There’s no doubt about it, Northwestern University medical students have been gifted with many talents and interests outside the realm of health care and medicine. And through the decades they have created outlets to showcase their diverse abilities in writing, acting, singing, dancing, playing instruments, and even juggling.
Since the 1980s, the annual sketch comedy show – In Vivo – written and produced by medical students at Northwestern University, is one way these doctors-in-training have shared their abilities through live performances. In the 1950s, as alumnus Alon Winnie, MD ’58, recently reminded us, there was a themed musical comedy created by medical students for alumni called, “Quo Vadis Medicus?” (translation – “Where are you going, physician?”) According to Galter Special Collections librarian Ron Sims, the show ran from 1952 to 1959.
In 1958, the name of the Quo Vadis Medicus? production was “Bachelor’s Degree,” and it followed the progress of a young man who had gone off to medical school. One of the original songs featured in the show was “Alma Mater Medica.” Dr. Winnie kindly sent us a DVD of the performance of this song, which he wrote and composed with two other medical students, Bob Gale, MD ’58, and Harlan Smith, MD ’58. Dr. Gale, who Dr. Winnie describes as “brilliant,” wrote the score for the orchestra. Dr. Winnie wrote the lyrics and Dr. Smith, who was offered a job to play in a swing band before medical school, played piano.
“We performed the song as part of the show, in a scene where the freshmen were being welcomed to the school by the upper classmen (including the Dean!). We were proud that our productions had become so professional that someone came in to tape it,” explains Dr. Winnie.
Including a 13-member orchestra (some of whom were professors who played instruments), a cast of 30 to 40 medical students were involved in the production that year, recalls Dr. Winnie, who served as chair of anesthesiology at the University of Illinois Medical Center for 20 years and then at Cook County Hospital for another 10 after that.
Listen to the beautiful harmonizing of the cast of Quo Vadis Medicus? from 1958 and you can’t help but feel the pride that swelled in these students for their alma mater, Northwestern University Medical School.
“As you pointed out the way, Alma Mater Medica,
Grateful we will always be, for those med school days,
We shall cherish always, at Northwestern University …”
That’s all for now — Ron Sims (Galter Health Sciences librarian) and Michele Weber (Ward Rounds editor)