medicine and society graduates

Medicine & Society Program

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

The Medicine & Society Program has its intellectual and programmatic roots 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, the Medicine & Society Program 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.

Medicine & Society collaboration with Veterans Affairs

Medicine & Society collaboration with Veterans Affairs

How to Apply

The application process for the Medicine & Society program opens in May. There will be a link to the application webform on the First-Year Programs homepage during this time for you to sign up.

First-year programs homepage


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. Applications are included in the First Year Guide sent out to the incoming class each May. 


Those accepted into the program are enrolled in a year-long freshman 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; two approved medical anthropology elective courses at the 300-level or above; a community-based health internship or service learning activity, and a Junior/Senior Medicine & Society Seminar.  The final requirement for the Medicine and Society Program is the WHR 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.

Internship/Service Learning

A community-based health internship or service learning activity is one component of the program and a vital resource to students interested in public health and medicine.  Students who wish to undertake a semester-long internship 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 County 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.

Medicine & Society Faculty and Staff

Medicine & Society Program Alumni

A recent survey of the graduating Medicine & Society cohorts of 2013-2015 found 65% of the respondents went directly to medical school upon graduating from Washington University in St. Louis. Current members of Medicine & Society benefit from a large network of alumni. Through the Medicine & Society alumni network, students are able to connect with medical students in order to learn about the process and experience of medical school. 


Medicine and Society was life-changing for me. It prompted me to seek out opportunities to learn and develop outside of campus, and provided me with a community of brilliant individuals who pushed me to ask new questions and helped me to focus my passion into action. Currently, as a surgeon-in-training at Yale, I see every single day how the frameworks that I learned through Medicine and Society help me to understand what we are doing as physicians and help me to identify ways to care for my patients in the best way possible.

―Grace Chao 2013MD, Harvard Medical School Resident in General Surgery, Yale University Medical Center


If you have any questions or need more information, please contact Alyse Kuhlman, Medicine & Society Program Coordinator

Email Alyse