Graphic Medicine: Making Comics at NYU School of Medicine

Kriota Willberg & Katie Grogan

In the Fall of 2018, the Master Scholars Program in Humanistic Medicine (MSPHM) at NYU School of Medicine launched a new course called “Graphic Medicine,” developed by cartoonist and educator Kriota Willberg. Participants studied comics and graphic novels depicting various aspects of health and illness, discussed bioethical topics represented in graphic medicine, and drew comics of their own.

The MSPHM offers innovative courses in medical humanities, designed to cultivate students’ creative and intellectual interests typically underrepresented in medical education. These courses engage medicine in dialogue with history, literature, philosophy, writing, and the visual arts. They push the limits of the biomedical model and explore other frameworks for understanding health, illness, and the human condition. Examples include “Art and Anatomy,”a drawing course that takes place in the Anatomy Lab, and “Germs and People,” a course about this history of infectious diseases.

The “Graphic Medicine” course culminated in this candid, poignant, and funny mini comic. It features a selection of the in-class exercises completed by the participants. Assignments included: graphically representing symptoms and cognitive states; drawing comics strips sharing something participants wished their patients knew about them; relating an experience that may lead to burn-out; creating organ mascots; and more.

Participants:

Kriota Willberg is a cartoonist who draws from decades of experience as a massage therapist and educator in health sciences and the arts. She is the author of Draw Stronger: Self-Care For Cartoonists& Other Visual Artists and was the inaugural artist-in-residence at the New YorkAcademy of Medicine Library.

Katie Grogan, DMH, MA is Associate Director of the Master Scholars Program in HumanisticMedicine, Co-Director of the Rudin Fellowship in Medical Ethics and Humanities, and Adjunct Instructor of Medical Humanities at NYU School of Medicine.

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