Corinne Boudreau is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at the University of Toronto

 

In 2015, I moved from the tiny New Brunswick town of Sackville to the sprawling city of Toronto, Ontario.

That was also when I started medical school. Immersed in basements with sallow cadavers and impossibly-long PDFs on physiology, I soon realized I was in for an experience which could not be further removed from my undergraduate years spent in the art studio. So, what does a (former) visual artist do when completely out of her depth? Naturally, she doodles!

What started out as a simple means to keep up my drawing soon turned into quirky recounts of our experiences in first year, and before I knew it, it was born: a comic strip about a girl in medicine and — of course — her best moose friend.First frame: A young medical student name Maud is sitting at her laptop on the floor in her room with her friend Mulligan who is a moose. Maud says: “My goodness Mulligan, but I cannot wait for the exam to be over tomorrow!” Mulligan says “I hope you’ll catch up on some sleep!” Second frame: Maud says “Oh yes, sleep! But life comes back too! I will finally do those dishes in the sink, and those two loads of laundry – And call Allie back, and email that photo camp, and pick up some actual groceries…Oh, and get my hair cut! Ah, it’s going to be great! Third frame: “24-hours post-exam.” Maud is sleeping soundly in her bed. The alarm clock says 2:35pm. The floor is littered with dirty dishes and crumpled papers.

Maud & Mulligan: A Med School Chronicle of Sorts follows the titular characters as they leave their small home town to study medicine at the renowned U of P – where insulin was invented from scratch by Sir Panting and Pest, didn’t you know?

Maud is an artsy soul and a bit of a dreamer who finds herself in unanticipated culture shock. Is it not strange that the first dead person she meets is also the first person she must dissect into thinly-sliced aponeuroses? Will she forever be triggered by overhead whistles that flash her back to bell-ringer exams of doom? How can she begin to perform a mock-precordial exam on an attractive classmate’s pecs without a syncopal episode of her own?

First frame: Maud is standing with two classmates: a good-looking man called Gabe and a woman called Gwen. Maud says: “Well, that was one depressing cancer lecture. I’m not doing oncology for sure. Gabe says: “Right. Me neither.” Gwen says: “What are you thinking anyways Gabe?” Second frame: Gabe says: “Well, honestly, Gwen, I shadowed in a fertility clinic the other day and I LOVED it. It might just be for me!” Gwen, looking up at Gabe with admiration, says: “Wow, yeah! You’d be great!” Third frame: Maud says: “Hahah, yeah! Your job could be to flex for the ladies to induce spontaneous ovulation!” Gabe and Gwen look shocked. Fourth frame: Gwen and Maud are sitting on a bench. Gabe is gone. Gwen says: “Wow. We’ve got to work on your subtleties my friend.” Maud lies down on the bench with her hand up to her forehead and says: “And this…This is why I’m single…”

While Maud’s stories explore the elations and laughter of medical training, she and her friends encounter challenges, too. Along the way, they deal with feelings of stress and fatigue as well as loneliness, loss of identity, struggles with finding balance in their lives outside of medicine, and uncertainty about what their futures have in store for them.

Now in my third year, the comic has been a way for me to explore my own struggles and questions — both inside and outside my life as a medical student.First frame: Maud has her arm around Mulligan the moose. She says: “Girls in medicine are funny, Mulligan. We are all so accomplished, and bright. And yet when we get together we end up chatting about how our fat is distributed – And how we can’t believe that we are single.” Second frame: An imagined scene of girls chatting on a couch. Maud says: “It seems like lately there’s a lot of talk about relationships – Marriage, babies, the like.” Third frame: Maud sitting at her laptop. She says: “I used to tune that all out…It seemed too fa away. But now sometimes – It seems closer. Close, even.” Fourth frame: Small drawing depicting Husbands, Children, Homes, Family, New baby. Maud, still reflecting: “Facebook, family emails, young moms in clinic. Girls my age – or younger – Husbands. Children. Homes. Sometimes I feel so removed – I don’t even know how to talk to them.” Fifth frame: Cartoon of imagined pregnant woman looking in the mirror. Maud, still reflecting: “It’s funny…I came in knowing I wanted a family. But it was a dream for the future, and I was content to let it come in time. But suddenly – An intangible pressure looms. Like I should be planning it out somehow – Like everything we do in Medicine.” Sixth frame: Maud: “Who will I meet? And when do I meet them? And when do I actually have these children I want? It’s impossible to know, of course.” Seventh frame: A cartoon of a balance, with a stethoscope on one side, and a Claddagh ring on the other. Both are of equal weight. Maud: “But how then – Do I balance that with this career god, that seems to grow each day? Because that’s the environment we are in?” Eight frame: Maud sitting with Mulligan, who looks concerned. Mulligan says: “Is this being triggered by your parent’s offer to pay your eHarmony subscription?” Maud says: “Netflix. Netflix was the subscription I asked for…”

My hope in sharing it with other students is that we may learn to laugh at ourselves a bit, because our lives can be undeniably funny… but also to take our own needs seriously and realize that so many of our feelings are shared. I hope it encourages us to open-up real conversations and build connections; to care for one another as we travel this amazing and deeply challenging road. And I hope it encourages us to continue telling our own stories, as doing so is an amazing means of understanding ourselves and our journeys.

First frame: Maud lying down on the floor in front of her laptop. A female friend pops her head in the door frame and says: “Hey! How’s the studying going?” Maud says: “Agghh. Not great. In fact, I’m kinda rehearsing what I’ll be saying in my remediation interview…” Second frame: Friend says: “Aw, you’ll be okay….” Maud says: “Honestly, I get so afraid of that emotional blow, when you fail. That crushing feeling of not being good enough…” Third frame: Friend says: “ C’mon, it’s not so bad. No one ever knows if you do. And the only thing that really matter if you fail MDDDD is studying for it again…” Maud’s eyes become big. Fourth frame: Maud lying on her back with her hands over her face. Maud says: “Oh, goodness nooo! Not these two weeks again!” Friend, laughing, says: “See? That’s a much healthier motivator than abject loss of identity.”

Maud and Mulligan’s second-year adventures were released this past March. Clerkship stories are in the works and will be out sometime in the next year, if all goes well!

The adventures of Maud and Mulligan can be found in full on Tumblr at http://maudandmulligan.tumblr.com/ or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/maudandmulligan/.

We welcome messages and feedback through Facebook if you would like to get in touch. Thanks so much for reading!