This is a project over 2 years in the making, and we are so happy to share it with you.
In the early days of the 2020 pandemic, with a scarcity of resources and an absence of institutional guidance, healthcare workers began to spontaneously form groups on social media to share information about treatments for COVID patients, self-protection when PPE wasn’t available, and quarantine strategies for COVID workers who were exposed to the virus. These groups also became a safe space for catharsis where frontline workers could share their personal experiences, hopes, fears, dread, and despair. Many frontline workers had pandemic-related stories to tell, but no means or platform to bring the stories to light.
During these unprecedented times, the board of the Graphic Medicine International Collective has made efforts to contribute in a meaningful way. With the spirit of collaboration in mind, we started the FrontlineComics Project to connect frontline workers with cartoonists to co-create comics about stories from the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Each of these collaborations between a frontline storyteller and a cartoonist is organized and coordinated by a project facilitator.
We hope these comics will serve as a means for catharsis, education, activism and as a historical record of these extraordinary times.
A huge thanks to all the storytellers and cartoonists who have shown enthusiasm, vulnerability, and creativity in this project and to the facilitators who helped foster the creation of such amazing work.
We acknowledge the support provided by the Penn State College of Medicine, without which this project would not have been possible. In particular, we thank the Department of Medicine, the Division of General Internal Medicine, the Kienle Center for Humanistic Medicine, and the Department of Humanities for their generosity.
Want to get involved?
This ongoing project continues to produce original comics about frontline worker experiences.
Comics Artists! Are you interested in collaborating with a frontline worker to create a comic?
Frontline Workers! Do you have a story you’d like to share about your experience on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic? No prior writing or artistic experience is necessary, only a story to tell, a willingness to share it, and a collaborative spirit.
Send us an email and use the subject line “Frontline Comics Project.”
Facilitator for the comic: Isolation: An ICU Shift During COVID
MK Czerwiec, RN, MA is a nurse, cartoonist, educator, and co-founder of the field of Graphic Medicine. She is the creator of Taking Turns: Stories from HIV/AIDS Care Unit 371, a co-author of Graphic Medicine Manifesto and editor of the two-time Eisner Award winning Menopause: A Comic Treatment. MK is also the comics editor for the journal Literature & Medicine.
Facilitator for the comic: Negotiating the Family Gathering
Michael is a physician and bioethicist, and a professor in the Departments of Humanities and Medicine at Penn State College of Medicine. He has been interested in comics (and all forms of visual arts) since childhood, and created a first-of-its-kind course on Comics and Medicine for medical students (students’ comics can be viewed here). As a physician, he cares for patients, teaches medical students, and is an NIH-funded researcher in the area of end-of-life decision-making and advance care planning. He is co-author of the Graphic Medicine Manifesto and published several landmark articles on Graphic Medicine including “Missed It,” the first comic to be featured in a mainstream medical journal. These days, he is the standing guest editor of the Graphic Medicine section of the Annals of Internal Medicine, and has authored several of his own comics. His professional profile can be viewed here and he can be found on Instagram @mjg15.
Kimberly R. Myers
Kimberly R. Myers
Facilitator for the comic: Acheron
Kimberly R. Myers, M.A., Ph.D., is Professor of Humanities and Medicine and Distinguished Educator at Penn State College of Medicine. Dr. Myers’ scholarship focuses on sociocultural dimensions of illness, illness narratives, medical education, and graphic medicine, and she has published in professional journals including Journal of the American Medical Association, British Medical Journal, Annals of Internal Medicine, Literature and Medicine, and Academic Medicine as well as lay publications including The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Atlantic. She is co-author or editor of six books, including Graphic Medicine Manifesto and Clinical Ethics: A Graphic Medicine Casebook (May 2022).
Facilitator for the comic: Adrift
Dr. Theresa Rojas is Professor of English and the first Professor of Ethnic Studies at Modesto Junior college where she teaches literature, creative writing, composition, Ethnic Studies, and comparative media, with a specialty in post-1945 Comics Studies and visual culture. She is an Academic Senator and the Founding Director of the Latinx Comic Arts Festival (LCAF). LCAF is the California Central Valley’s international celebration of Latinx comic arts creators and friends, highlighting Latinx cartoonists, writers, animators, artists, and comic arts educators. Follow LCAF on Instagram: @ latinxcomicartsfest
Facilitator for the comic: Coming Home
Alex Thomas is a founding board member of the Graphic Medicine International Collective. He is a pediatric allergist/immunologist and a cartoonist and illustrator with more than 20 years experience. Alex is co-founder of Booster Shot Media, a company that educates people of all ages about complex health topics using the power of comics. He has presented on the use of comics in health education extensively over the years, including San Diego Comic-Con International. He has a faculty appointment in the Department of Medical Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine where he teaches clinical applications of graphic medicine to medical students. When not graphic medicining, he continues to see patients in his allergy practice in Chicago.
Facilitator for the comic: Toxic Excellence
Ebru Ustundag is a critical feminist geographer interested in intersections of health/care and social justice as these relations unfold in various urban spaces. In St. Catharines (ON) she collaborates with various community partners and social agencies to facilitate radical collective action by building solidarities and alliances. She is an Associate Professor of Geography at Brock University and a graduate faculty member in the interdisciplinary Social Justice and Equity Studies MA program. Ebru is also a founding member of the executive board of the Graphic Medicine International Collective (GMIC) where she collaborates with other academics, health carers and comic artists to explore the interactions between the medium of comics and the discourses of healthcare. Ebru has been an active member of the Canadian Association of Health Humanities (CAHH) advisory and executive committees.
Facilitator for the comic: Refuge
Shelley Wall is an artist, an associate professor in the Biomedical Communications program, University of Toronto, and a founding member of the Graphic Medicine International Collective.