Graphic medicine connotes the use of comics in medical education and patient care.[1][2]


The phrase graphic medicine was coined by Dr. Ian Williams,[3][4] founder of, to denote "the intersection between the medium of comics and the discourse of healthcare".[5] Comics offer an engaging, powerful, and accessible method of delivering illness narratives.[6] 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.[4]

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.[4][7]

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.[8] The group is concerned with the study of illness narratives, or "pathographies," and works of graphic medicine.[9]


Visual treatment and graphic novels

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. Early newsstand comics that focused on medical topics included EC's Psychoanalysis (1955) and Archie's Adventures of Young Dr. Masters (1964).[10] Other early notable works of graphic medicine include the Strip AIDS anthologies (1987-1988); Al Davison's The Spiral Cage (1990); Milligan & McCarthy's Skin (1992); Pekar, Brabner, and Stack's Our Cancer Year (1993); and Bryan Talbot's The Tale of One Bad Rat (1994–1995).

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 are now commonly at least 150 pages long and focus more on adult struggles with physical or mental illness.[11]

In 2007, while writing a master's dissertation on medical narratives in comics and graphic novels,[12] Ian Williams set up the Graphic Medicine website.[3] 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.[13] 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,[14] 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.[15]

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.[7] The group decided to hold a conference, in 2010 at The University of London,[16] 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.[17] (Author MK Czerwiec lectured in the fall of 2014 at Ypsilanti's St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in support of this grant.)[18] To date, the Ypsilanti District Library collection contains over 200 graphic medicine titles.[19]

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.[20][21][3] The Graphic Medicine Manifesto was the inaugural volume in the ongoing Graphic Medicine series at Penn State University Press,[22] which was originally co-edited by Susan M. Squier and Ian Williams. As of 2023, the series includes more than 20 titles.[23][24]

In 2018, the United States National Library of Medicine launched the exhibition, "Graphic Medicine: Ill-Conceived and Well Drawn!", curated by Ellen Forney, which included a special display, traveling banner exhibition, and online exhibition.[25]

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,[26] 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."[27]

Graphic medicine’s popularity keeps growing across the world.[citation needed] In some clinical settings, graphic medicine is being used to explore therapeutic possibilities.[28] Beyond the US and UK, graphic medicine is practiced and studied in Spain,[29] Taiwan, Germany, India, Singapore, and a host of other nations; for example: Monica Lalanda's Medicina Grafica,[30] the Japan Graphic Medicine Association (JGMA), and the Graphic Medicine Lab in India.

Notable works of graphic medicine



See also

Further reading


  1. ^ Green, MJ; Myers, KR (2010-03-03). "Graphic medicine: use of comics in medical education and patient care". BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.). 340: c863. doi:10.1136/bmj.c863. PMID 20200064. S2CID 33841883.
  2. ^ a b Tuohy, Patricia (July 2018). "Reading graphic medicine". Journal of the Medical Library Association. 106 (3): 387–390. doi:10.5195/jmla.2018.449. PMC 6013142. PMID 29962918.
  3. ^ a b c Ford, Andrea (July 24, 2015). "Graphic medicine takes flight". Stanford Medicine.
  4. ^ a b c Willberg, Kriota (June 12, 2018). "GET A GRIP!: How Graphic Medicine is changing the landscape of medical care". The Beat.
  5. ^ Williams, Ian. "Why "Graphic Medicine" ?". Graphic Medicine. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  6. ^ "Hektoen International". Graphic medicine: how comics are revolutionizing the representation of illness. Archived from the original on 27 March 2013. Retrieved 31 January 2012.
  7. ^ a b Williams, Ian (10 June 2011). "Graphic Medicine #1: Of Comics, Disease and Stigma". Comics Forum.
  8. ^ "First funding period (2016–2021)". PATHOGRAPHICS (2016–2021). Free University of Berlin. 18 November 2019. Retrieved June 16, 2023.
  9. ^ "PathoGraphics". PATHOGRAPHICS (2016–2021). Free University of Berlin. 28 September 2015. Retrieved June 16, 2023.
  10. ^ "Adventures of Young Dr. Masters: Archie, 1964 Series". Grand Comics Database. Retrieved July 18, 2023.
  11. ^ Schneider, E. (2014). "Quantifying and Visualizing the History of Public Health Comics" (PDF). iConference, Berlin, Germany. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2019-10-29. Retrieved 2023-06-26.
  12. ^ Chute, Hillary (March 22, 2019). "GRAPHIC CONTENT: Graphic Novels That Will Diagnose Your Disease". The New York Times.
  13. ^ Winner, Cherie (Feb 16, 2021). "Comics aren't just for kids anymore: Penn State has emerged as a leader in the field of health-themed comics — known as "graphic medicine". Penn State University.
  14. ^ WRIGHT, MARY ELLEN (Mar 13, 2018). "50 YEARS OF ETHICS COURSES AND MORE: For future doctors, humanities classes required at Penn State's medical school in Hershey: Curriculum instituted when College of Medicine opened in 1967". LNP.
  15. ^ "'Comic Nurse' MK Czerwiec Delights Crowd in Keynote on Graphic Medicine". Albion College. April 1, 2022.
  16. ^ Simons, Dean (Jan 5, 2023). "Graphic Medicine Award 2023 opens for submissions and expands to two categories: The second annual Graphic Medicine Award will now take separate submissions for long form and short form work". The Beat.
  17. ^ Reid, Calvin (Jul 3, 2014). "ALA Awards 2014 Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants for Libraries". Publishers Weekly.
  18. ^ HERNDON, DAVE (November 25, 2014). "Comic books and graphic novels called next wave in medical treatment: M.K Czerwiec, also known as "Comic Nurse" recently gave a presentation on using comics in medicine at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ypsilanti". The News-Herald.
  19. ^ "How graphic novels are helping doctors and patients". Ypsilanti District Library. March 2, 2020.
  20. ^ Brown, Luke (2016-07-23). "28th Eisner Awards: The Complete Winners and Nominees". ComicsAlliance. Archived from the original on 2022-10-13. Retrieved 2023-06-16.
  21. ^ Zuger, M.d., Abigail (June 29, 2015). "Review: 'The Bad Doctor' and 'Graphic Medicine Manifesto'". The New York Times.
  22. ^ Alverson, Brigid (Oct 7, 2020). "PSU Press Launches Graphic Mundi Imprint". Publishers Weekly. The new imprint will build on the press's Graphic Medicine series...
  23. ^ "Graphic Medicine". Penn State University Press. Retrieved May 12, 2023.
  24. ^ Eckstein, Joe (Mar 22, 2021). "How Penn State University Press tackled the coronavirus pandemic through comics". Daily Collegian.
  25. ^ "NLM Launches "Graphic Medicine: Ill-Conceived and Well Drawn!"". National Library of Medicine. 2018-01-09.
  26. ^ Czerwiec, MK, ed. (2020). Menopause: A Comic Treatment. Graphic Medicine/Penn State University Press. ISBN 978-0271087122.
  27. ^ Grunenwald, Joe (July 23, 2021). "ComicCon@Home '21: The 2021 Eisner Award winners". The Beat.
  28. ^ Venkatesan, Sathyaraj; Peter, Anu (22 March 2018). "'I Want to Live, I Want to Draw': The Poetics of Drawing and Graphic Medicine". Journal of Creative Communications. 13 (2): 104–116. doi:10.1177/0973258618761406. S2CID 149107320. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  29. ^ "La UNIA inaugura el primer máster en medicina gráfica de España". Europa Press Andalucía (in Spanish). 2021-01-15.
  30. ^ "Medicina gráfica". 2024-02-12.
  31. ^ Jaggers, Alice; Noe, Matthew. "Essential Graphic Medicine: An Annotated Bibliography". Retrieved 28 Jun 2023. Funded by an American Library Association Carnegie-Whitney Grant
  32. ^ Green, MD, MS, Michael J. (June 2015). "Comics and Medicine: Peering Into the Process of Professional Identity Formation". Academic Medicine. 90 (6): 774–779. doi:10.1097/ACM.0000000000000703. PMID 25853686.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  33. ^ "Graphic Medicine & Comics in Healthcare". University of Michigan Library. Retrieved Jan 17, 2024. Here are a few selective examples of graphic medicine works available in the University of Michigan Libraries and online.
  34. ^ "[Re]Framing Graphic Medicine: Comics and the History of Medicine". University of Chicago Library. Apr 19, 2022.