Last week, Liz and Jo were in Brighton for the 10th annual Graphic Medicine conference.  Ever since Ian Williams author of The Bad Doctor visited the medical school as part of our Creative Communications seminar series we have been hooked on the idea of graphic medicine as a communication tool and determined to be at the conference. Testament to the welcoming, friendly and open nature of the graphic medicine community not only were we there but we were also invited to present not one but two abstracts of our preliminary explorations into the field.  Happy Days.

People had travelled from far and wide to be at the conference…

… and the conference started with a bang on Thursday evening with a set of 8 lightning talks on topics as diverse as menopause, motherhood, graphic histories of French psychiatry and palliative care, accompanied by wine and food.  We were introduced to the work of Grace Farris, Cara Gormally (check out her cartoon reflections on the conference) and Dana Walrath amongst others and heard about using comics to aid communication with medical students.  Who knew that the Annals of Internal Medicine has a dedicated graphic medicine slot? Many of the audience were live drawing the talks which made for a fascinating Twitter feed (#GM2019).  This one by @DrDevlyn beautifully captures the opening night…

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And there is more live scribing (by Camille Aubry) on the conference website.

As the conference unfolded, there were many, many highlights including thought provoking plenaries from Meg-John Barker and MK Czerwiec, very different but both fascinating. Meg-John spoke about identify, gender, queer thinking and binary assumptions – drawing on their book ‘Queer:  A Graphic History‘.  All beautifully summarised here by Mona Li.

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MK reflected on the story behind the creation of the book ‘Taking Turns: Stories from HIV/AIDS Care Unit 371‘ – a memoir informed by oral history.  Whilst researching the blogpost we came across this piece which provides some insights for those who were unable to hear the keynote lecture.  We also LOVED this slide which illustrates perfectly how to deal with negative feedback!

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Other highlights include, a case study exploring gendered leadership stereotypes in a shared leadership model discussed and presented by Muna Al-Jawad and the beautiful work of Zara Slattery in her Coma Comic.

A recurring theme was the use of comics to tell and process ones’ own story whether that be from the perspective of medical students or individuals with experiences of illness, health and caregiving. We were surprised during a talk by John Pollard and Devlyn McCreight at the apparent lack of evidence on the use of comics within a clinical mental health setting and are very much looking forward to viewing John’s final thesis.

We loved hearing about the public engagement project, Illustrating Futures, a collaboration between David Hering at Liverpool University, Comics Youth CIC and Tate Liverpool which addresses the use of comics and graphic novels in the treatment of mental health issues in children and young people.

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It was a real privilege to hear from people throughout the conference who have been using comics to aid communication and reflection successfully for many years with impressive results.  It definitely made us think about how we can use comics to aid in our work with our patient and public involvement team and how we can communicate the research we do in a way which is more interesting to members of the public. We also wondered about using comics to explore how members of the PenCLAHRC PPI group found being involved with research and, following a lightning talk by Theresa Maatman, whether we could incorporate the use of comics as a reflection tool into our teaching of medical students as a way of enhancing their wellbeing

And of course, we also enjoyed presenting our own work… both as a poster and a lightning talk

It was a really, exciting and inspiring three days – packed full of talks, presentations and workshops with the added benefit of time to explore the local cafes and shops over lunch – a great way to run a conference.  When surrounded by people who take notes like this – it’s difficult not to feel the love for comics and illustration.

Add to this, great coffee not only in the morning but also in the afternoon, fig rolls and teacakes AND a beautiful book in the conference bag and this has to be one of the best conferences we’ve ever attended!  With enormous thanks to the organising committee – Bobbie Farsides, Ian Williams and Muna Al-Jawad.  Next year the conference will be in Toronto… we’ve started planning already!