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Lamar Soutter Library fellow receives Gold Foundation award for graphic medicine research

By Megan Bard

UMass Medical School Communications

January 03, 2017
  Matthew N. Noe

Matthew N. Noe

Matthew N. Noe, MSLS, a fellow in the Lamar Soutter Library, has received an Arnold P. Gold Foundation Research Institute literature review grant to investigate how graphic novels can be used to improve medical literacy.

“While visual images are not a new phenomenon in medicine, narrative comics, or ‘sequential art,’ have only recently emerged into the practice of medicine,” Noe said. “As this emerging field continues to be defined, a review of the current state of comics in medicine will provide future researchers with a clear vision of what works, what does not and what requires further evidence, as well as an opportunity to uncover new areas for consideration.”

Through the foundation’s Mapping the Landscape, Journeying Together initiative, which focuses on advancing the humanism in health care, Noe will lead a team from UMass Medical School, including Suzana Makowski, MD, associate professor of medicine, and Leonard L. Levin, MS, assistant professor of family medicine & community health, in a two-year effort to identify and catalog existing graphic medicine publications.

The group will determine how the literature is employed in health care settings—educational, clinical and consumer—and what effects, if any, the practices have on the physician and patient and their collective experiences and health outcomes. The project is the first to evaluate the scope of comic use in health care.

“There are many possible avenues for the arts and comics in medicine; however, people have to give it a chance,” Noe said. “Many people are still looking at comics as something childish. I want to encourage people to remove prior judgments about comics and give them a shot. I want to help people remember the positive association they had with comics in childhood. Those positive associations can be translated to medicine; if you can use graphic medicine to tell stories people might be more willing to listen and learn.”