Intended for healthcare professionals

Student BMJ Student

Medical memes

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: (Published 13 March 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m531
  1. Anna Harvey, BMJ editorial scholar
  1. aharvey{at}

Memes have become part of medicine’s hidden curriculum. But are they a good way to bring a sense of humour to the serious world of medicine?

As Clare Gerada, GP partner, pointed out in her column in The BMJ, “becoming a doctor is more than just mechanistically learning the vast amount of information needed to diagnose and treat disease—it’s about becoming one with the profession.”1 This hidden curriculum of medicine is something medical students and junior doctors are expected to pick up organically during their time on the wards—and something we’ve discussed on our Student podcast, Sharp Scratch.2

But the medical firms that traditionally trained doctors no longer exist,3 long hours have been fragmented by shift work, and medical students rarely work with the same teams for long. Perhaps this means less opportunity for students to absorb the typical customs and habits of the medical profession. As with many other aspects of practice, some of this culture has moved online.4 In this article we look at a new aspect of medic culture—the growth of medical internet memes, and talk with the people who make them and those who enjoy them.

A short history of the meme

The term meme is thought to have been used first by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene …

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