From Amy L. Bauernfeind, PhD, and Kari L. Allen, PhD
Course Masters for Anatomy
“Have fun. This is not incompatible with learning!”
— The Conroys, WUSM Anatomy faculty from 1983 to 2016
Welcome to WUSM Anatomy! We love teaching this course, and we hope you will love it as much as we do. Our body donors have given you an incredible gift from which to learn the geography of the human body and the variation therein. Take this gift seriously and honor their wishes, but enjoy the experience. Human anatomical dissection is a rare and privileged experience, and you will learn more from the process than from any textbook. As stated by our predecessors, the Conroys: “What lies beneath the skin reveals human commonality and individuality as written in the pattern of blood vessels, nerves and muscles.”
The Anatomy lab is a vibrant place where you will spend much of your time engaging with faculty and peers as you work through the structures assigned for that week. You will dissect as a team with three or four of your coursemates, exploring the material through tactile discovery. Small group activities, such as radiology lectures, questions of the week and demonstrations of pre-dissected material will complement your dissection work and provide a deeper review of challenging concepts. Radiology plays heavily into the course, as this is the mode by which many of you will interact with anatomy throughout your careers. Although there is a huge amount of material in the anatomical sciences, try not to let this overwhelm you. We are training you to be doctors, not anatomists. You will not retain every detail of the subject, but you will become familiar with the language and concepts of anatomy with more immediacy than you may have thought possible. Work closely with your team and take advantage of the presence of the faculty and teaching assistants.
The Anatomy course provides a great opportunity for practicing professionalism — time management, group work and empathy for your patients (donors). Participation in lab is required, and punctual and consistent lecture attendance is strongly encouraged. With such a large volume of information to learn, preparation is key! The lectures prepare you for what you will discover in lab that week, and the dissector acts as your guide for lab — so, be sure to read ahead. In addition, the course includes many guest lectures from WUSM and BJC HealthCare physicians who bring an exciting and tangible clinical perspective to the anatomy you are discovering in lab. Please honor their time by attending. The lab is a fun, collaborative and non-competitive environment, but this does not make it easy. Work hard, early and often, and we know you will succeed and enjoy the experience!
From Robert W. Mercer, PhD
Course Master for Physiology
Welcome to Washington University School of Medicine. During your years here you will be expected to master a tremendous wealth of knowledge, all with the hope that you will become a competent and compassionate physician scientist. In the next few weeks you will be getting acquainted with your fellow classmates, the infrastructure of the medical complex, the medical school course load and life in St. Louis. If at any time you need help navigating this transition, I invite you to seek out the faculty for assistance. The reputation of WUSM as having a collegial, inclusive environment is hard earned and well deserved. You will find that the faculty is always accessible to the students. This open attitude allows students the opportunity to interact directly with experts in the fields of science and medicine. No other medical school can surpass this feature of Washington University. While you are here, I also urge you to take advantage of the many medical school activities and organizations. Participate in the student–run activities, the summer research program, and the wonderful summer Departmental Softball League. Above all, please make an attempt to attend your classes! Only by attending classes are you able to directly ask questions and clarify points that you and your classmates may have missed. The first two years of your medical school training have pass/fail grading. Therefore, learn for the sake of learning, not for a nonexistent letter grade. Help and learn from your classmates. Your fellow students will become your best and closest friends. Enjoy your first year, because believe it or not, it will go by very quickly. Above all, work hard, play hard, and don’t sweat the small stuff.
From Timothy T. Yau, MD
Assistant Professor, Division of Nephrology
Course Director for Practice of Medicine
The advice I will give here is the same as what I will tell all incoming first-year medical students on day one orientation in my course. In other first-year courses, you will learn anatomy, biochemistry, physiology and so much more. In the year-long “Practice of Medicine” course, you will learn how to be a great physician. The qualities that make an excellent doctor encompass so much more than just high test scores, which all of you already are capable of! Great physicians not only will have the clinical skills and knowledge to care for their patients, but also will possess an awareness of the realities of health care, and understand the importance of balance between their work and personal lives. The amount of information you will learn in the next four years is both staggering and intimidating. But the learning will not end there, and you are not empty pitchers to be filled with knowledge until you are full. You will never stop learning, and you will have opportunities over the next four years to do things that you may never again do in your lifetime. I am a kidney specialist, but I still delivered plenty of babies as a third-year medical student! Learn for the sake of learning (rather than just to pass the test) and you will find the pursuit of knowledge more worthwhile, meaningful and longer lasting. Set goals for yourself to enhance your understanding of a concept or to improve a skill. Your individual path to fulfill your potential to be a great doctor will be decided by you. Faculty, like myself, are your guides. Lastly, enjoy your medical school experience. Some of the strongest bonds are forged here, and you will need support from family, old friends and the new friends you will make. Get outside, enjoy some good food, and have a drink to relax. Take time to enjoy things that make you happy, whatever they are! This advice sounds generic, but I live by my own words: I have two video game consoles and three instruments in my office to take the occasional break. You’re always welcome to stop by for a game or to play a tune!
From Linda J. Pike, PhD
Course Master for Molecular
Foundations of Medicine
The first two years of medical school are pass-fail. That is good because it reduces your stress level. But as is always said, “Your patient doesn’t want a pass-fail doctor.” So learn all you can. Start your medical school education by taking the position that everything you are being taught in school has the potential to be important in helping a patient someday. Don’t write off material (particularly biochemistry!) because you don’t see its relevance today. Ten years from now, you may see a patient with a constellation of symptoms that you haven’t seen before. But something you were taught in your first year of medical school will suddenly come back to you and guide you to understanding and treating that patient. Medical training and medical practice are mentally and physically demanding, so staying healthy is really important. Taking care of your body is an important part of maximizing your energy and mental focus. It is never too early to develop the kinds of habits that will hold you in good stead over the long haul. Eat right (that’s why I do Know Your Food!) and stay physically active. 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. Develop a group of friends you can look to for support during the inevitable low points. And don’t be afraid to ask for help.
From Lisa M. Moscoso, MD, PhD
Dean of Students
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 e-community,
and I would encourage you to maintain that virtual community while growing face-to-face relationships with classmates, mentors, other graduate students and others at WUSM 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 and 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.
- Play outside.
- 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 Koong-Nah Chung, PhD
Dean of Research
Your first and second years at WUSM are 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 the Botanical Garden. 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 (email@example.com).
Visit Dr. Chung for guidance on research opportunities and to ask her about her favorite rapper. Hint: He’s slim, and he’s shady.
From Will R. Ross, MD, MPH
Associate Dean for Diversity
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 Wayne M. Yokoyama, MD
Levin Professor of Medicine
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, a counselor or the med school.
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 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 materials 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 are 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!)