Comics and Medicine Conference- day 3!
Well, our wonderful time here in Toronto is coming to a close. The Comics and Medicine Conference has been amazing, and while we’re sad to say goodbye, we’re totally leaving this city reinvigorated — full of new ideas and inspiration from all the amazing people we met over the past few days.
The morning started with some great sessions, like brand new pediatric intern Jeffrey Monk’s comic retelling of “A Christmas Carol,” now with a medical bent — emphasizing the importance of a physician maintaining empathy throughout his career. We talked briefly afterwards about some of the challenges to empathy that an overworked, sleep-deprived resident can face. It’s all about finding that balance.
Meanwhile, Gary attended Tim Elliot and Brandon Stubberg’s talk on humanizing medicine through graphic storytelling. It sounded like a really interesting endeavor, quantifying the subjective elements of comics to “draw” greater conclusions. For me personally, it was great meeting Tim and finding a kindred comic book fan with whom I could unashamedly nerd out with.
I attended a fantastic session with cartoonist Sandra Bell-Lundy, creator of the daily comic strip “Between Friends.” Call me a sucker for a daily comic strip, but I was really in awe of Ms. Bell-Lundy’s ability to navigate multiple storylines of many characters while still being able to touch on subject matters as serious as domestic abuse, infertility, adoption and breast cancer. Her responses to readers over the years (from personal responses, to actually being moved to alter the course of the story) was fascinating. I learned the depth of public responsibility that comes with writing a globally syndicated daily newspaper strip.
After lunch, we headed to see Ian William (aka Thom Ferrier)’s talk regarding the iconography of illness in comics and graphic novels. Ian is a cartoonist and physician who founded the GraphicMedicine.org website and spearheaded the very first one of these conferences 2 years ago. He’s a really interesting guy and it was great getting to chat with him later in the evening. Just knowing that there were other physician-cartoonists out there was a pretty great feeling.
We then heard Andrew Godfrey speak regarding the relation between the cartoon self and the ‘real’ self in his series The CF Diaries. His work can be seen here: http://itsallaboutthecomics.blogspot.ca/. It’s pretty great stuff. Andrew’s keen insight into his own self perception and views of the world around him is astounding and his art work is very powerful.
After Andrew, Allison Crawford spoke on the representations of the body in medical humanitarian comics. It was a great talk and we were most excited that we weren’t the only ones that used a slide of Superman in our talk!
But for Gary and I, the highlight of the day had to be Leah Eisenberg and Julia-Rose Anderson’s project of transforming the overwhelmingly verbose HIPAA (as well as hospital consent and assent) forms into much more understandable comic-documents. It’s quite an undertaking, and the combination of Leah’s background in law and bioethics and Rose’s design training seem to be up to the task! It’s great work, and we can’t wait to see how it all turns out. Gary and I hope that we can convince them to advise us on making a consent form for our Iggy research!
The day was then wrapped up with an interview by Paul Gravett with Joyce Farmer. She touched on her early work as well as her most recent opus about caring for her elderly parents, Special Exits. She offered wonderful insight into her work and also made us all laugh with a couple of perfectly timed zingers.
Judging from what we saw in the past 3 days, the sky is the limit. ….So we leave Toronto, still giddy with excitement, with many new friends, mentors, sources of inspiration….. and possible future collaborators.
In related news, the Toronto Star did a story on the conference and totally mentioned our comic by name! What an exciting few days its been!