Monday, June 21, 2010

Comics and Medicine conference

The Comics and Medicine conference last Thursday was wonderful! It was an example of a truly interdisciplinary conference, with authors, educators, researchers and commentators all represented and contributing to a very inspiring day. Delegates came from all over the world to share their expertise. It really did feel like the inception of an important new movement in medical narrative. The conference programme is here. All the talks were very worthwhile. It was particularly thrilling to meet the lovely Brian Fies, author of Mom's Cancer which has become a classic in the genre of autobiographical comics.

For the interested but ignorant, like me, Paul Gravett provided a very useful survey of the field, putting key titles in context. His comprehensive, cross-genre website is well worth visiting. For specifically medical comics, Ian Williams's website Graphic Medicine is a treasure trove of titles.

Whilst there are many patient-authored comics, ones by doctors and other health professionals are still relatively rare. GP Thom Ferris has a witty webcomic called Fear of Failure featuring Dr Lois Pritchard. I particularly like the narrative style of Thom's work: multiple smaller panels show the throughput of patients, body parts and symptoms, replete with the constant interuptions of a ringing phone.

Phillipa Perry has just published Couch Fiction, illustrated by her talented, one-time housekeeper. Along with a strong storyline, there are annotations explaining the psychotherapy underpinning the action. I have a signed copy and I'm finding it a fascinating read. It was also interesting to meet Daryl Cunningham, former psychiatric nurse who has drawn on his experience to write Psychiatric Tales.

I must congratulate Fatimah Mohamied, a former student on my Medical Humanities course at Imperial College, who developed her work on medical manga and gave a cracking presentation!
I came away from the conference feeling more confident about using graphic novels in my teaching, inspired by Michael Green and Susan Squire from Penn State University who have a great humanities programme within the medical school; Stella Williams from the West Indies who uses comics to teach communication skills; and Linda Raphael from Washington who spoke about using autobiographical comics.

Well done to Ian Williams for being the driving force behind such a great conference, and to the Wellcome Trust who sponsored the event.


Brian Fies said...

Meeting you was one of the highlights of the conference for me. I thought Fatimah was terrific as well. Thanks for the nice comments here and in person, I hope we have more opportunities to talk at future events like this one.

The FlaminDessa said...

Thank you for the shout Giskin and thank you for the compliment Mr. Fies!! I absolutely loved your presentation and it brought be to an entirely new precipice of thought. I hope to hear more of you and look foreward to reading your new graphic novel!