In Response to Ferguson

As one of the top medical schools in the nation, Washington University School of Medicine (WUSM) is a superb place to train, practice medicine and conduct innovative research.

A culture of collaboration provides a stimulating, supportive environment for our students, residents and fellows, who are taught by and work alongside physicians and scientists at the top of their respective fields. As a major referral center, we draw patients from the Midwest and beyond who seek our expertise. Here, you will find collegiality that inspires exceptional patient care and cutting-edge research.


Read a message about addressing diversity at Washington University »


As a community, St. Louis is diverse and family-oriented with outstanding cultural and recreational amenities that make it an excellent place to live and train. Like many other U.S. cities, we also face challenges. Racial unrest in Ferguson, MO, a suburb of St. Louis, attracted extensive media attention and has had a profound impact on the broader St. Louis community.

For decades, faculty, staff and students at Washington University and our medical school have been engaged in the St. Louis community. As an institution, we refer to ourselves as Washington University in St. Louis, and we are determined to be part of the solution to ensure that our entire region is an ideal place for all people to live, work and learn. We welcome you to join us.

Day-of-Discovery-2016

Washington University’s annual Day of Discovery & Dialogue is inspired in large part by events that transpired in Ferguson and the larger St. Louis region in 2014. 2016 participants included (left to right): Vice provost, Adrienne Davis; fourth-year medical student, Lawrence Benjamin; NPR and PBS journalist Maria Hinojosa; associate dean for diversity, Will Ross, MD; chancellor, Mark Wrighton.


Learn more about Washington University’s 2016 Day of Discovery & Dialogue »


Here are some ways we’re helping the people of Ferguson:

  • The St. Louis Regional Business Council and North County Inc. together established a “Reinvest North County” fund to assist businesses and school children affected in the wake of the unrest. We have made an institutional donation on behalf of Washington University. Those interested in donating can visit Reinvest North County.
  • We have provided counseling support to the Ferguson-Florissant School District to better equip their employees to address the needs of their students.
  • The PB&Joy Food Drive in support of Ferguson and neighboring communities is helping to put food on the dinner tables of families affected by the protests in Ferguson.
  • Washington University participated in a job fair in North St. Louis County to help connect residents with open positions.
  • The School of Medicine and BJC HealthCare donated medical supplies needed by the St. Louis County Health Department for work in Ferguson.
  • Washington University physicians at Christian Hospital help provide health care for people living in Ferguson and the surrounding areas.

School of Medicine and region FAQ

How safe is the medical campus and surrounding areas?

Washington University is committed to providing a safe and secure environment for faculty, students, staff and visitors. The School of Medicine is located in a major city, and we take a proactive approach to safety, not only on the medical campus, but in nearby neighborhoods, where many students, residents, fellows and faculty members live and spend their free time.

The medical center – which includes the School of Medicine, Barnes-Jewish Hospital and St. Louis Children’s Hospital – is patrolled 24 hours a day, seven days a week by the medical school’s own security team and officers from our affiliated hospitals. Free shuttle buses transport faculty, staff and students to nearby parking garages and some area neighborhoods. We think this commitment to safety keeps crimes to relatively low levels on the medical campus and in surrounding neighborhoods.

Why were there protests in Ferguson?

The events in Ferguson were sparked by the shooting death of an African-American teenager by a white police officer. In the ensuing weeks, many people of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds protested the shooting and called attention to racial injustices.

Ferguson is a suburb of 21,000 people in a metropolitan area of nearly 3 million. It is about 10 miles northwest of the medical campus, and we have close ties with many people in Ferguson as a number of our employees and the patients we serve live there.

The events in Ferguson have reminded us of the challenges of racism, health disparities and unequal access to education and economic opportunities for many people in the St. Louis region and throughout the United States. We see these challenges as opportunities to encourage changes that make our community a better place for everyone.

Is diversity and inclusion a priority at WUSM?

As one of the largest employers in St. Louis, we have a responsibility to be diverse and inclusive. The medical school aspires to recruit faculty, staff, fellows, residents and students who can contribute toward our mission of advancing human health through the best clinical care, innovative research and education of tomorrow’s leaders in biomedicine 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, national origin or disability and regardless of position – should feel welcome and appreciated as part of our campus community.

In 2013, the School of Medicine expanded its diversity and inclusion initiatives with the hiring of two full-time diversity and inclusion leaders: Denise DeCou and Daniel Blash, PhD. They are charged with providing diversity training to all faculty, staff and students on the medical campus.

Over the past year, more than 4,000 faculty, staff and students have participated in the diversity and inclusion program. Additional training is underway, including higher-level training to generate deeper discussion and greater understanding.

What are some ways that Washington University faculty, fellows, residents and graduate students are engaged in the community?

For decades, Washington University has been directly involved in urban planning and community development projects, which have promoted economic growth and improved the lives of residents in the St. Louis region. Our faculty members are playing a leading role in Better Together, a project studying the potential benefits, including improvements in public health, of regional cooperation between St. Louis city and county.

Washington University faculty also partnered with St. Louis University on a multi-disciplinary project, For the Sake of All, which analyzes the health and well-being of African Americans in St. Louis. The project explores how the unequal distribution of health services in the St. Louis region correlates with education, income, public safety and neighborhood quality and composition.

Faculty, staff and students also are involved in the Northside Regeneration Project, which advocates for urban renewal of St. Louis’ north side.

Residents and fellows

Through a competitive process, the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Residents and Fellows Diversity Initiative provides stipends to residents and fellows who demonstrate a commitment to cultural diversity and wish to engage in innovative programs to improve the hospital’s cultural climate while providing service to the community. For example, residents have volunteered at the Gateway Homeless Shelter and created a professional development program.

Students

Regardless of whether students eventually become physician-scientists, specialty physicians, primary-care providers or opt for a career as a bench scientist, Washington University encourages students to be instruments of change in the communities where they live. We’re all invested in the health of society, and we can all make a difference.

Toward that goal, the Washington University Medical Plunge (WUMP) takes first-year medical students through a weeklong crash course in public health, diversity and health-care disparities in St. Louis. The popular program brings students into underserved communities to understand the environments and struggles that some of our patients face. Initiated several years ago, the program was deemed so valuable it became a requirement starting in 2014.

Participation in a host of community service projects nurtures students’ altruistic nature and provides an alternative educational experience. University-sponsored, student-run, community-based service activities include:

  • Biomedical Research Apprenticeship Program (BioMed RAP): Each summer, 15 talented undergraduate students, particularly those from groups traditionally underrepresented in biology and the biomedical sciences, come to Washington University for 10-week paid summer research internships. The students engage in independent laboratory research projects with dedicated faculty mentors. The program provides a rigorous in-depth research experience to prepare participants for top PhD and MD/PhD programs.
  • Public Health Interest Group: This student organization advocates for and partners with the St. Louis community to improve health-care outcomes, particularly among its most underserved citizens. The group’s efforts include health screenings, patient navigation, nutrition outreach and public policy discussions.
  • Saturday Neighborhood Health Clinic: The clinic is run by Washington University medical students and staffed by our physicians. It is dedicated to providing free medical care to the uninsured in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood and surrounding region. More than 90 percent of our medical students volunteer at the clinic each year, making it one of our most successful service-learning projects.
  • Young Scientist Program: This program is run by more than 100 graduate and medical students and attracts high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds into scientific careers through hands-on research opportunities and mentorship. The program includes a Summer Focus initiative, which brings St. Louis area high school students to the medical school for eight-week paid summer internships. Each student works directly with two graduate students and a faculty mentor to carry out a research project. As part of the Continuing Mentoring Program, medical and graduate students provide personal and academic mentorship to students in the Young Scientist Program to foster their interest in science-related careers such as medicine, biotechnology or research.

Learn more about medical student-led activities »

View activities and organizations led by graduate students »