Friday, 27 April 2012

Comics in medicine

I went to a really interesting talk on comics in medicine, and since it was fascinating I might as well write about it.

There were three speakers, one a doctor who writes comics about her experiences in medicine, one who wrote a graphic novel about the death of her two year old son, and people's reactions to this, and one who wrote a graphic novel about caring for his dying father. I haven't read the novels, though bought them today for post-exam enjoyment. I've never read a graphic novel at all, actually, but have been introduced to the idea of comics being useful for talking about and learning about health and medicine and particularly mental health from I do not have an eating disorder, from which I have learnt so much.

The talks were fascinating, though more academic than I expected - there were discussions on reflection, ethics, narratives and other complex concepts; for some of it I had to stretch my brain cells a bit remembering back to what I learnt about ethics in theology/religious studies A Level! Not what I'd been expecting from a talk about comics, but really interesting. Especially how comics are in the middle of some Venn diagrams, such as  medicine, ethics and art, and also medicine, humour/humanity, and I can't quite remember the third part, it might have been ethics again.

Some points that particularly struck me - a discussion of the expertise of lived experience versus learned expertise. That's one to think about. I think a lot of medical students and junior doctors are probably lacking in the lived experience, but still feel like, or are made to feel like, experts.

Another point was that these comics and graphic novels were not written for catharsis, not to make the author feel better, but more to develop a narrative, "writing to work out what you're writing about" but with drawing as well as writing. One speaker said that catharsis dries up after 10 pages. That struck me since I said the other day that blogging could be cathartic... but I don't want it to be just cathartic, I want it to develop some ideas (I have many) and raise issues and share thinking and not just be a way for me to feel better. So that's my plan.

I also got a super-cool person cartoon-comicbook-character drawn specially for me inside one of the books I bought. It's wishing me luck for my exams.

And I've got recommendations of other things I should read when exams are over. I also read something that reminded me of my intention to read Armistead Maupin when exams are over, must remember that.

So overall, an event worth attending, really made me think, and wonderful to get away from textbooks and learn about amazing books for a bit instead.

Made me kind of wish I could draw comics, and I'd thought that my total lack of artistic skills would make that impossible, but I learnt that comics don't have to be artistically skilled... but I think I have too many words to fit into comic format. And I don't have the kind of imagination for it. Maybe I'll give it a go one day.

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