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.

Mentorship at Penn Med

At Penn Med, “mentorship” is more than just a buzzword. An MS3 shares her perspective on the culture and community of mentoring at Penn.

When I think back to May 13th 2013, less than 48 hours before the equally exciting and fearful May 15th deadline (aka the day which “you must pick one, and ONLY one medical school to attend,”) I am pleasantly reminded as to why I chose to attend medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. I think back to that afternoon where I found myself sitting at my kitchen table with my older brother, who is also a physician. I was making the painstaking decision between attending medical school close to the comforts of home, family, and friends at my alma mater or moving to the East Coast in order to attend the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. While my brother knew months prior when I was accepted to UPenn that I would be matriculating here for medical school, he sat patiently while I resorted to my handy-dandy “T-diagrams” and allowed them to fulfill their timeless role as a “pros and cons” list, one for each school. About half way through my first list, my brother appropriately nudged me along in my decision making. He simply asked, “Liz, what is holding you back from admitting that you belong at Penn? The hard part is over… they’ve already accepted you! Now all that you have to do is GO!” While even he had to smirk at his over simplification of my just having to “go” to the East Coast, my response was more insightful than expected. I replied with the honest answer that I was hesitating out of fear—I would be moving to a new city where I had no family, no friends, and would unfortunately have to face my fear of flying at least twice a year! I expressed that what I needed was to have someone like him, like family, at Penn. Someone to have my best interests in mind and, of course, tons of patience and encouragement for all of my sure-to-come struggles. He took my list and added “mentorship” to the “pro” section for UPenn. Sibling rivalry usually limits my acknowledgment of how smart my brother may be, but I have to admit, he sure knew what he was talking about this time.

While the concept of mentorship may not be unique to UPenn, I do believe that it is uniquely applied here. At every level of the “medical school hierarchy” connections are constantly being made, upheld, and expanded upon, whether that be between medical students in the same year, different years, with residents, attendings, post-docs, etc. To be honest, though the term “hierarchy” certainly serves a historical and legal purpose within the medical community when distinguishing student from resident from attending, it just doesn’t feel correct to apply to Penn. If I had to describe the relationship of academics at Penn Med, it would be best described as a ‘web’ comprised of multiple layers of closely interwoven thread, all of which rely on connections with others to maintain its tension and strength. The building of your “Penn web” begins during your first week of orientation when you are assigned to your “learning team”, a random grouping of 6-7 students with whom you share the most time during your first year and a half of med school While taking ‘team exams’, synergizing in small groups, and taking classes together, whether or not you realize it at the time, you are also mentoring one another. With the beyond impressive students at Penn, and their incredible variety of backgrounds and experiences, it really should have come as no surprise that my classmates have offered me some of my best mentor and mentee interactions, an asset that cannot be highlighted enough as clerkships are now off and running!

In addition to the supportive infrastructure Penn Med students offer one another, the impressive faculty are a key distinguishing feature at Penn. In all honesty, this exact paragraph was written after a prolonged period of writer’s blocker encouraged me to check my inbox, and I had three emails, from three different mentors, currently in three different states, still taking the time out of their busy schedules to respond to emails and offer advice or project ideas. I have never felt so supported as a student, future physician, but most importantly, as a person by this university. With time built in to our curriculum for a scholarly pursuit, we are constantly encouraged to interact with our faculty and peers. Often meetings which begin with discussions about research projects conclude with encouragement, guidance, and most importantly, a sense of genuine support as we trudge forward in our careers. I may not know exactly what field of medicine I will end up in or where I will be practicing, but I am confident that UPenn has and will continue to provide my classmates and me with the necessary tools to pursue and accomplish our goals.

Elizabeth Messenger is a 3rd year medical student at the Perelman School of a Medicine. She is currently interested in pursuing a career within dermatology. In her free time, you can find her on the volleyball or basketball courts.

Living in Philly

Penn Preview starts tomorrow! We are all so excited to meet you and to show you how great Penn Med is! But we also hope to give you a little taste of what it is like to live in Philly. In addition to a panel tomorrow on living in Philly (and of course the numerous conversations you will likely have with current students) we have a great piece today written by an MS4 on her experience living in this wonderful city. 

As someone who had spent a few years between undergrad and medical school, one of the things that I looked for when I was applying to medical school was one where most of the students lived off campus and not in a dorm. While living in one big building with classmates is probably fun and convenient (…college anyone?!), I was ready to put the days of common bathrooms (bringing keys with me to take a shower) and kitchens (mystery gunk in shared kitchenware) behind me.

Penn Med is a place where some students opt to live on campus as residential advisors to undergraduates, but the vast majority live in the West Philadelphia or Center City area, in apartments or houses that they find on their own. The initial process of finding a place can be tough, as it always is when moving to a new city (or even within the same city!), but once everyone is settled in, it’s a really wonderful culture.

Philly is a very navigable city. A lot of my friends use buses and trolleys; I ride my bike, or I walk. Nearly all my classmates and friends live so close to me, popping by for dinner or meeting up for a study session is extremely easy: my local cafe is also their local cafe (not to mention the five other local cafes as well), and no one’s house is more than a 15-minute bike ride away, max (usually a 5-10 minute walk). I also love that even though I live across the river from the school, when I walk in my neighborhood, I’m bound to run into a familiar face.

Living close to each other but off campus means that most of us need to commute to school. I live about a 25-minute walk from the main campus, and I usually cycled to class and hospital rotations during my time here. Even when I was slogging up the South Street Bridge hill in the early mornings to head into the wards, I would inevitably be joined by classmates also going into work, which brightened those dark commutes ever so slightly. There are a few important things I learned over the last four years: camaraderie is a powerful consolation at 6:30am…or 4:30am. And an hour later, the most powerful consolation is coffee. Lately I’ve started walking to and from school more, and I’ve found that it’s the perfect way to catch up with friends, while also getting to see the stunning clouds above the Philadelphia skyline — not a bad way to start or end the day.


My sense of home and community reaches beyond the boundaries of the school campus, and as someone who moved to Philadelphia without any friends or family here at first, this environment has been one of the most enriching aspects of my med school experience.

Kay Negishi is an MS4, originally from northern New Jersey. She graduated from Harvard in 2007 with a degree in Biology. You can usually find her plodding along the Schuylkill River trail in running gear or drinking coffee while watching clips of Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show.

Philly’s Food Scene

Happy Monday everyone! We are super excited to see you all at Preview in just a few days. As you are preparing to make your journey to Philly, and thinking about its potential as your future home, you’re probably wondering, where are the best places to get food? Luckily, MS1 Olivia Bernal has these great recommendations. 

As you prepare to move to Philadelphia and settle into this great city for the next 4+ years, one of the many things you should start getting excited for is the amazing restaurant scene Philadelphia has to offer! Having lived here for six years, I can honestly say that the food in Philly is one of my favorite things about this city. In addition to boasting a diverse variety of cuisines, there are also countless affordable options that spare the bank without sacrificing quality.

Furthermore, and arguably most importantly, Philadelphia is home to the BYOB restaurant. Short for “Bring Your Own Bottle”, BYOs (as they’re fondly called), allow you to bring your own bottle of wine (and sometimes beer and liquor) to enjoy with your meal, usually without any additional fee.

While I am certainly no expert or critic, I will provide you with some of my favorite places to eat in Philly. And as I continue to eat my way through this city, I am always willing to offer a suggestion or take a recommendation for a new place to try!

Favorite brunch locations:

Honey’s Sit N’ Eat: Conveniently located on 21st and South, Honey’s offers the best early morning breakfast eats. Come between 7-9 am on weekdays, and for $5 you’ll get your fill of 2 eggs any style, toast, potatoes (latkes, grits, or home fries), and unlimited coffee. Get the latkes with applesauce. Trust me, your taste buds will thank you. Additionally, Honey’s is BYO, so bring some champagne and friends for a boozier brunch experience.

Pub and Kitchen: For a classy, casual brunch experience, I’ll go to Pub & Kitchen. Located on 20th and Lombard, Pub & Kitchen offers fresh and flavorful food options. On warm, sunny days, I opt for their outdoor seating along 20th street. Their sausage and scallion biscuit redefines breakfast sandwich.

Favorite BYOs:

Giorgio on Pine: Located on 13th and Pine, Giorgio is my go-to BYO. In my opinion, you will find the best, most-authentic Italian food here. As an added treat, Giorgio himself will almost certainly stop by your table to say hello.

So Crepe: I stumbled upon this gem last year while strolling down South Street. With a simple menu and delicious ingredients, I was smitten immediately. I brought my French roommate with me, and she too loved the crepes and attested to their authenticity. With a bottle of wine, enjoy their savory crepes and indulge in their “So Simple” sweet crepe.

Favorite “Parents are in town, let’s go to town!” Restaurants:

Garces Trading Company: Owned by Chef Jose Garces, Garces Trading Co. serves dishes that feature Spanish, Italian, and French influences. First recommended to me by a Philly friend, I took my family to Garces Trading Co for one of my college graduation dinners. It immediately became a family favorite. Dare I say it’s my favorite restaurant in the city?

Jamonera: This small, trendy tapas and wine bar offers a hip atmosphere and amazing tapas. With mouthwatering vegetarian and meat-lover options, everyone will leave satisfied. Personal anecdote: I am notoriously known to refuse to eat olives…I couldn’t get enough of Jamonera’s olives.

Best Restaurant Week “bang-for-your-buck” Restaurants

Every winter and fall during restaurant week, restaurants that may typically be out of the budget range of a medical student offer three-course dinners for only $35 per person. In addition, many participating restaurants also offer a three-course lunch for $20.

Amada: I love tapas and Chef Jose Garces. Amada combines both of my loves in this beautiful Old City restaurant. I recommend coming here with a group so that everyone can order and share Amada’s impressive selection of tapas. For my fellow cheese-lovers, order the aged manchego with truffle lavender honey.

Alma de Cuba: Alma de Cuba features some of the most aesthetically pleasing décor in the city. Step inside and you’ll feel as though you’ve been whisked away to Havana. Their food does not disappoint either. The ceviche was perfect, and the coffee with coconut milk will make even the most stubborn coffee snobs rave.

I hope this sampling of restaurants gets your mouth watering for Philadelphia! Med school is great, but life is not fulfilled without good food.

Olivia Bernal is an MS1 from Northern California. She graduated from Penn in 2012 with a degree in Biological Basis of Behavior. In her free time she enjoys napping, sipping tea, listening to music, and frequenting Philly’s BYOs with friends.

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.

Ride to Conquer Cancer

It is no surprise that med school involves a lot of studying. But that doesn’t keep Penn Med students from getting involved in amazing initiatives outside of school. Last fall, a group of Penn Med students went on a 150 mile bike ride…the weekend before our first anatomy exam. 

My eyes were fixed on the saddle of the bike in front of me and all I could hear was the persistent humming of the tires on the road. Our tires inched dangerously close as we tried to maximize draft in the paceline. The hard work we put in weeks before was finally paying off as we flew down Martin Luther King Junior Drive pushing thirty miles per hour. It’s hard to believe that just that morning we were in the anatomy lab searching for the epiploic foramen.

My teammates and I were training for the Philadelphia Ride to Conquer Cancer benefiting Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center. The 150-mile bike ride took place over two days: October 11th and 12th 2014. Each of us raised upwards of $1,500 for cancer research. The fierce Penn Med student team included Emily Martin, Benjamin Emert, Elliot Stein, Robert Schwab, Tom Liu, and myself. Although we were only two months into our 1st year of medical school, our time together in preparation for the ride made it seem like we were old friends.


The early hours of Saturday, October 11th were cold, wet, and windy. I don’t think the conditions could have been any worse for a bike ride. But we reluctantly pulled ourselves out of bed and made it to the starting line by 6AM. The first leg of the course was treacherous to say the least. Some of us arrived at the first rest stop bleeding and with our bikes in pieces. But this was only a small road bump for the fearless student team. Ben endured the rest of the ride with his road bike turned into a “fixie,” with only one gear to crank on. Tom pushed through the road burn on his leg (after fainting, of course). We trudged our way through the first 75 miles of the event and finally made our way to base camp as the sky cleared and the sun came out. My body was utterly exhausted and I wondered how I would make it to the finish line the next day. After some warm showers and copious carbohydrates, the Penn Med student team retired to one of the tents to study for an upcoming anatomy exam.


We awoke early the next morning with ice covering our tents. Thick fog hovered over the baseball field that had served as our camping grounds for the night. As the sun rose over the trees and began to warm our faces, the excitement fluttered through the air. In stark contrast to the prior morning, Sunday held the perfect conditions for a long distance bike ride. We set off through the farmland west of Philadelphia and made our way back towards the familiar city. The course became increasingly difficult as we crossed over the Appalachian foothills and encountered steep grades that required the lowest of gears and unlimited endurance. In the end, we crossed the finish line in Philadelphia with the crowd cheering, a smile on our faces, and jelly for legs. Overcoming this physically and mentally challenging event as a team put medical school in an interesting framework. With the ride conquered, we stepped into the classroom looking for the next challenge.

Want to see more? Check out this video.

Anthony Martin is an MS1, originally from the Miami, Florida. He graduated from the School of Engineering at Penn in 2014, majoring in Bioengineering. On his free time he enjoys sleeping, photography, bike riding, and watching quality films.