Last week was an exciting one for graphic medicine. We were hosted by the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, MD to celebrate their new exhibit and graphic medicine collection curated by Ellen Forney.
Our celebration day culminated in a panel conversation event with Patricia Brennan, director of the NLM. Director Brennan is a nurse with a unique perspective on the importance of graphic medicine.
“Without graphic medicine we were incomplete…it addresses an unaddressed dimension of health and it provided us a way to archive these expressions of that dimension.” -Patricia Brennan
In an interview for the Graphic Medicine Podcast, director Brennan stresses the important role graphic medicine can play in training clinicians, as research substrate, in communication with clinicians, and as self expression of personal experience with health care. You can listen to that full interview here.
Prior to the panel, historian of medicine Steve Greenberg, the head of Rare Books and Early Manuscripts division, and his colleagues Jeff Reznick, chief of the History of Medicine Division and Rebecca Warlow, head of Images and Archives, gave Michael Green, Ellen Forney, Ellen’s dad, and me (MK) a tour of the history of medicine collection as it relates to graphic medicine. We were in the specially designed Incunabula Room. (Note: Word of the day.)
Jeff Reznick showed us some images from his scholarly work with world war one military publications that he is excited to contemplate as graphic medicine. We had a lively discussion about the boundaries (clear and murky) around what is considered graphic medicine.
As an added bonus, we were shown a document signed by George Washington recommending Dr. Benjamin Rush (namesake of my nursing school) to be the surgeon general (he didn’t get the job).
I was also indulged a few answers to my nerdy questions about the how some of the Presidents died. The most notable learning was that, according to Steve, George Washington requested to be bloodlet before his death, and the guy who did it was in charge of the Presidential stable horses, because he was the best blood letter in town. (The lines between human and animal medicine were not as clearly demarcated back then. Also they employed very different ideas then about medical science.)
BUT I DIGRESS!
Then we were on to our Graphic Medicine panel discussion, which you can watch in its entirety here.
After the panel discussion, we were taken to the NIH bookstore for a fun signing event with CeCe Bell.
For many wonderful photos from the day, check out our joint photo album here. And finally, if you haven’t had enough yet, check out this Voice of America story.
It was a terrific day for all of us and for graphic medicine! Thanks to all who made this possible – Ellen Forney for curating the exhibit, Director Brennan for her obvious and deep commitment to our work, and the entire staff of the NLM for being such incredible hosts. Visit the exhibit if you can, and be sure to check out the online version as well. And don’t forget to check out the interview with Director Brennan which will be posted later this week.