Monday, November 10, 2008

Dancing with skeletons and mocking dermatologists in medical-student comedy shows - Slate Magazine

For decades, medical students have written and acted in satirical comedy shows spoofing their experiences. Such shows were almost always closed events, presented by the students to one another and the faculty. Audience members, the students' senior colleagues, have long tolerated fairly outrageous behavior onstage. Now, though, the videos of such shows have begun to appear on YouTube and other Internet sites. The public can watch students criticizing one another's behavior, mocking their professors, and identifying apparent flaws in the educational process.

Medical school comedy shows date back at least as far as 1897, according to a 2006 article written in the Journal of Medical Humanities by Dr. Charles R. Hayter of the University of Toronto. He traces the roots of medical school shows to the tradition of vaudeville, in which satirical skits and musical selections poke fun at others. Such humor, anthropologist Anne Burson-Tolpin has written in Literature and Medicine, "challenges the existing social structure." But there's a difference between a closed-door performance and a publicly accessible YouTube video. Should the medical profession reveal its dirty laundry publicly? More importantly, perhaps, do these skits identify genuine flaws in how doctors learn and practice medicine?

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