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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Alice Dembner
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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Short White Coat: Let the games begin

Short White Coat is a blog written by first-year Harvard medical student Ishani Ganguli. Ishani's posts appear here, as part of White Coat Notes. E-mail Ishani at

Iíve worn the same T-shirt every day this week. Itís not because of my pressing need to do laundry so much as team solidarity ó- this Friday, my medical school society (Cannon) plans to beat out the others in the Society Olympics, and our matching goldenrod shirts are just the start of our efforts.

Harvard Med is divided into societies named after big-time physicians of years past (Dr. Walter Bradford Cannon discovered the "fight or flight" phenomenon). For most of the year, the main differences between them are the quirks of society masters, the amount of toner in the society printer, and whether our food funds are directed towards post-exam ice cream or weekly lunches. On Friday, all five societies will be facing off in a series of epic battles to win bragging rights and, according to rumors, a pink flamingo.

Some of the events are more traditional, ones you could imagine taking place at ancient Greek medical schools: tug of war, limbo, a dance-off, dodgeball, and a low-fat pie-eating contest. In the HMS version of Iron Chef, weíll have to create a going away cake with $8 worth of vending machine snacks for retiring Dean Joe Martin.

Leading up to this Friday, pranks abound. Yesterdayís microbiology quiz was preceded by two Speedo-clad David Hasselhoff impersonators running across the front of the auditorium. Cannon Society planted a few extra multiple-choice questions on the quiz, which Cannonites took while sporting white bandanas "borrowed" from another society's costume scheme. Itís a rare lecture this week that isnít supplemented with a video clip or Powerpoint presentation promoting one of the societies or mocking another. An impediment to learning? Iíd argue itís more like motivation to go to class.

Besides society bonding, and a needed outlet for spring restlessness, there are other benefits coming out of this mammoth endeavor: the good deeds that have been incentivized by the promise of Olympics points. We get them for every sweater we donate or community organization for which we volunteer. With the pass now/pass later grading scheme at HMS, former pre-meds need another way to flex their competitive muscles, and community service is a better choice than most.

Let the games begin! Check in with ShortWhiteCoat for an update on the competition (ie. when Cannon wins).

Posted by Ishani Ganguli at 08:50 PM
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