Journal of Medical Humanities

, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 215–229 | Cite as

Medicine’s Moment of Misrule: The Medical Student Show

  • Charles R. R. HayterEmail author
Original Paper


Medical student shows are a prominent feature of medical student life around the world. Following a traditional vaudeville format of skits and songs, the shows are notorious for their exuberance, bawdiness, and lack of political correctness. Despite their widespread prevalence and sometimes hostile reactions, there has been no previous study of these shows. Based on research of scripts, programs, reviews, and oral history, this article explores their history and content and argues that, far from being irrelevant frivolities, these shows serve several important functions. These include the fostering of communal spirit, the development of skills in teamwork, and the collective ventilation of emotional reactions to the process of becoming a doctor. They are one offshoot of the ancient and important tradition of misrule in Western society.


Medical education Medical students Medical school culture Medicine and theatre 



I am grateful to the following individuals and organizations who provided information, advice or help for this project: Chris Rutty, Jackie Duffin, Howard Goldstein, Frederick and Grace Holmes, Robert Bartlett, Barry Deatrick, Garni Barkhoudarian, Jim Grant, Bert Hansen, Duncan Sinclair, Jock Murray, Jeff Nisker, Susan Abrams, Paul Potter, Allan Lee, Richard Hays, Paul Banfield, Toby Appel, Gerard Shorb, William Summers, D. B. Weldon Library (University of Western Ontario), University of Toronto Archives, the Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan. Drs. Bill Seidelman, Shunbin Xu, Mevlut Yaprak and Cagri Beyhun Serhat provided information about shows in Israel, China, and Turkey.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Radiation OncologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Grand River Regional Cancer CentreKitchenerCanada

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