On Saturday, the Yale School of Medicine’s fourth-year students donned scrubs, bald caps and fake potbellies as they parodied their professors and mocked their medical training in an original musical.
Titled “The Final Master Course,” the show drew over 200 faculty, students and family members to Mary S. Harkness Auditorium across the two showings of the musical. Centered around the medical school’s 2015 curriculum change — which shortened the length of preclinical education — the musical offered its participants a bonding experience before graduation.
“A lot of our commentary is on this new curriculum and what it means,” executive producer Jack Zhao ’14 SOM ’20 MED ’20 said. “Obviously there is a lot of inside jokes and the classic stuff. We talk about our professors — we love them dearly, but we make fun of them in the show because it’s funny.”
Before the curriculum change, previous medical students produced a musical parody commemorating the first two years of their medical education. But, according to Zhao, when the medical school shortened the time they spent in the classroom to only 1 1/2 years, his class did not have enough time to produce its musical until its fourth year.
Zhao said the idea for the show grew from the class’ experiences with the new curriculum and from being “guinea pigs” for new initiatives. Before the change, members of the medical school community worried that the new curriculum would impact how prepared Yale’s medical students were as they pursued residency programs after graduation, according to Zhao.
“We’re fine,” Zhao said. “We’re well prepared for residency. We’re all going to graduate and we’re going to be great doctors.”
In addition to mocking the students’ professors, the musical also poked fun at the time students spent training at Yale New Haven Hospital. The acting was broken up by skillful singing to medical-themed covers of popular songs such as Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” and Jason Derulo’s “In My Head.”
The musical’s first showing Saturday afternoon drew a tame crowd of faculty and families. But medical students packed into Harkness Hall to watch the second showing later in the evening.
Raman Nelakanti MED ’21 GRD ’21, an joint medical and doctoral degree student who played a student in the musical who was part of the same program, told the News that he was most proud that the show impacted the students who watched.
“One first year med student told us that they felt better about their struggles with med school,” he said. “My grad school friend said that it confirmed that he made the right decision not to go into medicine.”
Producing the show proved to be a difficult but rewarding experience, according to co-director Adam Nolte MED ’19. The greatest challenge, he said, was maintaining the “creative momentum” as the production team balanced work on the musical and their challenging fourth year of medical school, which typically includes residency interviews that require visiting hospitals across the country.
Still, Nolte said that members of the class dedicated significant time to producing the show. He said that one participant, Michelle Ferreira MED ’20, who chose to take a fifth year at the medical school, “spent all of her available hours” during the past month arranging music. Andrea Roberts MED ’19, he added, provided “constant” encouragement and advice that she drew from previous theater experiences.
“This was truly a year long team effort,” Nolte wrote in his email. “It wasn’t always easy, but I will look back at it as the most memorable experience from med school and one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”
School of Medicine Associate Dean for Student Affairs Nancy Angoff SPH ’81 MED ’90 — who was portrayed by Kayla Isaacs MED ’20 — attended the show and said that the students were “very talented.”
To the students who produced and acted in the musical, the experience helped bring the class together before they scatter across the country to pursue residency programs or other opportunities after graduation.
“A lot of people know where they’re going to be for the next three to seven years,” Zhao said. “It’s like a last big hurrah for our class. This is the last time we’re going to be in one place, besides graduation.”
For Nolte, the show was a way to engage with classmates he had not seen for a while. He said that he values the friends he has made during his time at the medical school and that he was glad he was able to spend time with his classmates while working on the show.
Though Nolte said that he tries to not think about graduation, he added that “it certainly got the best of me on show night.”
The School of Medicine class of 2019 has 88 members.
Marisa Peryer | email@example.com