Earlier this fall, over the course of a tense dinner table discussion, it came to light that a dear relative of mine held some blatantly transphobic beliefs. I was greatly distressed by this — not only because these beliefs were at complete odds with my own, but because I had no idea what to do. I felt that it was my responsibility to educate them and keep communication channels open... but having had little success with blunt confrontation, I was at a loss.
Then I read First Year Out: A Transition Story, the second graphic novel by Vancouver-based author Sabrina Symington. First Year Out describes the story of Lily in her first year as an openly trans woman, and covers everything in Lily’s life from the basics (such as how she gets dressed and her first experience with online dating) to the harder conversations (like confronting her mother about her TERF [trans-exclusionary radical feminism] attitude and telling her boyfriend that she wants sexual reassignment surgery). Through the incredible medium of graphic story-telling, we get to literally see how Lily grows into herself. ...continue reading →
The HIV/AIDS Care Unit (Unit 371) at Chicago’s Illinois Masonic Medical Centre was founded on a heartbreakingly simple observation. “We are all just people taking turns being sick,” stated Dr. David Blatt, one of the founders of Unit 371, in MK Czerwiec’s newest graphic novel — the aptly named Taking Turns: Stories from the HIV/AIDS Care Unit 371. Czerwiec was a brand-new nursing graduate on 371 during the height of the HIV epidemic, and Taking Turns is in many ways her tribute to the unit’s extraordinary spirit. The intention of the unit was made clear from day one: this would be a place where the most stigmatized and ostracized patients could be cared for with empathy, understanding, and love. ...continue reading →
I remember learning about “atypical” presentations of heart attacks during a cardiology lecture in my second year of medical school. Jaw pain, shoulder pain, and fatigue replace the archetypal central chest pain and diaphoresis, making the diagnosis much more subtle and easy to miss. Only later, as a footnote, was it mentioned that these presentations usually occurred in women. I thought it was odd that something that occurs in half the population was said to be “atypical,” but as is so often the case in medical school, I didn’t have time to dwell on it for long; the lecturer had already moved on to angina and I missed what he had said about beta-blockers. ...continue reading →
Dr. James Maskalyk describes emergencies “as a sign of life taking care of itself” in his most recent memoir, Life on the Ground Floor. Throughout his book, the reader is left to wonder what exactly Maskalyk means by this. It is an ominous phrase that, at first glance, reads more like a repackaged “survival of the fittest” for emergency departments. However, through deft and emotional storytelling, Maskalyk urges us to look beyond this stark message of Darwinism and see that emergencies are the purest form of life helping life, or “life taking care of itself”. ...continue reading →
Graphic novels have emerged from the field of medical humanities as a powerful medium for telling stories — particularly stories of mental illness. Ellen Forney and David B. are two recent, best-selling graphic novelists who write about their experiences with mental illness and have broken ground for many new artists to carve their place in the mental health graphic novel genre. Clem and Olivier Martini, brothers and authors of The Unravelling, also deserve recognition as graphic novel trailblazers. The Unravelling is the second book that touches on their family’s experience with Olivier’s diagnosis of schizophrenia. However, this book also centres on their mother, Catherine — Olivier’s caretaker and roommate — who is rapidly losing her independence and cognitive abilities at age 89. It is a personal and emotional account of caregiving, as well as an angry lament of the state of Canada’s healthcare system for the mentally ill and ageing. ...continue reading →
In the introduction to The Remedy, British Columbia-based editor Zena Sharman states her intention plainly: to make people’s stories the centre of conversations on queer and transgender health. The resulting anthology is a stunning and captivating look at the past, present, and future of health and healthcare as it relates to LGBTQ+ people in Canada that more than accomplishes Sharman’s goal. A long-standing frustration with healthcare providers is a common theme among the stories contained in The Remedy. ...continue reading →
Imagine working in a hospital where a child is admitted and kept on the wards for seven years without being allowed to see their family. Now imagine being that child, and growing up to be an adult in today’s healthcare system. Would you ever set foot in a hospital again? Would you ever trust a doctor? These are the kind of questions that come to mind while reading Medicine Unbundled: A Journey through the Minefields of Indigenous Health Care, a book written by investigative journalist Gary Geddes. By travelling across Canada and interviewing Indigenous leaders, Elders, and members of a wide variety of First Nations, Geddes provides a powerful account of how Canada’s historic Indian Hospitals and Tuberculosis Sanatoriums directly and intentionally contributed to the genocide of Indigenous people. ...continue reading →