Thursday, May 10, 2007

Medical Humanities

My stats tell me there's a bunch of y'all who check my blog regularly and are more loyal than I deserve. Thanks.

One of Mom's ambitions for Mom's Cancer was that it might help physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals better understand the experience from the patient's side. We saw some signs that was happening almost from the start. One of the first, best e-mails I got when Mom's Cancer was still an online webcomic was from a nursing instructor in Australia who asked permission to include pages of my comic in her course materials. I've heard of it showing up in oncology clinics and smoking cessation programs. And probably the highlight of my entire book experience was a talk I gave to a group of hospice and healthcare professionals in Tucson last July, some of whom said my story would change the way they approached their jobs.

When Mom's Cancer first came out, my publisher Abrams got a list of oncologists and sent free review copies to a whole bunch of them. I thought that was a great idea and appreciated the expense and effort very much, but it's very hard to tell if something like that pays off. If Abrams got any response they didn't mention it to me. Just one doctor who really likes it and recommends it to patients and colleagues could make the whole push worthwhile, but you'll never know. It feels like throwing pebbles into the ocean.

A while ago I was helping my daughters buy college textbooks (by "helping" I mean "handing my charge card to the cashier") and saw Art Spiegelman's Maus and Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis stacked up for a literature class. Since everything's about me, I started wondering why Mom's Cancer couldn't be a textbook somewhere. But where? And with an epiphany that should have occurred to me months before--that in fact other people had explicitly told me but I hadn't quite registered--I realized that medical schools teach courses in "Medical Humanities" whose entire purpose is training new doctors to understand their patients' perspectives. Duh. Once I set my mind to it, it wasn't hard to put together a list of professors teaching Medical Humanities at medical schools across the country. Although I was perfectly willing to buy the books and pay the postage myself, when editor Charlie heard my plan ("You want how many books?") he took care of it even though I doubt it was in his budget. For which I'm grateful.

I've since heard back from a couple of profs who thanked me for the book and said they think it'd make a nice addition to their curricula. We'll see if they follow through--or more likely, we'll never know if they follow through. Pebbles in the ocean. The idea of flocks of new docs coming out of medical school having read my book is tremendously exciting. That's what it's all about. Mom had it figured out from the start.
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3 comments:

ronnie said...

What a great idea!

L said...

Haha! Going to spend money on our outrageously-priced books was actually worth something in return! (Besides all of the glorious knowledge we've absorbed from reading them of course...*cough*)
It would be pretty cool if your book was required reading though.

ronnie said...

Brian, if your book gets designated a college textbook, does the price automatically increase to $300 per copy, and if so, do you get a cut of that?

cynically,
ronnie-it-was-a-while-ago-but-it-wasn't-THAT-long-ago-cat