So a Doctor Walks into the Examining Room …

UC Riverside hosts 6th International Conference on Comics and Medicine July 16-18

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UC Riverside will host the 6th international conference on graphic medicine July 16-18. Artwork courtesy of Lydia Gregg

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Cartoonists, scholars and health-care practitioners from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Korea, Germany and the United Kingdom will gather at UC Riverside July 16-18 for the 6th International Comics and Medicine Conference.

The conference, which has as its theme “Spaces of Care,” is open to the public and will feature leading practitioners and scholars of graphic medicine, which is becoming increasingly important in helping patients to better understand their illnesses, find support in the stories of others with similar struggles, and change doctor-patient conversations and policies around patient care.

Speakers will include cartoonists, writers, physicians and scholars addressing topics such as using comics to talk about serious illnesses, suicide prevention, how New Yorker cartoons represent medicine, and techniques and tools of storytelling in graphic medicine.

“This last decade has witnessed a new interest in comics and graphic novels. As a creative medium, the comics form has produced groundbreaking accomplishments while it has gained greater cultural visibility and critical interest,” said Juliet McMullin, associate professor of anthropology. “During the same period, there has been growing awareness on the part of medical and nursing practitioners, patients and families, literary and cultural studies scholars, and teachers in medical humanities that the graphic narrative form offers important resources for communicating a range of medical issues.”

The conference begins on July 16 at 4 p.m. at the Culver Center of the Arts in downtown Riverside, 3824 Main St. Registration is open and may be made online. The cost is $130 general, $80 for students.

“The theme ‘Spaces of Care’ invites us to think about space as a critical element in health care and comics,” McMullin explained. “Receiving medical treatment can affect how we relate to and interact with each other and our environments. Medical care is often thought of as taking place primarily in clinical spaces. A strength of comics is their ability to visualize care beyond those settings to include geographic, physical, ideological, imaginative, temporal and social spaces.”

Since a 2010 article in the British Medical Journal advocated comics as a valuable contribution to medicine, artists, scholars and health care practitioners have organized five international conferences on graphic medicine. Previous conferences were held in London, Chicago, Toronto, Brighton and Baltimore.

Keynote speakers for the Riverside conference include:

  • Carol Tyler, a comic book artist and author of the award-winning trilogy “You’ll Never Know,” a memoir that revolves around her father’s service in World War II and moments of illness that mark family relationships.
  • Steven Keewatin Sanderson, from the Plains Cree nation. He is one of a handful of Native comic book artists, and is the author of “Darkness Calls,” a suicide prevention book, and “An Invited Threat,” a comic about diabetes in Canada’s First Nation communities.
  • Justin Green, comic book artist and author of “Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary,” which is the first graphic novel to delve into the illness of the author and is considered a founding work for graphic medicine.
  • Jared Gardner, professor of English and film studies at the Ohio State University and the author of “Projections: Comics and the History of 21st Century Storytelling” and “Master Plots: Race and the Founding of an American Literature 1878-1845.”

Among other conference speakers are Brian Fies, who in 2004 created the Eisner Award-winning comic strip “Mom’s Cancer,” which describes his mother’s diagnosis of metastatic lung cancer and the family’s struggles in caring for her (; and Joyce Farmer, who created the Eisner Award-nominated book “Special Exits.” There also will be a book-signing by the authors of the recently released “Graphic Medicine Manifesto,” and Dr. Ian Williams, a physician and cartoon artist, will sign copies of his book “The Bad Doctor.”

Conference organizers are McMullin; Dr. David Lo, distinguished professor of biomedical sciences and senior associate dean for research at the UCR School of Medicine; Sherryl Vint, UCR professor of English; Williams; MK Czerwiec, aka Comic Nurse, a registered nurse and artist-in-residence at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine; Dr. Michael Green, professor of humanities and medicine at the Penn State College of Medicine; Susan Squier, Brill Professor of English, Women’s Studies, and Science, Technology and Society Studies at Penn State; Shelley Wall, assistant professor of biomedical communications at the Institute of medical Science, University of Toronto; and Lydia Gregg, an instructor and medical illustrator at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The conference is sponsored by UCR Center for Ideas and Society; UCR ARTSblock; Society for Psychological Anthropology, which was made possible by a generous gift from the Robert Lemelson Foundation; the Arnold P. Gold Foundation; the Vesalius Trust; Penn State University Press; UCR School of Medicine; California State University San Marcos; UCR Graduate Division; Graphic Medicine; UCR School of Public Policy; UCR Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies; and the Tomás Rivera Endowed Chair at UCR.

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-7847
Twitter: bettyemiller

Additional Contacts

Juliet McMullin

Registration information

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