At Washington University, some of the most important learning takes place outside of the formal curriculum, through participation in student-initiated, student-run organizations. Students have created more than 60 such groups to address real-world issues on local, national and global fronts and to pursue interests outside of medicine. More than 70 percent of our students participate in one or more organizations.

The faculty, deans and alumni take great pride in and enthusiastically support these endeavors, which represent invaluable opportunities for personal growth and outlets for personal expression, fulfillment and satisfaction. Participating in these activities, students cement life-long friendships, refine their leadership skills in real-life venues and translate medical insights within broader community settings.

Visit the Office of Medical Student Affairs website for a complete student group listing.

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Service Learning; Community Engagement; Advocacy

The Gephardt Institute is Washington University in St. Louis’ hub for fostering a vibrant culture of civic engagement through our campuses, realized by engaged citizens, scholarship, and partnerships that advance the collective good.  The Institute is dedicated to supporting all members of the Washington University community, seeking to connect individuals’ academic, professional, and personal commitments with meaningful community engagement.  The School of Medicine works closely with the Gephardt Institute in collaborating with internal and external campus partners around community engagement.

Additionally, a list of organizations that students may volunteer with in fulfilling the service learning component of the Gateway Curriculum can be found through WUSM’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Our students are committed to making an equitable difference on campus and in St. Louis communities, a drive that takes multiple forms. Many efforts aim to improve health outcomes in the community directly and are impacted through student involvement and collaboration.  Opportunities that have existed longitudinally include:

  • Community-based screening for hypertension and diabetes
  • Early childhood developmental screening among underserved groups
  • CPR training in the newborn intensive care unit for parents of high-risk children
  • Contributions to WUSM Student & Occupational Health flu vaccination drives–giving flu shots to WUSM faculty, staff, and students on campus
  • American Red Cross Blood Drives–helping coordinate volunteers
  • Sun Protection Outreach Training (SPOTS)–a medical student dermatology interest group where volunteers teach middle and high school students about skin cancer prevention through one-hour virtual teaching sessions.
  • Culinary Medicine Program–a nutrition branch of Health Outreach Programs (HOPs).  Medical students lead a course that teach St. Louis families the principles of healthy eating.
  • Fundraising for community groups such as Big Brothers Big Sisters and The American Heart Association (the Red Dress Affair)
  • CHOICES (Choosing Healthy Options in our Communities, Environment, and Schools) for Youth in Detention is an innovative outreach effort dedicated to improving the health and well-being of young teens at the St. Louis Juvenile Detention Center.
  • LouHealth, a policy and public health advocacy organization begun by WashU medical students in response to the COVID pandemic that now encompasses graduate students in medicine, public health, and law.
  • Great Rivers Greenway.  Students help keep St. Louis’ rivers clean by removing trash and debris from the local natural environment.

Have questions about this component of WashU’s medical education?  Contact Kaytlin Reedy-Rogier, MSW, Director of Health Equity and Justice, and Instructor in Clinical Medicine.

Medical interest groups

More than a dozen specialty interest groups allow students to explore their interests in individual medical specialties. The groups feature opportunities for shadowing, interacting with senior faculty, participating in departmental functions and more.


Other groups work with young people in the community providing educational assistance, illuminating pathways to careers in science and medicine and all along the way demystifying and assisting. Examples include:

Avocations: music, arts and letters and more

Our medical students find time to continue enjoying their talents and interests outside of medicine, including, art, music, athletics and more. Visit the Office of Student Affairs website for details.