Medical illustration from scientific drawing to comics: discovering Graphic Medicine
In this post, we will dive into the exciting world of medical illustration and explore how scientific drawing merges with the fascinating universe of comics to create what is known as “Graphic Medicine”.
Illustration has been an invaluable tool throughout history in research in the field of medicine and anatomy. From Leonardo da Vinci’s detailed anatomical illustrations to Santiago Ramón y Cajal’s meticulous renderings of neurons, many have used their talents to study and understand the human body through drawing, figuratively or diagrammatically, what they see and what they think.
In addition, medical scientific illustration plays a crucial role as a didactic and documentation tool. These illustrations are used to share scientific and anatomical knowledge among researchers, healthcare professionals, and students. Anatomy atlases such as Frank Netter’s or the figures created for medical publications allow a better understanding of physiological and pathological processes, as well as medical procedures.
But medical illustration goes beyond specialized circles. It has also become a powerful tool for health education and outreach. Medical illustrations, adapted to the general public and also to different ages, allow a direct, accessible and visual understanding of complex medical concepts.
In this sense, I am pleased to share my experience at the Congress of Graphic Medicine, organized by the Spanish Society of Graphic Medicine. This congress, which recently held its third edition in Zaragoza, is dedicated to promoting the value of illustration, infographics and comics in health education. During the event, I was able to witness the work of doctors, nurses and artists from comics, cartoons or illustrated albums… who are dedicated to creating graphic works that help in doctor-patient communication. It was an enriching and inspiring experience that allowed me to see first-hand how illustration can transform the way we understand and relate to health. In addition, I have had the privilege of participating in the exhibition with the recently-published non-fiction children’s/youth book “Genetics explained by Dra. Barbara McClintock” written by Dr. Pablo Barrecheguren and illustrated by my hand.
During the congress, various topics related to the humanization of medicine, mourning, pain, disease and health processes were addressed. One of the presentations focused on how cartoonists from around the world portrayed the fight against the Covid19 pandemic, providing narratives and visual information about symptoms, protections and vaccines. Topics such as women’s health and mental health were also explored, with talks that analyzed works that address cancer, abortion and gender conflicts, as well as the protagonist’s relationship with the disease and doctors in autobiographical works.
Death in the comics was also the subject of attention. Presented by the doctor and illustrator Mónica Lalanda, works that deal with palliative care and grief were presented. In addition, workshops and talks were held that addressed various graphic techniques, such as the creation of infographics, the use of color or visual ways of transmitting emotions.
The Graphic Medicine approach makes it possible to humanize the disease, understand the work and effort of health workers and provide valuable information to both patients and health professionals. On the one hand, it allows professionals to understand the patient’s experience in a deeper and more empathetic way, and it gives patients a way to share their experiences and feel accompanied.
En resumen, la Medicina Gráfica está revolucionando la forma en que se comunica y se comparte el conocimiento médico. Este Congreso ha sido un espacio enriquecedor donde he conocido personas maravillosas y talentosas que generan un puente entre el médico y el paciente a través del arte y de la ciencia.