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That phrase makes me pause.

What about you? What does that statement mean to you?

To me, and over 125 people live and in-person (plus more online) at the Graphic Medicine Annual Conference, (Re)Connecting, in Chicago last week, it means that a drawing can be medicinal, therapeutic.

Have you ever had this kind of experience, in which a drawing helps you comprehend something, increases clarity, or perhaps enables you to feel seen and understood?

Those are the qualities of the comic artwork drawn, written, and shared at and at this conference.

I presented a Lightning Talk at the conference, “Here for Good,” about a zine I created that playfully and accurately describes the role of chaplains' work in hospitals. The inspiration for this project was my experiences with a broad range of patients and family members in a suburban New York hospital. These encounters — from delight and acceptance to being not-so-politely asked to leave (without having said more than “Hello, my name is Chaplain Jill.”) spurred me to develop a comic that, in a novel and accessible way, enables patients and their families to make informed choices about whether to engage with chaplains/spiritual caregivers.

Everyone in this session (and another panel I was on) received the zine, a few questions that inquired about the systems they each work and live in, and a feedback form.

I believe that I am bringing “graphic medicine” through visuals to people and systems that don’t have them. I am “nudging” the system for the benefit of its clients by providing information, and that supports clear decision-making.

I want to know what you think too! If you would like to receive the zine as a pdf (I can send directions about how to cut and fold it), please respond to me, at I would love to send it to you and learn about your reactions to it!

I find this engagement with and for others—drawing and writing—a stimulant for me, and the result is medicine for those within my reach. If you’re interested in helping me, extend this reach—let’s chat!

Graphic Medicine aligns well with Visualizing End of Life Issues.

The community of Graphic Medicine, as described on its website, "explores the interaction between the medium of comics and the discourse of healthcare. We are a community of academics, health carers, authors, artists, and fans of comics and medicine." Check it out!

So why is Graphic Medicine a thing? I think my sketch below from one of the conference speakers says it all (I regret not recording who said this):

I shepherded my mother through nine years of long term care and was so appalled that I wrote a book after her death: Dying for Attention: A Graphic Memoir of Nursing Home Care by Conundrum Press. I made it humorous because the topic is so sad, bordering on desperate.

The book was well-received from critics but most importantly from people going through the same experience:

Shortly after my book launched, I saw this ten-minute TedTalk by Calgary cartoonist Sam Hester:

Inspired by this new way to improve communications (and therefore compassion) between family members and the health care providers in nursing homes, I got in touch with Sam and she gave me permission to run with this idea. So, I did. I drew this template and put it on my website for people to download. Below are three examples - the blank drawing, one filled out by a staff member, and another by a family member.

I took the idea to the Canadian Frailty Network Research Day in Fredericton, New Brunswick on May 11 and received encouraging responses. Most people who filled in my short survey were health care providers who loved the idea as did others who simply dropped by to chat. It’s far from a scientific response but certainly encouraging enough for me to pursue next steps.

Next, I spoke with Dr. Sarah Fraser, Co-director of the Medical Humanities program at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. She liked the idea too and gave me leads to pursue professional research support from the Geriatric Medicine department at Dal. And I’ve been in touch with a few nursing homes in Halifax to see if they’re interested in testing the concept.

What do you think of the idea? Any suggestion? Please contact me at It’s all part of Visualizing End of Life Issues!

Here’s a sketch I did at the conference for your viewing pleasure.

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