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Graphic Medicine

What's Graphic Medicine?

Quite simply, graphic medicine is the use of comics to tell personal stories of illness and health (NLM, 2018). Increasingly they're being used to help health care providers and patients talk about their experiences, and to help prepare the next generation of healthcare provides (you!). 

The combined language of words and pictures that is the comic medium gives approachability and emotional impact to these personal stories, and even to the clinical data that they sometimes include.  


In the words of the Annals of Internal Medicine, "original graphic narratives, comics, animation/feature, and other creative forms by those who provide or receive health care. They address medically relevant topics—be they poignant, thought-provoking, or just plain entertaining."

Or as RN and cartoonist MK Czerwiec puts it "Comics can make us laugh. They can help us connect, and they can help us learn. Most of all, they can help us see things in a new light. This is exactly what patients and caregivers need when facing the big challenges of life."

What's a Graphic Novel?

This comic strip drawn by Jessica Abel in 2002 is a great introduction to what comics are, how they work, and how to read them.

Answers questions about comic books

Answers more questions about reading comic strips

creative commons attribution-noncommerical-sharealike license

Reading Graphic Novels

You're probably an expert at reading pages just full of words, so reading graphic novels will be a bit of a change for you.

To read, start at the top left corner, work across and then down.What's different:

  • There is important storytelling happening in the illustrations - a lot of contextual information and mood building is never written, only drawn.
  • The way words are written (font, size, positioning) tell you about how they're being said.
  • Each page contains layers of information for you to see and read before you even look at what the characters are saying.

What's the same:

  • Most western authors will start their story at the top left corner of a page and end in the bottom right corner.
  • Any topic or experience that could be the basis of written novel can be the basis of a graphic novel.
  • Expect complex characters, emotional depth, and powerful storytelling.

Graphic Medicine News

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Staying Current

There's lots of conversation happening around Graphic Medicine right now. These are a few of the ways we're staying current on what's happening:

Other Resources for Graphic Novels

Graphic Medicine at MCPHS

The MCPHS Graphic Medicine collection is made possible by a PCA/ACA Douglas A. Noverr Grant. Our collection aims to increase the academic visibility of the expanding field of graphic medicine by being open to interested researchers, welcoming content on a breadth of healthcare topics, and by being an active library resource for interested students and faculty.

This project has been funded in part with federal funds from the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, under Cooperative Agreement UG4LM012347-01 with the University of Massachusetts, Worcester.

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