Graphic medicine connotes use of comics in medical education and patient care.
The phrase graphic medicine was coined by Dr. Ian Williams, founder of GraphicMedicine.org, to denote "the intersection between the medium of comics and the discourse of healthcare". Comics offer an engaging, powerful, and accessible method of delivering illness narratives. The academic appraisal of graphic fiction is in its infancy, but its examination by academics involved in healthcare-related studies is increasing, with work emerging in journals.
It is notable that the medical humanities movement in many medical schools advocates the framework and use of literature in exploring illness, from practitioner and patient perspectives.
A late-2010s entry to the scholarly study of graphic medicine is the PathoGraphics Research Group, an Einstein Foundation-funded project at the Free University of Berlin (2016–2019) under the direction of Irmela Marei Krüger-Fürhoff, and with the collaboration of Susan M. Squier of the Pennsylvania State University. The group is concerned with the study of illness narratives, or "pathographies," and works of graphic medicine.
Comic books centered around public health originated in the 1940s; the earliest examples averaged around twelve pages and were aimed at preventive instruction for children.
Since the turn of the 21st century, dozens of comics and graphic novels have been published that address such health topics as depression, drug abuse, and PTSD. The genre has evolved and such graphic novels and are now commonly at least 150 pages long and focus more on adult struggles with physical or mental illness.
In 2007, while writing a master's dissertation on medical narratives in comics and graphic novels, Ian Williams set up the Graphic Medicine website. During this period, he found two essays by Susan M. Squier on the topic; Squier is Penn State's Brill Professor of English and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and she teaches graphic medicine to Ph.D. students at Penn State. Scholars from around the world who were interested in comics and healthcare began to get in touch, notably Professor Michael Green, who had recently set up a graphic narratives course at Hershey Medical School at Penn State University, and MK Czerwiec, a.k.a. "Comic Nurse", who had, for many years, been recording her experiences as an HIV/AIDS hospice nurse in comics form.
Green invited his colleagues Kimberley Myers, of the Medical Humanities Program at Penn State Milton Hershey Medical School, and Susan M. Squier, whose work Williams had encountered earlier, to the discussion group, and Williams introduced Maria Vaccarella, Giskin Day, and Columba Quigley. The group decided to hold a conference, in 2010 at The University of London, which led to a series of annual international conferences with presentations that are frequently posted as podcasts after the conference.
In 2014, the first American Library Association Will Eisner Graphic Novel Growth Grant was awarded to Ypsilanti District Library, (Ypsilanti, Michigan) for its proposal to build a collection of graphic medicine narratives. (Author MK Czerwiec lectured in the fall of 2014 at Ypsilanti's St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in support of this grant.) To date, the Ypsilanti District Library collection contains over 200 graphic medicine titles.
Penn State University Press published The Graphic Medicine Manifesto in 2015, which was nominated for the Eisner Award for Best Academic/Scholarly Work in 2016. The Graphic Medicine Manifesto was the inaugural volume in the ongoing Graphic Medicine series at Penn State University Press, which was originally co-edited by Susan M. Squier and Ian Williams. As of 2023, the series includes more than 20 titles.
In 2018, the United States National Library of Medicine launched the exbition, "Graphic Medicine: Ill-Conceived and Well Drawn!", curated by Ellen Forney, which included a special display, traveling banner exhibition, and online exhibition.
In 2020, Technical Communications Quarterly published a special issue on comics and graphic storytelling. This issue included a category of research articles examining graphic health communication.
In 2021, Menopause: A Comic Treatment, published as part of the Graphic Medicine/Penn State University Press series, and edited by MK Czerwiec, won the Eisner Award for Best Anthology. In addition, Mimi Pond won the Eisner Award for Best Short Story for her contribution to the book, "When the Menopausal Carnival Comes to Town."
Graphic medicine’s popularity keeps growing across the world. In some clinical settings, graphic medicine is being used to explore therapeutic possibilities. Beyond the US and UK, graphic medicine is practiced and studied in Spain, Taiwan, Germany, India, Singapore, and a host of other nations; for example: Monica Lalanda's Medicina Grafica, the Japan Graphic Medicine Association (JGMA), and the Graphic Medicine Lab in India.
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The new imprint will build on the press's Graphic Medicine series...
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