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Swapping Stethoscopes for Sketchbooks: Using Comics to Make Better Doctors
(July 17, 2018)

PHILADELPHIA, July 17, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Medical students at Jefferson University's Sidney Kimmel Medical College are trading their stethoscopes for sketchbooks in a new Graphic Medicine course that leverages the visual power of comics to teach physicians-in-training lessons in empathy, communication, and observation.

Comic strip by Thomas Jefferson University student, Laura Ayd, from a Graphic Medicine course that teaches medical students to use cartooning to strengthen empathy, communication, and observation skills. The course is part of JeffMD, the new curriculum at Jefferson's Sidney Kimmel Medical College. JeffMD focuses on patient-centered care with early clinical experiences, patient panel discussions that bring lectures to life, and research and humanities requirements that broaden medical education.

Channeling their experiences into a graphic novel format hones the observation skills that are essential for medical students to succeed, while also enhancing their ability to see the world from someone else's perspective through the characters they create. Developing this skillset is a priority in Jefferson's new JeffMD curriculum. A component of the first major curriculum change for the school in 100 years, JeffMD includes required courses in the humanities, to train doctors with the context and empathy to practice patient-centered care.

"At the core of the JeffMD curriculum is the belief that medical students need more than hours sitting in a lecture hall or memorizing terms from an anatomy textbook to confront the deeply complex challenges that face physicians today," Megan Voeller, Director of Humanities at Thomas Jefferson University, said. "Arts-based courses encourage Jefferson students to explore the human experience from a new angle, and use this perspective to shape their approach to patient care."

The Graphic Medicine course instructor, Christian "Patch" Patchell, epitomizes the link between comics and medicine. While undergoing treatment at Jefferson for squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue in 2007, Patch documented the complex emotions and challenges he faced each day through comics. A graphic artist by training, these daily depictions of chemotherapy and radiation represented by monsters and werewolves evolved into "I Put the Can in Cancer: A Journey Through Pictures," a graphic novel that offers a new medium for patients and their care teams to connect. Each Graphic Medicine class that Patch teaches focuses on a topic that will both help the students develop their creativity and empathy as well as understand the utility of creative media as a means of expressing themselves and connecting with patients.  

"I am astounded at how focused these students are on the patient experience, even though they are just beginning their medical training," Patchell said. "The questions they ask about my treatment experience, and their interest in how I expressed that graphically, make it clear that understanding the patients' point of view is genuinely important to them."

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SOURCE Jefferson University’s Sidney Kimmel Medical College

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