Activism

Medical Student Advocacy Organizations

There is a very good chance that the way our patients access health care is going to drastically change in the next few years. Here at WUSM, there are many opportunities to advocate for issues that affect our patients and the medical community. Organizations such as the LGBTQ Health Interest Group, Students for a National Health Program, the Public Health Interest Group and Medical Students for Choice play a vital role in advocacy at WUSM and will always appreciate your passion, energy and new ideas. Additionally, the AMA chapter at WUSM does a great job of teaching students how to navigate health policy and government, from organizing lobbying trips to the State Capitol in Jefferson City to meeting with other medical students across the nation in Washington, D.C., on Advocacy Day. No matter what health care issues are important to you, WUSM will support you in making your voice heard.

— Austin Osula, M1

WUSM students show their support during LGBTQ Health Awareness Week.

Advocacy Organizations Outside Medical School

St. Louis has a number of established and growing networks that strive toward economic, social, racial and reproductive justice. Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, Missouri Jobs with Justice, Solidarity Economy, Socialist Alternative, Gateway Greening, International Institute and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, just to name a few, are organizations that offer opportunities for new volunteers and members to get involved. Depending on one’s skills and resources, activism can occur in many different ways. No matter how you choose to take action — attending a rally, monthly volunteering, donating money, phone banking, writing letters, etc. — your contribution is valid. As you explore and participate in advocacy efforts off-campus, don’t forget that you can always reach out to WUSM’s community of fellow student activists for support.

— Eunhye Oak, M1

Joining the St. Louis Community

St. Louis activism is currently thriving, and there are many ways to get involved. It is really about getting out of the Central West End and delving more into the city, and you will have plenty of time to explore! I currently am involved with Metro Trans Umbrella Group (MTUG), which is a support and activism group for trans and gender non-conforming people. I also interact with Socialist Alternative, which works on progressive policies to help working-class Americans. There also are city initiatives to reduce gun violence, Black Lives Matter chapters and initiatives to combine the city and the surrounding county. One of the big issues you will recognize in St. Louis is the divide between the city and the county and how it creates some unique problems. One proposed solution has been to combine the city and county, and there are activists working on this now. No matter what your particular cause, there is definitely a way to fight for that cause as a student at WUSM.

— Owen Hamilton, M1

Washington University Medical Plunge (WUMP)

Let’s start off by getting you acquainted with your schedule leading up to your well-deserved White Coat Ceremony! As an incoming student, you will have two full weeks of mandatory orientation in early August. The first week is packed with structured orientations and leadership activities (and plenty of food) to help establish a sense of community within your class. The second week is the beginning of your first medical school course, Washington University Medical Plunge (WUMP), and what I consider our official introduction to the St. Louis community. This unique portion of the curriculum provides a focused introduction to community involvement, social determinants of health, and the history of St. Louis. It is an exciting opportunity to interface with community leaders, faculty and your peers on a breadth of topics ranging from youth violence to women’s health. In summary, WUSM really does care about your life outside of class! These two weeks played an invaluable role in my feeling part of and informed about the WUSM and St. Louis community. It has provided me with a support system and critical framework within which to consider my role as a future physician, and I hope it will do the same for you!

— Natasha Kafai, M1

WUMP is your first med school class and serves as your introduction to St. Louis and your new community.

Self-Care

Advocacy is important to us. We come from diverse communities and have served — and want to continue to serve — those communities. We strive, with our privilege and medical education, to be involved with social justice platforms. Moreover, as medical students in training, we seek to be our patients’ advocates in health. However, it’s important to recognize the value of self-care as advocates. Activism can be emotionally, physically and mentally exhausting. If we don’t recognize when we need to re-energize, we can easily become fatigued — which is why it is neither selfish nor apathetic to hit pause and take time out for yourself. I find self-care to be particularly relevant after the 2016 election cycle. Whether we identified with a minority group or not, we all felt the divisiveness of polarizing politics. Some communities may feel less sure of their safety and civil rights. Now more than ever, our advocacy — in whatever capacity — is valuable, and with it comes the responsibility to take care of ourselves
first. Whether it’s turning off Facebook for a while or relying on friends for support, we owe it to ourselves to prioritize self-care. Our passion towards our patients and our communities is valuable. Self-care plays an essential role in sustaining our advocacy towards whatever we find meaningful.

— Hera Maryam, M1