Medicine & Society

A First-Year Ampersand Program

Medicine & Society

The Medicine & Society Program (MedSoc) was created to address the needs of students who have an interest in both medicine and the greater good of society. Incoming first-year students are selected each summer to join the four-year program which consists of a yearlong seminar in medical anthropology, a community health internship, several courses in medical anthropology, and a senior thesis or capstone project.

The program's intellectual and programmatic roots are in the field of medical anthropology, which is broadly defined as the study of human health and illness across culture, time, and location. Medical anthropologists examine the role of culture and society in shaping experiences with illness. The discipline seeks an understanding of such wide-ranging issues as responses to health threats, alternative medicine in modern society, the human genome project, the ethics of genetic testing, social and behavioral factors affecting infectious diseases, and the causes of health disparities in the developing world. Individual health is seen within a broader framework of social networks and the larger public and private efforts to prevent disease and promote health, both domestically and internationally.

For students interested in exploring relationships among culture, behavior, and health, MedSoc offers a pathway from the perspective of the social sciences. Addressing the important social and cultural foundations of health and illness in human societies, this program also emphasizes service and research at health-related sites throughout St. Louis.

how to apply

The application process for first-year programs and seminars opens on Thursday, May 12, at 4 p.m. (CT) and closes on Monday, May 16, at noon (CT). You will need your WUSTL Key to apply, so please be sure to sign up for your WUSTL Key by Tuesday, May 10 to give it 24 hours to activate. There will be a link to the application webform on the First-Year Programs homepage during this time for you to sign up. A statement of interest (no more than 500 words) is required when you submit your application online.

First-Year Programs homepage

In a recent survey of the 2013-2015 MedSoc cohorts, we found 65% of the respondents went directly to medical school upon graduating from WashU. Current members of MedSoc benefit from this large network of alumni by connecting with medical students in order to learn about the process and experience of medical school. 

Admission and Requirements


Admission to this program is highly competitive. Academic credentials, aptitude and interest in a health-related career, and personal statements all will be considered in selecting participants for this program. 


Those accepted into the program are enrolled in a year-long first-year seminar on culture, health, and society in the Department of Anthropology. Sixteen additional credits must be taken over the remaining three years to complete the program. This includes the course Topics in Health and Community; three approved medical anthropology elective courses at the 300-level or above; and a community-based health internship. The final requirement for the Medicine & Society Program is the Rivers Project, a fourth-year paper, thesis, or other project designed to demonstrate the student's mastery of essential concepts and ideas in health and wellness. A major or minor in Anthropology or Global Health and Environment track in Anthropology is also required to complete the program.


A community-based healthcare internship is one component of the program and a vital resource to students interested in public health and medicine. Students will work closely with the Medicine & Society Program Coordinator to find internship opportunities that best suit their interests and skills. Students may also meet the requirement by participating in a service learning course designed specifically for Medicine & Society students (Anthropology 341: Health and Wellness in the Community). Past internship/ service learning locations include St. Louis Country Department of health, American Cancer Society, CHIPS Health and Wellness Center, Nurses for Newborns, etc. Most internships and service learning sites are accessible by bike or metro transportation. 

Read more: Medicine & Society students volunteer with Veterans Affairs to collect stories of veterans at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis