Reading and creating health-themed comics helps medical students transition from laypersons to physicians, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis at Penn State College of Medicine. Researchers found that integrating comics into a medical school humanities program allowed students to reflect on the formation of their professional identities and fostered cognitive and behavioral skills needed to be good doctors.
Comics might not seem like required reading for medical students, but that’s just what’s on the syllabus for a unique course taught at Penn State College of Medicine. The class, called Graphic Storytelling and Medical Narratives, is offered to fourth-year students through the college’s Department of Humanities.
Michael Green, a professor of humanities and medicine, began teaching the month-long course six years ago. To date, 58 medical students have taken his seminar-style elective. The book-length graphic narratives Green selected for reading and discussion include both true and fictional accounts of patients and their loved ones dealing with illness. As the course progresses, his students create their own comic around a formative experience from medical school. Along the way, creative exercises stimulate reflection and help the students refine their drawing and writing skills.
Green’s new analysis, based on student surveys collected since the course began, found that reading and creating comics helps students with practical doctoring skills, such as experiencing more empathy, noticing non-verbal communication and being more aware of how they are seen by patients. He published his results in Academic Medicine.
Students’ comics generally express five themes: how I found my niche, the medical student as patient, reflections on a transformative experience, connecting with a patient and the triumphs and challenges of becoming a doctor.
From Africa to Hershey: Lionel Kankeu Fonkoua’s journey has relied on the support of people around him
UPDATE (5/18/2015): Lionel Kankeu Fonkoua at graduation with his mentor, Dr. Jill Smith.
Editor’s Note: Penn State College of Medicine will hold its 45th commencement ceremony this Sunday, May 17 at Founders Hall on the Milton Hershey School campus. This year, 129 medical students and 76 graduate students will receive degrees.
The commencement address will be delivered by Elizabeth Atnip, medical student class representative and daughter of Dr. Robert Atnip, a Penn State Hershey physician and faculty member, and Shane A.J. Lloyd, graduate student representative.
Dr. Bradford C. Berk, senior vice president for Health Sciences at the University of Rochester and CEO of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), will be the guest speaker. Berk was recruited to URMC in 1998 as chief of the Cardiology Division. He founded URMC’s Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute. Berk then served as chairman of medicine until 2006, when he became CEO.
Penn State Medicine will post photos from commencement next week.
Medical school is tough. It’s even tougher when English is your second language and the support of your family is an ocean way in the capital city of Yaoundé in Cameroon, Africa.
For Lionel Kankeu Fonkoua, his success is found in the support he’s received from the people around him since stepping off an airplane in Miami 10 years ago when he was 17. That support has helped shape his journey through his schooling, and now the beginning of his career.
Kankeu Fonkoua is a member of Penn State College of Medicine’s Class of 2015, which graduates this Sunday.
“My story starts with my paternal grandmother passing away from stomach cancer,” Kankeu Fonkoua said. “That’s when I started to learn a little about cancer. I was very intrigued. It’s been a driving force since then.”
After considering attending college in France (Cameroon is a former French colony), he decided to come to the United States.
“When I was leaving, my maternal grandmother gave me about $2,000 — which here may not be a lot, but back home is years of savings — just because she believed in me. That was all she had and she gave it to me.” (more…)
Editor’s note: The Penn State College of Medicine Class of 2015 graduates this Sunday, May 17. This story highlights a program started by Christian McEvoy and Nicole Stevens, members of the Class of 2015.
Medical students often hope they grow into a physician who makes a difference.
Some start making that difference as soon as they enter medical school.
Penn State College of Medicine graduating medical student Christian McEvoy has left his mark on elementary health and nutrition education in Pennsylvania through a program he created called HealthSLAM.
HealthSLAM is designed to teach fourth and fifth grade students healthy eating habits at a time in their lives when they are learning to think for themselves.
McEvoy said fourth and fifth grade are also the years when children seem to begin development of what will become their adult habits.
“It’s a time in which some children are starting to have buying power in their family unit, so they are going to the grocery store with mom and dad or whoever’s taking caring of them and they are able to say ‘I would like that, I don’t want that,'” McEvoy said.
McEvoy started the program about three years ago when awarded the Department of Humanities Clouser Award, which provides $1,500 in funding for innovative projects. His idea was to revamp an existing program.
Penn State College of Medicine is nearing the end of the inaugural year of its Systems Navigation Curriculum (SyNC) that embeds first-year medical students into the healthcare system as patient navigators.
The first-of-a-kind innovative and novel academic program was made possible by a $1 million grant from the American Medical Association, awarded to the college last year for its ideas for reshaping medical education.
The experience offers future physicians a look at what patients often face when trying to maneuver through a complex and often confusing healthcare delivery system. It helps students understand the healthcare system as a whole and not just their individual roles.
“In the long run, it will help them become better physicians because they will have a better understanding of what the patient goes through at home, outside the healthcare system,” said Deanna Graaf, patient navigation coordinator. “The curriculum gives the students a holistic view of the patient. It allows them to see other factors that affect patient care, not just the medical diagnosis.”
In observance of Child Abuse Prevention Month, a pinwheel garden sits at the base of the statue in front of Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. The 197 pinwheels represent the number of children who were evaluated by the Child Protection Team of the Penn State Hershey Center for the Protection of Children in 2014.
The Center was created in 2011 and also includes the Transforming the Lives of Children (TLC) Clinic.
The Child Protection team sees children in both the Medical Center and the outpatient clinic sites for suspected physical abuse, neglect, or sexual abuse. Referrals come from community agencies such as Children and Youth Services (CYS) and from physicians in the community as well as the Children’s Hospital network.
”We help evaluate injuries and the medical condition of children,” said Dr. Kate Crowell, a pediatrician on the Child Protection Team. “We determine if injuries are consistent with the history provided, with a medical diagnosis or consistent with abuse/neglect. We speak with families about their medical history and social history, identify potential safety risks that may exist, and assist medical providers with the care of their patients. We work in conjunction with CYS by providing them medical information that is pertinent to their investigation. CYS is involved with ensuring the safety of the home, with formulating safety plans (when necessary) and with communication with law enforcement.”
The Center’s TLC Clinic, which started in the fall, provides a medical home for children in out-of-home placement (foster or kinship care) and mental health services for children who have experienced trauma (abuse or neglect). The mental health services include parent-child interaction therapy as well as trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy.
The blue pinwheel is the symbol of Prevent Child Abuse America. For more information, visit preventchildabuse.org.
For More information on the Center for the Protection of Children, visit pennstatehershey.org/protection-of-children.
Joseph Jilka is in the business of innovation. As Penn State College of Medicine’s newest associate dean for research innovation and director of the Office of Technology Development, his focus is helping faculty bring new technologies from their research labs to the marketplace.
Since joining Penn State Hershey in March, Jilka has been impressed with the culture of innovation he’s experienced here.
“Although I expected it, I still was pleasantly surprised by the open, collaborative atmosphere here,” Jilka said. “Everybody is pulling together, everybody is working together. I can think of three words when I think of what I’ve experienced here so far: open, collegial and collaborative. I’ve been surprised by that — in a good sense of the word.”
With his mix of science and business backgrounds, Jilka brings a wealth of practical experience and multifaceted interests to his role.
After earning a degree in music, he moved to the scientific world and went on to receive his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, followed by a post-doctoral opportunity at an agriculture company.
“In hindsight, that experience was fun because I was there when they were first starting to understand the rules for expressing a foreign protein in plants.”
His work led him to a seed company, where an effort looking to use corn as a protein warehouse was spun off into a start-up company.
Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center has elevated two faculty members to key leadership positions: Dr. Dan Shapiro will serve as vice dean for faculty and administrative affairs, and Dr. Erika Saunders has been named chair of the Department of Psychiatry.
Shapiro, currently chair of the Department of Humanities, will continue in that role as he also serves in the vice dean position. One of his priorities will be elevating the culture of respect at Penn State Hershey. He will also serve as a liaison between the dean’s office and search committees for department chairs.
Shapiro, the Garner James Cline Professor of Humanities in Medicine, joined Penn State Hershey in 2008. He earned his Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the University of Florida and went on to Harvard Medical School, where he completed an internship and an endowed post-doctoral fellowship. A psychologist, Shapiro’s writings about physician-patient relationships and physician wellness have appeared in the New York Times, the New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA and Academic Medicine, as well as on NPR’s All Things Considered and other outlets. He is an award-winning author of three books, has served as a consultant for the television show “Grey’s Anatomy” and has also held two professorships from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation.
Saunders, who has served as interim psychiatry chair since December, is director of the Mood Disorders Program and an associate professor of psychiatry. She is also an adjunct research investigator with the Department of Psychiatry and Depression Center at the University of Michigan. Saunders came to Penn State Hershey in 2008 as an assistant professor of psychiatry. She received her undergraduate education from the University of Michigan and her medical degree from the University of Iowa. She completed a Howard Hughes Research Fellowship at Beth Israel Hospital and Harvard Medical School and residency training in psychiatry at the University of Michigan, and she was awarded a Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Fellowship. Saunders’ work has been recognized nationally, and she has been accepted to speak about her work to the Society of Biological Psychiatry, the American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology and the American Psychiatric Association. She is a member of the American College of Psychiatrists and is a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.
Saunders is active in medical student and resident education, and was awarded a Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and a Psychiatry Resident’s Teaching Award. She succeeds Dr. Alan Gelenberg, who retired from the organization in December after five years as department chair.