approximately 0.6 percent of the students currently at WUSM are parents. That’s one in the first year class (me), one in the second year class, and one in the fourth year class. A larger number come with spouses or long-term relationships. For partners and kids of med students, Washington University Medical Center Housestaff Auxiliary is an invaluable resource. The group organizes events, information and support for families of medical students, residents and physicians at WUSM and the Barnes-Jewish health care system. St. Louis County has several excellent school districts consistently winning national awards, and St. Louis has so many amazing free attractions for kids (including a zoo, science center and museums). It is a great place to raise a family. Is it difficult and hectic raising kids in medical school? Sure. But how many things worth doing aren’t?
– Weston M., M1

On Being Vegetarian in St. Louis

Delicious options are available everywhere and for every diet possible.
Delicious options are available everywhere and for every diet possible.

At first glance, St. Louis may seem like a city rather hostile to vegetarians, with its reverent attitude toward barbecue and its bewildering practice of stuffing all ravioli with meat, but in reality, St. Louis is teeming with fantastic vegetarian cuisine. The South Grand neighborhood (about a 15-minute drive from campus) has tons of interesting restaurants with plenty of vegetarian options, including Thai, Lebanese, Vietnamese, Ethiopian and Bosnian cuisine. There are also fantastic vegetarian/vegan restaurants throughout the city, including Tree House, Govinda’s, Small Batch and Frida’s. A favorite (and surprisingly vegetarian-friendly) restaurant of mine is Bailey’s Range, a classic St. Louis burger restaurant with incredible veggie burgers.
– Christine H., M1

On Being Alcohol-Free

We all love hanging out with our classmates and spending as much of our weekends with them as possible. But if you don’t drink, you’ve probably realized by now that being sober around drunk people feels like being on the outside of the world’s funniest inside joke. Not fun. So whether you don’t drink for religious reasons, medical reasons, or because the stuff is just plain gross and you know you could drink your weight in cranberry juice instead and only be the better for it, fear not! At WUSM, there are plenty of ways for you to have fun just as you are. For example, the board game club meets at least once a week to play cards, Settlers of Catan, ping-pong, billiards or whatever new games our members bring. The club also always meets for post-exam celebrations, offering a great alternative to the drinking parties that are held at the same time. If games aren’t your thing, you can always organize a movie night with your non-drinking compatriots (or as I call them, sober buddies), of which there are surprisingly many at WUSM. Ultimately, I feel that it’s really easy to find opportunities to have fun here in a way that makes you feel comfortable and included.
– Gazelle Z., M1

On Being Black

There are very few Black students in most medical schools; WUSM is no different. Although the percentage of Black students is small, I have had many opportunities to meet medical students, residents and fellows of color through the Office of Diversity Programs and Student National Medical Association (SNMA). Dr. Will Ross, the Associate Dean for Diversity, is very supportive and is always available if you need him. A large percentage of the patient population is Black and I have really enjoyed being able to interact with them. It can be very disheartening to be reminded of the numerous challenges and inequalities that Black people in this country experience related to health care. However, WUSM has made great strides to make us aware of these issues and has provided us with resources to get involved in community work. Although being Black in medical school is easier said than done, you will be supported, challenged and encouraged here by classmates, faculty, staff and the patients you have the honor of serving.
– Kai J., M1

On Being Asian American

Being Asian American at WUSM has been radically different than being Asian American in California. In our Practice of Medicine course, we talk about race in terms of a black/white dichotomy, which erases anti-Asian racism and Orientalism from the conversation. My Asian American classmates and I have gotten confused for each other despite looking nothing alike. It’s jarring, and it can sometimes make you wish for more nuance in the way we talk about race, ethnicity and each other. While there is a need for a more complex dialogue about race on campus, being in St. Louis means we can be close to radical communities talking about race and systemic oppression, especially in solidarity with Ferguson (see: #APIs4BlackLives). The Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association (APAMSA) organizes health screenings at Asian groceries (on Olive Blvd. — don’t rely on the Central West End for Asian food, try to make it out there sometime), and celebrates Diwali and the Lunar New Year.
– Eileen C., M1

On Being Hispanic

One of my biggest concerns about coming to WUSM for medical school was the relatively small proportion of Hispanic people (let alone patients) in St. Louis. Being raised in the Caribbean, and having gone to school in New York, I was worried that I would have a hard time adjusting here. Fortunately, I found myself immersed in a lively Hispanic community both in St. Louis and at WUSM. For those interested in volunteering in the community or medical interpreting, Casa de Salud is a wonderful nearby clinic providing health services to new immigrants and refugees. There are also various free health fairs during the year that specifically target the uninsured Hispanic population. Additionally, the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) and MedSpan are two organizations at the medical school that provide ways of sharing your culture with your peers and furthering your involvement in the wider community. And if dancing is more your thing, Club Viva is popular among students for salsa and bachata. Basically, you will find an awesome group of people (both Hispanic and non-Hispanic) that will soon become your family.
– Juan D., M1

On Being Caucasian

You may be surprised to see that this section made it into the Dis-Orientation Guide. Yes, we talk about other races in here, but white is the normalized, the privileged, the “non-different” and the majority. Why do you need extra representation in this book? The answer is that you don’t, but this section serves a very special purpose, which is to make you into a minority. You have benefited from privilege all your life and you will continue to do so in medical school, so I urge you to now explore what it’s like outside that bubble. Show your solidarity with people of color by joining SNMA, LMSA and APAMSA and working to benefit minority health. Volunteer at the Saturday Neighborhood Health Clinic and work with its majority-minority patient population. Explore your new St. Louis community and cross the Delmar divide. In many of these places you may be one of very few white faces, and you may even feel uncomfortable about that minority status, but you will come out of it a stronger advocate and a more compassionate physician.
– Jenny T., M1

On Being from a Small Town

I grew up in a rural town of fewer than 5,000 people, where things like pharmacies, traffic lights and McDonald’s only exist across town, if not county, lines. The really fantastic thing about St. Louis is that not only can you spot any one of these in the city, you can even find most of them within walking distance! It also offers world-class entertainment, sports, parks and recreation opportunities, all while feeling manageably sized. If you do begin to feel claustrophobic, Forest Park is just across the street from school, or a 30-minute drive will bring you into wooded, less densely populated parts of Missouri. The school community itself is relatively small, and your classmates will make you feel right at home. I’m sure you’ll find that the WUSM community is the perfect size for you!
– Evelyn R., M1

On Being from a Big City

Small city, big town — that’s how natives describe St. Louis. I loved growing up around the exciting, fast-paced nature of Chicago, the tremendous diversity of people, and the overall feel of a bustling city. However, I had to give that up when I moved to St. Louis for college and medical school. Or so I thought. St. Louis may not be Chicago, but it has just as much to explore and to enjoy; you just have to search a little deeper for it. After living here for four years, I almost love this “City of Hidden Gems” as much as my hometown (emphasis on “almost”). The unique neighborhoods, the abundance of festivals every weekend, and the incredible kindness of its people make St. Louis an incredible city. It’s hard not to fall in love with this city, as long as you’re open to trying new things and adventurous enough to find those hidden gems!
– Maria S., M1

On Being from the Midwest

St. Louis is the least Midwestern city in the Midwest. It’s a baseball town, not a football one. The summers are hot and humid for a Midwesterner like myself. Winters aren’t nearly cold enough and snow is hard to find. People sometimes have southern accents here. They call it soda, not pop! Yet, there’s still enough of the Midwest here to make an unabashed Ohioan/Michigander like me feel right at home. The weather still has wild swings from day to day. It does get cold, depending on where you’re coming from. People are always very nice and helpful, and the rent is cheap. It has that true Midwestern charm and, dare I say, the distinct culture of the Midwest. If you’re from the Midwest and worried about adjusting to life in St. Louis, don’t be. As someone from the Midwest, you’ll have the easiest time.
– Nirbhay J., M1

On Being from the West Coast

There’s a reason clichés are cliché. It’s because they’re true. And when we say West Coast Best Coast, we are speaking truth. Can you dance with dolphins on the Pacific coast and snowboard down fresh powder in the same day? Yes. Can you find Michelin star restaurants and hole-in-the-wall taco trucks one block away? Yes. And yes, you can ride in a Lyft with Justin Bieber on the daily. What’s been truly incredible is how many of those same things you can do in St. Louis. There is no shortage of yuppie life, hipster bars, incredible cuisine and weekend excursions to holes-in-the-wall that won’t satisfy the California spirit we all love. This Bay Area boy – as in love as he is with his “#1 Bae” – skipped out on the next eight years in California to come to St. Louis without a drop of regret in his mind.
– Robert C., M1

On Being from the East Coast

If you’re coming from the East Coast, St. Louis is probably not going to be what you picture when you think of a city. Compared to most big East Coast cities, it is much more spacious and cozy, and you can actually drive a car in the city and find parking. The people here are also much friendlier than your typical East Coast folk, and strangers will actually greet you and exchange small talk. This may seem like a shocking concept if you’re from New York, but it is in fact normal here, and it makes for a happy and healthy environment to live in. Probably the biggest and most important difference between St. Louis and the East Coast is that everything here is very affordable. Just about anything that you can think of is cheaper here (even Chipotle), and the coolest stuff that the city has to offer is free. This makes St. Louis a great place for living on a student budget, and it definitely feels nice to be able to go out and enjoy yourself without worrying about how much money you’re spending.
– Chris T., M1

On Being from the South

St. Louis is the perfect city for a Southerner looking for small town charm in a big city. The Central West End provides local stores and restaurants. Barbecue is very big in St. Louis, which is good for a southern Memphis girl like me. Everyone I meet in the city is very friendly, and goes out of their way to make me feel at home. There are a lot of things to do, all of which are easily accessible, making the adjustment to city life fairly smooth. Overall, I would say that St. Louis effectively combines the Midwestern and Southern cultures.
– Natalie G., M1

On Being from Texas

Congratulations! You’re from Texas. We know we’re the biggest. We know we’re the best. Plus, you have that sweet, sweet Texas in-state tuition. On that note, you’re probably one of the hard-working souls who had to fill out two medical school applications. Our state is so superlative that we need our own application, the Texas Medical and Dental School Application Service. When I was looking for a medical school I wanted to go to a big city that wasn’t in Texas. (I want to practice in Texas, and figure I’ll love the Lone Star State all the more having experienced “not Texas.”) St. Louis is the perfect place for me. Midwesterners share our friendliness, if not our state pride.
“Texas, Our Texas! All hail the mighty State! Texas, Our Texas! So wonderful so great! Boldest and grandest, withstanding ev’ry test. O Empire wide and glorious, you stand supremely blest.”
– Joshua P., M1

On Being Local

If you are already from St. Louis, I don’t need to convince you of its charms. But maybe you are tentative about moving back so close to your parents. Maybe you need a small nudge to remind you why it’s worth returning to the town that shaped your Cardinal-clad upbringing. College may have been a time of exploring new places and testing new limits, but in medical school it is nice to surround yourself with the comfort of familiarity. As you adapt to a new pace, it is helpful to already be settled into the city. You’ll know useful things like how Schnucks (or Dierbergs) is where we go to get our sustenance, Highway 40 is the same as I-64, and that Ted Drewes is the best dessert you’ll ever eat outdoors in the summer. You’ll also know less useful things such as the fact that Shane Co. used to be conveniently located at the intersection of I-170 and Highway 40 (it’s on Olive now). Additionally, for those concerned with frugality, it is very convenient to be able to go home and scavenge food from your parent’s fridge while using their electricity and water to do your laundry. Premeds always like to be ahead of the curve, and coming home for medical school ensures that you will be when it comes to settling into a new school year. Unless you grew up literally in the shadow of Barnes-Jewish Hospital, going to school at WUSM does not feel like you are going to school too close to home. The Central West End and surrounding areas offer new adventures to embark upon as a young adult. Going to WUSM for medical school will not feel like you are going to school in your parent’s backyard, but it has the huge benefit of being able to actually get there whenever you feel like it.
– Maeve W., M1

On Being Canadian

Being Canadian at WUSM is very refreshing. There will be other Canadians that you can meet and spend time with, and you will definitely be antagonized by the Americans who still think they are citizens of a superior country. There is a Tim Horton’s here, and we all break out our Roots gear in the fall and winter — small reminders of Canadian pride. The summer is humid — think southern Ontario near the lakes, with weaker mosquitos (if you’re from Vancouver … well, lucky you) — and you’ll definitely experience four seasons without the extremes in the winter. The Midwest is VERY American, and that isn’t a bad thing. Great food and friendly people are two trademarks of the Midwest, and St. Louis is absolutely a representation of that. You will most certainly be asked about your feelings regarding Drake, especially if you’re from Toronto. Your classmates will both respect and tease you for being Canadian –– which, in my opinion, is exactly what you want. Embrace it and represent our home and native land with pride. (P.S. don’t forget to pick up your renewed I-20 before you go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. The international student office is on the Danforth Campus, only two Metro stops away.)
– Julian C., M1

On Being International

WUSM is incredibly friendly to international students, especially MSTPs. As you all may know, it can be tough to solicit loans, travel in and out of this country and settle into a new culture. The Office for International Students and Scholars holds orientation sessions which get you acclimated quickly. They are accommodating and helpful in applying for visas and getting I-20s signed. In addition, they try really hard to get students settled into St. Louis. There are several events including parties, visits to museums and tickets to baseball games from the ISO. The office provides opportunities to learn about American culture as well. WashU has enough diversity in the class to ensure every international student feels right at home!
– Sebastian N., M1

On Being Conservative in Medical School

One of the really wonderful things about WUSM is that students come from so many different backgrounds and bring many different perspectives to the medical school class. Before coming here, I didn’t really consider what it would be like to be a more conservative individual at WUSM. I’ve found that there are some really enriching aspects to it, but also some challenges. The majority of the people that I’ve met at WUSM tend to have a more liberal mindset than myself, which is great because I’ve been able to encounter a lot of viewpoints that I wouldn’t have if I was surrounded by people who think the same way I do. It has been very encouraging to meet other people who are willing to engage in conversations and learn from each other in a nonjudgmental way. However, it has been difficult at times, because I do feel that, as a conservative, I am in the minority in my medical school class. There are times when I feel a little out of place, but I keep reminding myself that just as others’ perspectives are a vital part of the WUSM community, my thoughts also have an important role.
– Mary M. S., M1

On Being Liberal in Medical School

The city of St. Louis and the state of Missouri have a lot of room for growth. Living here enables us to join these greater communities and spur some progress. There are ample opportunities to learn from the great work of local health policy leaders, compassionate physicians and community members who share stories. It’s easy to get actively involved:  WUSM students develop policy with the American Medical Association and St. Louis Metropolitan Medical Society, advocate for Medicaid expansion, and care for underserved patients at the Saturday Neighborhood Health Clinic. St. Louis can be a frustrating place for us liberal-blooded beasts. It is not always easy to fight the passionate fight for Medicaid expansion, reproductive health rights and overall social justice. But collaborating with peers and mentors of strong convictions — being an active part of the change — is worth the work.
– Christine A., M1

On Mental Health in Medical School

Not everyone is going to want to talk about mental health or know how to talk about it in a way that will validate your experiences. The environment of an elite professional school can leave a lot of students suffering in silence. Course material and exercises can be triggering, and, because mental health and illness can be so invisible on campus, negative experiences can be really isolating. But you should know we have two amazing staff psychologists at Student Health Services, as well as a nutritionist. And, being in a medical community, you’ll find that getting a referal to psychiatrists doesn’t take much effort outside of your daily responsibilities as a student. Whatever your experience, know you are not alone. Even if they might be hard to find, there are people here who’ll fight for you and your wellness.
– Jordan S., M1