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Medical Students Study Graphic Novels

Written by Cary Burkett, Arts & Culture Desk and witf Host | Apr 4, 2013 2:09 PM
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Dr. Michael J. Green

 

Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey was the first medical school in the country to have a Department of Humanities, created at the founding of the College in 1967.  Among other things, it has offered courses on medical ethics and professionalism, lectures on medical history, and presentations of one-act plays and staged readings.

Uniquely, the Department also offers 4th-year medical students a chance to participate in a month long class studying medical graphic novels – stories with a medical theme told in comic book format. As a final project, the students create their own comic book stories, relating a personal experience from their own time in medical school.  The students display and discuss their graphic stories at the end of the course.

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Student Jessica Walrath displays her story, "My Dream Vacation"

 Dr. Michael J. Green, Internal Medicine physician at Hershey Medical Center and professor in the Department created the class five years ago. He read comic books growing up, mentioning Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four and Superman as some of his favorites. But around 10 years ago he discovered the Pulitzer-prize-winning graphic novel, Maus, by Art Spiegelman, about the Holocaust. He realized that comics could deal with serious subjects in an effective way. 

 

Dr. Green has shared a personal story of his own in comic-book form. It involved a misdiagnosis brought about by trusting the assurances of another medical professional, which eventually resulted in the patient’s death. That story, illustrated by Ray Rieck, was published in the March 5 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. It marks the first time a story in graphic format has appeared in a mainstream medical journal.

The student stories are available to view on the Penn State College of Medicine website. The first page of Dr. Green’s story, Missed It, is available as a preview on the website of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Below you can hear our interview with Dr. Green and feature on the class.  


 

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