Want to improve your clinical skills? Have you tried reading comics?

(Reading time: Less than 3 minutes)


Then you should stop by and take a look at our new graphic medicine collection, made possible by a generous gift from Friends of University of Rochester Libraries.

Some people say “graphic novels” or “graphic medicine” and others say “comics.”

But what’s the difference?

Not much.

Basically, it’s the subject matter.

Graphic medicine is defined as, “the use of comics to tell personal stories of illness and health.”

The main characters in these comic books aren’t Superman, Catwoman, or Captain America. They’re not fighting bank robbers and bashing bad guys.

The heroes of these stories are ordinary people. They use imagery, insight, and humor, even while taking on painful, difficult issues like sexual abuse, cancer, and mental health. Their comics help patients and caregivers alike get in touch with the emotional side of illness, treatment, and recovery.

In their 2010 analysis, “Graphic medicine: use of comics in medical education and patient care,” Michael Green and Kimberly Myers argue that comics also are a valuable tool for medicine.

British Medical Journal, copyright 2010

“To read a comic effectively, you must understand not only what is overtly seen and said but also what is implied. This is because much of the action takes place outside the boundaries of comic panels in the blank space known as the gutter. Thus, readers of comics, like doctors in the exam room, must determine meaning by inferring what happens out of sight and without words.”

From a patient perspective the use of graphic stories is nothing new. Graphic images have been used in public health education for decades covering a range of topics from seat belt use to vaccination awareness to pain scales. These graphic campaigns have been so successful because the images bridge the divide where there are verbal communication challenges.

With your UR ID you can borrow items from our graphic medicine collection for three weeks.

Want to browse through the titles in our graphic medicine collection from your own comfy chair? Just throw “graphic medicine” in to the basic “Title Keyword(s)” search box in Voyager (our online catalog).

Voyager catalog



We think this collection is marvelous, and we look forward to expanding it in the future. What do you think?

Let us know.

Submitted by Susan Andersen

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