A Novel Graphic Medicine Curriculum for Resident Physicians: Boosting Empathy and Communication through Comics

J Med Humanit. 2020 Dec;41(4):573-578. doi: 10.1007/s10912-020-09654-2.


Curricular design that addresses residency physician competencies in communication skills and professionalism remains a challenge. Graphic Medicine (GM) uses comics, a medium combining text and images, to communicate healthcare concepts. Narrative Medicine, in undergraduate medical education, has limited reported usage in Graduate Medical Education (GME). Given the time constraints and intensity of GME, we hypothesized that comics as a form of narrative medicine would be an efficient medium to engage residents.The authors created a novel curriculum to promote effective communication and professionalism, focusing on empathy, compassion and cultural competency. A four-week curriculum was delivered in a neurology residency program. Excerpts from non-fiction graphic memoirs about neurological conditions were read, discussed, and paired with prompt-driven drawing exercises. Qualitative surveys were used to assess acceptability of comics, usefulness of comics to convey patient illness experience, and perception of patient needs for physician-patient communication.Ninety-seven percent of residents reported the sessions were a good use of their time. Residents identified new symptoms of neurologic disorders, articulated patient communication needs, and expressed increased empathy after participation. Residents participated in drawing exercises, but these were not formally analyzed. Graphic medicine is a well received format that may build communication skills and increase empathy.

Keywords: Communication skills; Compassion; Graphic medicine; Narrative medicine.

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Curriculum
  • Empathy
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Physicians*