In 1955, a medical student by the name of Samuel B. Aronson II was doing research in a lab run by Frank Dixon, M.D. During a “gripe session” at a local pub, the two began to discuss the problems at Pitt. As the discussion progressed, they introduced the idea of a class play.

The idea snowballed and was ultimately presented to the dean of the medical school at the time, William S. McEllroy. Rather than stonewalling the idea, the dean was excited and indeed helped the growing group of medical thespians in their quest. Ross Musgrave became the first advisor.

The group organized – a producer, director, stage manager, business manager, set designer, and 49 other medical students came together with a common goal.

Interestingly, the vice-chancellor demanded to see the script of the very first show, but it was Dean McEllroy that intervened. The vice-chancellor never saw the script, beginning an unbroken tradition of uncensored Scope and Scalpel productions. On May 13, 1955 the premier Scope and Scalpel Society production, PMS IV, was performed to a sold out crowd at the Stephen Foster Memorial Theater.

Since then, the show has grown in huge proportions. It has been the largest nonprofessional theatrical production in Pittsburgh and is the longest running annual theatrical production in this area.

With the generous help of parents, faculty and medical alumni, Scope and Scalpel continues to be one of the most exciting and anticipated events of medical school. We take to heart the postscript of the very first Scope and Scalpel:

“To our successors, to all future PMS IV’s, we offer simple advice: Give it a try!!!


Want to take a walk down memory lane? Please visit Pitt Med’s Scope and Scalpel Collection to view a list of playbills, recordings, and posters from past productions available at the library!