How comics are helping students cope with stress, hardships of med school

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Students at Hershey, Pa.-based Penn State College of Medicine are increasingly turning to comics, or "graphic medicine," to express the unofficial, sometimes harsh, lessons they learn during their time at medical school, according to The Atlantic.

"Graphic medicine" refers to the approach of using comics to teach students about the medical field. The approach was pioneered during the 1960s as part of the academic field of medical humanities, which aims to protect and promote medicine's personal touch. Medical humanists recognized the profession's transition to scientific diagnostics and sought to reaffirm physicians' human connection to their patients.

According to a study conducted by researchers at Hiram (Ohio) College, U.S. universities have approximately four times as many undergraduate programs in medical humanities in 2016 as they did in 2000. Some medical schools have also reportedly introduced medical humanities courses into their curriculums — Penn State College of Medicine allows students to take a medical elective called "Graphic Storytelling and Medical Narratives," according to the Atlantic report.

Medical students have also begun to use comics to tell their own stories and experiences in the medical profession. The authors of the report outline a number of "unofficial" lessons students explore though their own hand-drawn comics, ranging from the fact that the profession maintains a strict hierarchy and medical students are constantly reminded they are at the bottom, to the notion that students will have to sacrifice their wellbeing in order to get ahead, according to the report.

To view the comics, click here.

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