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Comic Books Teaching Future Doctors

We’ve seen comic books slowly creeping into academia and it looks like that will include medical school. Researchers at the University of Toronto are using graphic novels as a teaching tool. The goal is to teach and communicate the ethical and emotional complexities of illness, disease and trauma. It’s a new tool to communicate the concepts to medical students.

Allan Peterkin, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto said:

Cartoons and comics were dismissed as a trivial medium, but we realize now they are extremely sophisticated. It’s about that interplay between the words and the text. You’re using different parts of the brain to read carefully, just as you’re doing to diagnose in the clinic.

This past week saw the Comics and Medicine conference held at the University of Toronto Healt Centre on College St.. Those attending feel comics are a way to bridge the gap between the medical world and the rest of society. Comics for sale included ones with such titles as Radioactive, Cancer Vixen and The Adventures of Iggy and the Inhalers.

Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary, tackled obsessive compulsive disorder, Catholic guilt and sexuality and was published in 1972. It’s considered the first autobiographic comic.

Graphic novels are used for more than educating; they are used for healing, too. There’s entire companies dedicated to printing comics for those going through treatments or recently diagnosed with a disease and need an easy to understand explanation of the cause or treatment they face.

Neil Phillips, an Australian psychiatrist and conference speaker, said he used principals from graphic novels — panels, a narrative, images and words — to cure a child of warts.

Four-year-old Jake had warts all over him, said Phillips. So, he drew four panels. In the far left panel stood a warthog, sans warts, crying over the loss of said warts. On the far right panel stood a blond boy — Jake — also crying because he had warts.

Phillips instructed Jake to fill in the two middle panels, answering the question: “How did the warthog and the boy get in this predicament?”

It is the fault of a “wicked wombat,” replied Jake, referring a marsupial found in the Outback. Finally, Jake had a way of visualizing his anxieties and a means to alleviate them.

“He came back a month later,” said Phillips, “and there wasn’t a wart on him.”

(via The Star)