The Importance of Graphic Medicine

Why is graphic medicine important?

I’ve been having trouble figuring out a way to say why graphic medicine is important.  The issue is not that there aren’t reasons why it’s important, but rather that there are so many reasons. Different things are important to different people for so many reasons. What if my reasons don’t matter to someone else?  What if they would rather hear about a different reason? It’s been making me second guess myself. Regardless, I’m going to have to take the plunge and try.

Among the many reasons why graphic medicine is important are: understanding, education, communication, research, meaning-making, reflection, empathy, diversity/cultural competency, community, ethics, and therapy. Graphic medicine is important from two different directions: consuming and creating. I wish I had room to explain every one of the items in this list, but no one wants to read a blog post that’s the equivalent of dozens of pages. (If you are interested in reading dozens of pages about this, I suggest you read Graphic Medicine Manifesto.)

These are all interconnected and important for various reasons.  Understanding connects education, communication, and research. In one instance, it could mean making a patient and/or family member aware of information about a new or existing illness. In another, it could mean teaching students over the entire age spectrum about health.

Graphic medicine is a powerful tool in communicating information about health and improving the lives of people with health conditions and their families. Graphic medicine conveys a unique perspective on health conditions. Comics as a medium has a unique ability to increase understanding.  The mixture of visual and written information helps the reader understand and remember the contents. It also provides a boost in relating to the characters. This helps with empathy and community. It provides the feeling that you are not the only one out there grappling with this.

Graphic medicine has the ability to improve empathy and communication between healthcare professionals and patients. Health professionals reading graphic medicine, especially titles pertaining to the patient or family experience, are better able to empathize and relate to patients and their families.

Graphic medicine can used as a process of ‘meaning-making.’  This means learning, understanding, and/or discovering some sort of meaning or ‘Truth’ from a past experience. In this case, this is most common with the creation of graphic medicine.  Healthcare students and professionals can reflect back on past experiences by creating a comic. It often helps them to deal with the stresses of healthcare. This also holds true for patients and their families. Creating a graphic medicine title can help provide closure or perspective on a health episode.

An example of an educational graphic medicine book is The Stuff of Life by Mark Schultz and illustrated by Zander and Kevin Cannon. They use a fictional framed narrative to explain the nonfiction topics of biology, DNA, and natural selection. It is able to leverage the comics medium to illustrate these topics, aiding the reader’s comprehension and memory.

An example of a more empathy-based book is Cancer Vixen. This follows the creator, Marisa Acocella Marchetto, as she discovers her breast cancer and moves through the emotions that come with a cancer diagnosis. Her journey can help anyone affected by cancer, whether as a patient or a loved one, or even a healthcare provider, see how one person coped with her experience. In the process, they might find some similarities or help with their own experiences.

Do you have additional reasons or questions about my reasons?  Do any reasons resonate with you. Please leave a comment.

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