Graphic medicine draws on the talents of comic book artists and writers to present a fresh perspective on the patient experience. JC Cooper dropped in on an event that explored this bold new medium in Pegasus’s home city of Brighton.
The panel discussion “Say Aaaah!: a Spoonful of Graphic Medicine” presented a fascinating insight into this highly visual communication of people’s experiences of healthcare.
If the term ‘graphic novel’ conjures up mental images of superheroes in tight lycra, you may well be behind the times. Unless of course your idea of a superhero is a GP with a passion for cycling, like the protagonist in Ian Williams’ semi-autobiographical book The Bad Doctor.
For years, graphic novels and comics have been dismissed as the stuff of teenage bedrooms, but they have been enjoying a resurgence and re-branding as a highly accessible way to tell a complex story.
The medium has been utilised repeatedly to present challenging topics in a highly emotive and engaging way (such as Guy Delisle’s Jerusalem), and in the healthcare sphere, these publications stand in stark contrast to the often dry presentation of medical materials that don’t always resonate with their intended audience.
The event, staged at Waterstone’s and organised by local publishing agency Myriad, constituted a panel of graphic novel authors detailing their own experiences of healthcare and medicine.
The previously mentioned Ian Williams, Guardian cartoonist and founder of Graphic Medicine.org, wrote his book from the viewpoint of life as a GP and his own personal struggles dealing with OCD.
Aneurin (Nye) Wright (Things to do in a Retirement Home Trailer Park) and Henny Beaumont (Hole in the Heart) talked about navigating the healthcare systems as a carer – Nye’s story follows the trials of caring for his father with COPD, while Henny’s unpacks the reactions of the family, healthcare professionals
and wider society to their baby being born with Down’s Syndrome.
“The medium has been utilised repeatedly to present challenging topics in a highly emotive and engaging way”
Interestingly, some of these books have been set as reading for medical students early on in their university courses to reinforce the human stories behind their future patients. Many have received positive responses from people dealing with similar situations.
This patient-centred approach to discussing health issues through such an engaging medium looks set to become more popular. And for those looking to engage audiences and aid them in digesting complicated, fraught topics, graphic medicine may prove a powerful tool.
Image credits: Thom Ferrier