Spoof 2016: Because med school can’t always be serious

One of our lovely Penn Med Spoof Directors describes the annual tradition of an entirely student-run musical performance parodying medical school and our wonderful professors and classmates.

Every spring, Penn Med students from all classes get together to put on a show that is one of the school’s most beloved traditions – Spoof! Part skits, part musical/dance numbers, the show both parodies and celebrates the medical school experience, and often the field of medicine in general. Spoof has many traditions; one of my favorites is the way we choose the name of the show each year. A school-wide name contest is held, with students submitting medicine- and pop-culture-themed puns, and the winner receiving both eternal glory and free admission to the show. Previous titles include classics such as “Game of Crohns” and “Narcs and Respiration;” this year’s runaway favorite was “Straight Outta Thrombin.”

For all the cast and crew, Spoof is a great way to spend time with classmates and students from other years, as well as to show off talents in acting, singing, dancing, writing, and choreographing that are often in disuse during most of medical school. For many, including myself, the best part of Spoof is the chance to bond with Penn Med students of all years in such a fun and unique setting – a far cry from the classroom or the hospital!

The show offers a lot to members of every class, whether in the cast or in the audience. MS1s traditionally write and star in a skit lampooning both the professors and general shenanigans of the pre-clinical experience. This year’s show saw the MS1s perform spot-on impersonations of beloved Mod 1 instructors Dr. Lewis, Dr. Allman, and Dr. Toshi, to name a few, in a hilarious Star-Wars-themed skit. In addition, the show allows MS1s in both the cast and the audience to get an inside glimpse of what med school has in store for them in the years to come!

MS2s, having just entered the wilds of the hospital for their clerkship year, usually contribute a video, as this allows them to prepare ahead of time and spare themselves the weeks of rehearsal and late-night pizza-eating required of Spoof cast members. This year most certainly set a record for the most enthusiastic and dedicated MS2 class – their video, which depicted Penn Med as an episode of Survivor, included a cast of over 50 students and faculty! And as the show was scheduled on the weekend following the end of a clerkship block, many MS2s were able to unwind after their first shelf exams by enjoying the show in person.

For MS3s, who by showtime have completed two major milestones of medical school (clerkship year and Step 1), Spoof affords the perfect opportunity for unwinding, as well as catharsis. We had a strong contingent of dedicated MS3s this year, involved in everything from writing and acting in some of the crowd-favorite skits and songs of the night (Admission (Remix) and Navicare were some of the many standouts), to filming and editing all of the show’s videos, and to playing in the band (some ultra-committed MS3s did many of these simultaneously). We can rest assured that next year these future MS4s will make Spoof even better (if such a thing is possible)!

MS4s traditionally make up a large percentage of both cast and audience, as in their post-Match and pre-residency state they tend to have the most free time and the most enthusiasm for poking fun at all things med school. Being a part of the show allows MS4s the opportunity to reminisce on their Penn Med experiences, and to make more daring jokes than they might if they weren’t already guaranteed to graduate. Who knows if so many students would have volunteered to do a Magic-Mike-themed dance routine on stage if they weren’t already matched into residency programs? (And yes, this number brought the house down.) For a certainty, it was a wonderful way to start to close out our med school careers, and a more fitting venue could not be imagined – this year’s Spoof was in the beautiful Zellerbach Theater, the same place where we MS4s had our white coat ceremony just a few years before.

There’s not much more I can say about the magic and joy that is Penn Med Spoof, so I think I will let a few pictures do the rest of the talking. Med school has been a crazy and amazing ride, and being involved in Spoof 2016 was one of the best parts by far. I’m sure Spoof 2017 will be fantastic!

Spoof1Med students taking a standardized patient exam in the show’s opener, “Book of Perelman.”

Spoof2The cast showing off major singing skills in an anesthesia/surgery version of Adele’s “Hello”

Spoof3Getting information out of a patient in “Good Doc/Bad Doc”

Spoof4The Match, if hosted by “Maury,” would certainly include a case of contested paternity.

Spoof5Med school gunners, too hot to handle, in “HUPtown Funk”

All photos courtesy of Chris Sant.

Emily Cross (MS4) grew up in NYC and is headed to Boston for pediatrics residency. She was an enthusiastic Spoof audience member for the first three years of med school, but this year decided to dive in head first as co-director alongside classmates Jim Murrett and Stephan Wu. 



Dear Entering Class of 2016…

Welcome to the Perelman School of Medicine family! We are so excited that you are joining us. My name is Ducky, and I am the President of the Medical Student Government and the head of the Wellness Leadership. I am originally from the northern suburbs of Chicago, moved out to sunny Southern California for college, and had a brief stint in Baltimore before landing at PSOM. Fair warning—you will see a lot of me next year and I will send you many emails (apologies in advance, but I can 73% guarantee that you will learn to love them).

The transition to medical school is a unique one. To get to this point, you’ve all crushed college and made it on your own in the (pseudo) real world. I arrived at PSOM thinking I had figured things out in college and med school would be no different. On the first day of orientation, I felt a rush of excitement—I was here! Finally at the place I had been dreaming about since I was 16. I quickly found myself overwhelmed by our schedule and struggling to reconcile the material we were learning with the care I was hoping to provide my future patients. I was excited and proud, yet I found myself feeling out of touch with my mission and purpose—with the very reasons why I came to med school in the first place.

I’m here to tell you: whether you seamlessly adjust to this new environment or you have a more challenging transition, please know that everything you are feeling is valid and others around you are feeling similar emotions. I got over the hump by reaching out to the incredible people around me, and I want to encourage all of you to do the same. PSOM should never be a place where you feel alone; we are a wildly dysfunctional family and you become a member on day one.

Today I want to let you know about the variety of Wellness programming we provide to help you connect with your new classmates, smooth your transition into medical school, and make your first year live up to the experience that your teenage self fantasized about while studying for the ACT (please, I’m from the Midwest.)

The Community Conversations dinner series is offered monthly and cosponsored by the House System and student groups. The series provides an opportunity for students from across the classes to gather and discuss hardships and successes. Recent “Conversations” have highlighted challenges faced by medical students in both the preclinical and clinical years and allyship. The events feature a series of speakers followed by facilitated small group break-out discussions to talk about our own experiences in a safe and understanding setting.

Dinner with Acquaintances continues the theme of connecting students between and across classes through potluck dinners offered each month in Center City, Grad Hospital, and West Philly (basically everywhere). We purposely pair up students from all years to promote inter-class unity. Feel free to bring store-bought cookies that you put in your own Tupperware.

Perelman Pals groups students together to facilitate near-peer mentoring and socializing across the classes. In the Fall, Pals groups are composed of MS1s with MS2s and in the Spring, MS1s and MS4s are matched (Mentors! Role models! Best friends!?).

The Workout Buddies program is exactly what it sounds like. We pair PSOM students from different classes with each other based on their own fitness level and goals, and then check in monthly to help students get as swole/cut/lean/mean/yucky as they want.

Penn Med Yoga offers free yoga classes at school twice weekly. They even have mats you can use for free! ~Namaste~

Screenings and Games Nights are offered on Thursdays following the MSG Happy Hour (I challenge you to find $2 Blue Moon and $0.25 Skittles anywhere else.)

Before I leave, I’d like to offer you one final piece of advice. Get to know your classmates—both those that enter with you and those who are already here. Every day I have the enormous privilege of spending time with truly exceptional and inspiring individuals. Do not take these people for granted!

I can’t wait to meet many of you on Thursday. Once again, welcome to the family!



Ducky is an MS1 from the suburbs of Chicago, IL. Her passions include lemurs, Bud Light Lime, and listening to Continuum-era John Mayer on vinyl.

The Inaugural “Penn Talks” Competition

An inside scoop on a new event for Penn Med students!

This past year has been an exciting one. I applied for residency in internal medicine and took some unforgettable elective rotations. Actually, as I’m writing this post, Match Day is only a week away! The most exciting part of this year, though, was seeing months of planning come to fruition in the PennTalks Teaching Competition.

Back in September 2015, I went to the administration with an idea: let’s hold a competition where students compete against one another to give the best 8 minute talk they can on a topic of their choice. Each competitor would be paired with a faculty mentor, to help them refine their talk. The winner would be selected by a panel of “celebrity judges” (read: the student body’s favorite faculty), with the audience voting, as well. This TedTalks-meets-American Idol event would be advertised to the entire School of Medicine and celebrate how much we can teach each other as Penn medical students. Ultimately, the administration liked our pitch and gave us the go-ahead. Although a lot of work lay ahead of me and the rest of Penn’s Medical Education Club, I couldn’t have been more excited.

Want to know how excited we all were? See for yourself:
LEAKED Penn Talks Training Video

After many months of planning and preparation, on February 25th, 2016, the first annual PennTalks Teaching Competition opened to an auditorium full of Penn medical students and medical school faculty. Our eight competitors, chosen from a pool of initial entrants, spanned all 4 medical school classes. Their talks covered a wide array of interesting topics. Examples included “Keeping Creativity Alive in Medicine,” “How to Insert an Ultrasound-guided IV,” “What are My Chances, Doc? – Why Biostatistics Are Important to Everyone,” and “What a Whale can Teach Us about the Human Body.” This year’s winner, Natalie Stokes, a 4th year applying in Internal Medicine, gave a stellar talk entitled “The Science of Swole: What are in those GNC Supplements Anyways?” All of the talks were fantastic, and everyone learned something new during the event.

JFL_0099Casey McQuade, MS4 and co-president of the Medical Education Club, explains the rules for the night to the panel of celebrity judges.

The success of this event demonstrates two key points about Penn. First, we have an administration who listens to our ideas and is willing to partner with us to make our ideas a reality. Without the support of our administration, and the faculty members who were either judges or mentors, the Teaching Competition would have remained another unfulfilled “good idea”. Second, our students are rooting for each other, and we naturally want to see our peers succeed. That willingness to share what we know with one another makes Penn students truly outstanding, and makes the School of Medicine a wonderful place to become a doctor.

JFL_0412Natalie Stokes, MS4, launches into her award-winning presentation.

Casey McQuade is a fourth year student who matched in Internal Medicine. He is interested in cardiology and general internal medicine, and served as the co-president of the Medical Education Club at Penn. 

Penn Med IM Volleyball (aka Penn Med Gun Show)

We were in the depths of the most grueling exam period of Mod 1 – the ominous three-day stretch that sat between us and Thanksgiving break. The administration had even warned our parents about this particular set of exams during orientation, telling them that this was going to be one of the hardest weeks of our first year and to make sure we were eating and sleeping and in good spirits. But instead of thinking about epidemiology, microbiology, immunology, and anatomy (those darn cranial nerves that you’ll learn to love and hate soon enough!), the Penn Med intramural (IM) volleyball team was focused on one thing – winning the IM volleyball playoffs.

Atasha, our team captain, had texted the group earlier that week with the bad news that the playoffs would be during our exams, assuming that most people wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice study time for the matches. But one by one, each of our teammates chimed in: “I’m 100% down to play!”… “Penn Med pride!! I wanna kick those dental kids’ [butts]”… “#PassNowPassLater”… “#Atasha4President”

We had suffered only one loss the entire season, and it was to the Penn Dental team, Drill ‘n Kill. Our one chance at redemption was to make it to the championship round to face off with the Dental team again, and we were hungry for that victory.

Playoff game #1, the night before the microbiology and immunology exams, was an easy win over a psychology grad student team. Game #2, the night before the big anatomy exam, was a slightly more challenging win against an undergraduate engineering team, but we pulled through unscathed and ecstatic that we were going to the championships!!!

The championship match against the Dental team was a white-knuckled roller coaster. They pulled ahead early on with a run of hard serves in the first game, a lead we weren’t able to overcome. In the second game, we regrouped and pulled our secret weapon, Greg, our towering and unparalleled middle hitter, to the front row to put the ball down. We drove forward with a few serving runs of our own, and were leading by three or four points for much of the game. In the end, they caught back up with us, and in “overtime” managed to snag the win from us 25-27. It was an exhilarating game and as satisfying as a loss could be, knowing we had fought our hardest and left it all out on the court.

I had assumed that my volleyball days were over after playing throughout middle school, high school, and club in college. But the IM spirit is very much alive and kicking at Perelman, with many MS1s participating in IM soccer, football, ultimate Frisbee, and of course volleyball (just to name a few).

The IM volleyball Spring league began March 18th, and you can bet the Penn Med Gun Show is faster, stronger and better than ever.


Jessica Dong is an MS1 who calls many places home, including San Francisco, CA; Rockville, MD; and Naperville, IL. Jessica graduated from Dartmouth College in 2012 with a degree in Biology and a minor in environmental studies. Outside of school she enjoys running, frequenting farmer’s markets, cooking, and traveling.

Covenant House

At Penn Med you will find no shortage of volunteer opportunities. We previously published a piece on a student-run clinic, Heart Health Bridge to Care. Today, another MS1 shares her experience volunteering for Covenant House, a youth homeless shelter.  

One of the things that was most important to me in choosing a medical school was the opportunity to participate in community service and work with the underserved. At Penn Preview last year, I boarded a bus with some of my now-classmates to visit Covenant House, a homeless shelter for youth in Germantown, Pennsylvania. We toured the shelter and heard about the services offered by the many wonderful people who work there.

What made the day most memorable for me was one young woman’s story. This young woman shared that she had lost her father at a young age and that her mother was addicted to PCP and unable to take care of her and her siblings. She therefore had to support her younger siblings herself. Despite being homeless and having faced numerous obstacles and difficulties in life, this young woman was dedicated to making a better life for herself. She worked, went back to school and is now living independently and doing very well. After my experience hearing from this inspiring woman at Covenant House that day, I knew I wanted to become involved with the organization and the amazing young people there.

This fall, I became a regular volunteer at Covenant House. Each Wednesday, a group of volunteers goes to Covenant House and holds an activity night for the residents. Our activity nights have included cupcake decorating, painting and music, writing and theater workshops, game nights, exercise classes, and more.

I am so inspired by the resilience, hope, and dedication of the young people living at Covenant House People who have been through incredibly difficult circumstances are cracking jokes to make me laugh . Suddenly, my own “problems” are put into perspective. In addition, many of the young people at Covenant House are talented artists and poets, creating amazing and moving art.

I’m now one of the student coordinators for Covenant House. This means that in addition to planning activity nights on Wednesdays, I am able to shadow in the clinic at Covenant House on Fridays. Dr. Ginsburg, who leads the clinic, at Covenant House is an inspirational physician who provides the kind of care that I hope to one day provide to those in need. It’s wonderful being able to watch him interact with his patients and observe how he is able to make them feel safe and cared for despite their past experiences. Dr. Ginsburg trains his residents and medical students to not only present a patient’s medical complaint to him, but also to state what they love about a patient. He has emphasized to us that you may not always like your patients, but you can find something to love about them. When Dr. Ginsburg comes into the patients’ rooms, he warmly addresses them, and the faces of previously reserved patients light up.

While shadowing, I am also privileged to hear patients’ histories and stories and learn about their lives. Their stories often involve harrowing accounts of abuse, violence and neglect, but their strength in the face of these injustices is truly staggering. I’ve unfortunately also seen the limitations faced by those who want to help the underserved. Limited supplies, medication and resources mean that creativity is sometimes needed to make sure patients receive the care they require. For example, one patient who required an antibiotic received a different regimen than she may have received elsewhere because it was all that was on hand. Another patient received an antibiotic shot even though there was a risk of an allergic reaction, and needed to be monitored for anaphylaxis. Again, this was due to the fact that only certain antibiotics were on hand, and the infection was a more pressing problem than the small risk of an allergic reaction. One does not often see these types of decisions being made at a large academic center like Penn with much more plentiful resources. Nevertheless, it is wonderful to see that despite facing limitations, it is possible for motivated people to provide great care to those in need.

My visits to Covenant House have been what I consider to be some of the most important and formative experiences of my time so far at Perelman. The incredible residents of Covenant House have solidified my desire to provide care for marginalized populations in my future career. I don’t believe that anything could be more fulfilling or rewarding, and I am so happy to have been able to be involved with Covenant House.

Abby Robinson is an MS1 originally from North Canton, Ohio. She graduated from Cornell University in 2013 and spent a year providing HIV testing and counseling in the ER of the Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx before beginning school at Perelman in 2014. In her free time she enjoys running, baking, bad reality television and spending time with friends.

Heart Health Bridge to Care

Penn Med offers a plethora of community outreach opportunities, including several health clinics serving a diversity of communities in Philadelphia. Today, MS1 Sanford Roberts shares his experience as a volunteer for Heart Health Bridge to Care (HHBC).

5pm rolls around. I’m tired from waking up for 8am Brain and Behavior lecture. I don’t usually go to 8am lectures, but I can’t afford to get any further behind and I know the final is going to be tough. I run off to grab another coffee (thank goodness for coffee).

Our clinic group huddles near the library, a mix of undergraduates, nursing students, social work students and med students. As we divide into carpools, we share what we’ve been going through inside and outside of school and clinic. The cars arrive and we pile in, and after traversing through half of West Philadelphia, we arrive at First African Presbyterian Church.

Once we reach the basement, our group disperses and gets to work: some grab charts, others set up the waiting rooms, while others organize the patient-provider assignments. The basement is old, the walls are bare, and in general it’s not exactly what you’d expect when visiting the doctor’s office. But the place provides history, character and most importantly, a place our patients know and are comfortable in.

Once everything is set up, the undergrad coordinators give us our patient files. I’m seeing two patients tonight. I begin to review their charts and make notes about what I think needs to be done during their visits. In what feels like a few short seconds, I’m told that it’s my turn to present in “circle up”. Circling up is a time when we orally present patients to each other in order to plan the upcoming encounter. It’s low pressure, really just a chance to chat about ideas and fill each other in on new information that might not be in the chart.

One of the undergrads walks over and informs me my patient has arrived. My heart rate increases a bit, and I try to remind myself that there’s nothing to be nervous about. I’ve been seeing patients on my own for several months now, but still, this whole med student thing is relatively new. I walk out to see my patient and we head into a room for the visit. We chat for 20 minutes, his hypertension is well under control, but now he has a cough and wants advice. I get uneasy; we haven’t had pulmonology yet and I have no idea what should be on the differential. The rest of the visit goes well, and I tell my patient that I’ll be back as soon as I chat with the doctor.

I head back to the main room and begin to look over the notes I just took. I begin organizing it into Subjective, Objective, Assessment and Plan sections (commonly called a SOAP note); it’s how we’re expected to convey information to residents and attendings. I find an attending sitting and chatting with a resident. I interrupt and ask if I can present. They oblige and begin to listen. Deep breath, here we go, I begin “Mr. JB is a 62 year old male with a past medical history of hypertension presenting today with a new productive cough…” I continue on telling the details of our visit. Finally we get to the topic of the cough. “It’s a cough producing yellow sputum, worse in the morning…”. The attending stops me; he asks when the cough began.

Shoot. I hadn’t asked. I forgot to ask when the cough began! That’s really not acceptable, but okay everyone makes mistakes. I admit to the doctor that I forgot to ask and they kindly smile and let me continue. We keep talking. “Is he a smoker?”

Shoot. I hadn’t asked if he was a smoker either! In retrospect these questions really seem like common sense, but during the visit they hadn’t crossed my mind. I had never had a patient with a cough or lung problem before. Again I admit I forgot to ask, the attending reassures me that it’s fine, I’m still learning. We head back in to see the patient, who ends up having mild viral infection. After another several hours, seeing my second patient and charting up the visits for the day it’s time to go home. I arrive back around 10pm and proceed to immediately fall asleep in bed.

Volunteering at Heart Health Bridge to Care (HHBC) has been an incredible learning experience. I’ve learned about hypertension, diabetes and many aspects of primary care. I’m beginning to learn the language and practice of clinical medicine. I’m getting exposure to the huge host of medical issues plaguing underserved areas of West Philadelphia. Most importantly, volunteering keeps me humble and reminds me why I’m in medical school. I’m here for the people, for my future patients. I’m here to learn how to ease pain and to heal. It’s easy to forget this when much of our current lives seems to revolve around learning the basic sciences as preclinical med students.

Sure LEAPP and our Intro to Clinical Medicine course provide great opportunities for us to briefly step into the role of clinical providers, but somehow I feel like it’s not quite the same as going to clinic every week. Since we follow up with patients continuously at HHBC, I’ve had the opportunity to develop personal connections with my patients. I get excited when they’re doing better, and I feel responsible for developing solutions when they’re doing poorly. There is something really special about sitting across from someone as a health provider; people open up about their lives, their struggles, worries and pain. Sometimes all we can do is just be a supportive ear to listen, but many times we are able to take action to help and to treat. And who knows if we’re making a difference, I hope we are, even if it’s just to a few people. The thing I know for sure is that I’m different for being at clinic; it’s been an invaluable part of my Penn Med experience.

Sanford Roberts is an MS1, originally from San Antonio, Texas (Go Spurs!). He graduated from Stanford University in 2013 majoring in Human Biology. In his free time Sanford enjoys pick up basketball, Netflix and exploring Philly’s vibrant restaurant scene.

Medical Student Government (MSG) welcomes you to Penn Med!

One of the great things about Penn Med is the huge range of student groups we have, from student-run clinics to specialty interest groups to music to sports. One best things about Medical Student Government (or MSG, as it’s referred to) is that we get to work with students and projects from all of these groups throughout the year!

A little bit of background: MSG is made up of five class boards (MS1, MS2, MS3, MS4, and combined-degree/year-out, or CDYO) and an executive board. The class boards each have 2 Co-Chairs and multiple Class Representatives, and the executive board is made up of President, Vice President, and heads of Communications and Finance. Elections for the executive board and MS2, MS3, MS4, and CDYO boards take place in the spring, and MS1 elections take place a few weeks after school starts.

MSG board members

Each of the class boards meets every few weeks to plan all sorts of class events, such as post-exam parties at bars, the Pre-Clinical Teaching Awards and the End of Clerkships Semi-Formal, and other activities such as broom hockey tournaments, baking competitions, class talent shows, class ski trips, and more! The class boards and the executive board all get together once a month for the MSG General Body Meetings, where we meet over dinner to discuss big-picture issues affecting the student body, update each other on things we’ve been working on, and just catch up with our friends in other classes. There are also some events that we plan all together as a group – such as the annual school-wide Penn Med Formal, a favorite among Perelman students!

The beautiful Curtis Center, where the 2015 Penn Med Formal was held.

Certain members also meet with the medical school administration at least once per month to discuss changes or events in the school. The administration is wonderful to work with – they actively seek out student input on every important decision, so these meetings allow us to make sure that student views and preferences are represented. For example, when the new Jordan Medical Education Center (JMEC) was being designed, the administration asked for our thoughts on every aspect of this new space, ranging from classroom design to the types of chairs we wanted!

In addition to allowing me to learn a lot about how the medical school runs and to be part of some interesting conversations, what I love about MSG is the camaraderie and friendship that develops among the members. We collaborate closely across all classes and have a lot of fun at our meetings. We also become close friends, and love to get together outside of school.

MSG dinner fun!

We hope to see you at the Student Activities Fair when you arrive on campus next summer. Whether or not you choose to become a member of MSG, we look forward to getting to know you at school events or through other student groups!

Yael Nobel is an MS4, originally from the suburbs of New York City. She graduated from the Princeton in 2010, majoring in Chemistry and Global Health and Health Policy. In her free time she enjoys running, exploring new restaurants, and hanging out with friends.