Turnstone has recently returned from the third Comics & Medicine conference, hosted this year by the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine.
It’s typical, when live scribing, to draw for an audience that’s less familiar with thinking in pictures, so it was an honor, albeit a slightly daunting one, to record the conference in drawings for delegates with both published comics and medical degrees. They couldn’t be a nicer, more talented, more empathic and funnier bunch. Though the conference schedule ran the gamut of contagious diseases, grief, chronic pain, mental ill health and all manner of blood and guts, the tone was light, educated, entertaining, erudite and on to something: Experiences of illness and healing, of physical well-being and its opposite, are by definition corporeal, and encountered, and retold over time in 3-d technicolor. So it is fitting that sequential storytelling belongs in the medical humanities, and it turns out that band aids and comic strips adhere nicely. Highlights included:
- Joyce Brabner’s perspective on revealing (almost) all in Our Cancer Year, the autobiographical work she made with her now late husband, graphic novelist, Harvey Pekar.
- Dr Alan Blum’s hunch that satire could be as powerful a weapon against obesity as it was against smoking
- The Mayo Clinic’s efforts to turn incomprehensible HIPAA forms into clear-as-day cartoon narratives
- Pediatrician Alex Thomas’ Booster Shot comics, teaching kids to use inhalers.