Making Graphic Cancer Comics: Collaboration, Drawing, Reflection, and Joy in Medical Education

Cora Olson, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine

New Orleans 2019: Living with

This exhibit will highlight an innovative approach to medical education—drawing graphic comics about cancer—and discuss the results of this approach as a means of providing medical students with tools they can transfer into medical practice. Over the past two years, medical students at Virginia Tech Carilion’s School of Medicine have been asked to draw a nine panel comic depicting some aspect of cancer in a class on the medical humanities. Prior to this the students read about the social context of cancer amongst India’s urban poor, several personal narratives on cancer, and a short graphic novel depicting the author’s mother’s bout with brain cancer. The students then collaboratively draw a short graphic cancer story and share it with their classmates. In 2018, we asked the students five questions about the project and found that it contains potential as a means of promoting physician joy and well being outside of the class setting. The majority of the students enjoy the project. They enjoy it because it involves drawing, imaging collectively (collaborating), reflecting, and story sharing. This exhibit will highlight how this innovation creates joy for the students and invite 4S participants to draw their own collaborative graphic illness narratives in 30 minute sessions.