Dr. Rodrigues traveled to Toronto, Canada, to present research at the international conference titled, “Comics & Medicine: Navigating the margins.” The paper was co-authored with Dr. O’Rourke, our department’s primary scholar of comic book studies. Their paper was titled, “A Symbolic Bridge of Words and Images: The “Silver Scorpion” and Medical Communication” and focused on the specific context of intercultural understanding within the health care setting. The paper drew from theories of storytelling, visual literacy, narrative analysis and popular culture to emphasize the potential of comics to help overcome some of the barriers presented by an intercultural situation within the health care setting. Comic books are appropriately equipped to overcome these barriers since comic books bring together the benefits of multiple components such as sequential art (complex combination of visual and text), storytelling, and an overall familiarity across the world with the genre of comic books.
The comic book “The Silver Scorpion” has an interesting back story since it was created by 13 Syrian students with disabilities and 10 American counterparts who came together at an international disability summit in 2010, learned about each other and discussed strategies for improving the rights and freedoms of the disabled. Dr. O’Rourke became aware of the comic, was fascinated by its origins, and saw its relevance to intercultural communication and the graphic medicine conference. He then collaborated with Dr. Rodrigues, our resident intercultural communication scholar, to develop the paper that was presented at the conference.
The conference drew presentations from medical practitioners and scholars from multiple disciplines including biomedicine, psychology, nursing, and counseling. Dr. Rodrigues found it particularly reaffirming to mark that the one recurring theme across all the presentations was the critical role communication played in the effective delivery of health services. Scholars in the discipline of communication studies have long been aware of this truth. It was gratifying to witness communication receiving its due significance at a conference that has been established by medical professionals.