The Class of 2023’s Meagan Shinbashi has been drawing comics since elementary school. “It started with comics about my pets and gradually evolved into narratives that captured my daily life.”
She was the cartoonist for her high school newspaper and in medical school has had comics published in the newsletter produced by VCU’s Student Family Medicine Association. In fall 2021, she had the chance to put her talents to work on an assignment in the medical school’s Physician, Patient and Society course.
Course director Melissa Bradner, M.D., H’99, asked the students to reflect on their clinical experiences and tie them to concepts covered during the course’s first two years. “Students have a lot of flexibility in these assignments,” says Shinbashi, “and can submit anything from traditional essays to poetry, music and, in my case, comics.”
Touching on topics like patient autonomy, cultural competency and difficult patient encounters, Shinbashi’s class assignment ended up attracting the notice of Graphic Medicine, a website that explores the interaction between the medium of comics and the discourse of health care. They published her comic in January 2022.
“My passion for drawing originated from my experiences of growing up in a Japanese American household,” Shinbashi explains. “As a child, I struggled to navigate the cultural and language barriers that separated me from my Japanese family members and American peers. Drawing pictures and using them to communicate with others was the best way for me to navigate these barriers. For me, a picture really was worth a thousand words.”