15 Cartoons That Explain A Medical Career Better Than Words Can

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Mahmoud Abudeif, Dec 14, 2020.

  1. Mahmoud Abudeif

    Mahmoud Abudeif Golden Member

    Mar 5, 2019
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    Residency is challenging. We are training to help others in their most dire time of need. It is emotionally, physically, and mentally draining. I have been using my art as a way to find balance and to make sense of particularly difficult experiences in my medical journey. I also have found that translating medical concepts into my own visual language has allowed me to learn, teach, communicate, and cope in a unique way.

    I identify as both an artist and a doctor. As a type 1 diabetic myself, I plan to complete a fellowship in endocrinology in order to help others who share my disease. A portion of the proceeds from the sales of my prints goes to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

    My work falls into a few categories, including detailed anatomical illustrations, graphic novel-type drawings that depict my medical journey, and some lighthearted cartoons that poke fun at medical culture and teach medical concepts.

    How Do You Tote Your Scope?


    I made the observation that the way one "totes their stethoscope" often reveals clues as to their medical specialty a humorous take on one of medical culture's many idiosyncrasies.

    Some Days...

    This illustration was done while in medical school but still seems to ring true today. Every once in a while, you just feel entirely incompetent and no matter what you do, things just seem to go wrong.

    Female Doc

    I regularly witness my female resident colleagues, clad in white coats and wearing MD identification badges and stethoscopes around their necks, introduce themselves to their patients as "Doctor." Yet, time and time again, they are then referred to as something else. Contrasted with that observation is me, with no white coat and no identifying doctor garb yet, I am often greeted as "Doc."

    Anatomical Heart Splatter

    My art tends to fall in a few different categories. One of those is fine art, which I make with the intention of it being a creative outlet. Unlike my other work, it doesn't have the same didactic quality, even if it still has a medical theme. Here, I channeled my inner Jackson Pollock and splattered a colorful array around an anatomical heart made in pen and ink.

    A Cute Kidney Injury

    I was sitting in a noon conference about acute kidney injury and trying to retain the details. I've found my brain works better in pictures, so I started to sketch. A cute little kidney began to materialize, and facts pertaining to different flavors of injury were scrawled around him. These tactics were how I was able to retain large volumes of information in medical school and now into residency. It also helps pass the time in noon conference...

    White Coat Culture

    How we wear (or don't wear) our white coats and what's stuffed in the pockets acts as visual cues as to one's place in the all-too-rigid medical hierarchy. If you can't laugh a little, what's the point?


    You can learn a lot by keen observation. Sometimes I like to use these observation skills in a hyperbolic way to poke fun at medical culture. Here, I highlight how one can identify what level of the medical hierarchy one is in based solely on how they carry their sign-out lists.

    The Irony

    Residency has been tough, and I sometimes notice the irony in how unhealthy the lifestyle can be while preaching healthy habits to my patients. This comic helped me to highlight and poke fun at this Incongruence.


    I like to simplify complex topics into digestible pieces. As an intern, it dawned on me that the complex work of diagnosis and treatment is about acquiring information in the patient's words, then translating that into medical jargon, which can then be further classified into a diagnosis, which in turn has a known treatment. The reality of medicine is, however, much more gray and much less linear.

    Insulin Love

    Being a type 1 diabetic since I was 9 years old, I always know the struggle of my patients with chronic disease. It's a rough life, having to constantly do the job of my pancreas. To let off some steam, humor always does the trick.


    Hepatic Encephalopathy

    Correctly diagnosing hepatic encephalopathy is an exercise in keen observation. Often, with most diagnostic approaches, we tend to anchor on incorrect diagnoses early in the process. Here, I illustrated the
    differential, keeping in mind not to anchor too early.

    Fear Monster

    Just like imposter syndrome, I often find myself carrying a load on my back: that constant sense of fear and self-doubt. I think many of us in medicine, especially starting out, carry a similar load. Creating comics such as these acts as a pressure valve, using humor and labeling my insecurities.


    This illustrates the "5 pearls" of headaches. Seeing and drawing the images of red-flag signs or medication overuse helps use those visuospatial pathways to learn and retrieve the information.

    Mr Fantastic

    While in med school, I asked myself the question, "What if commonly known superheroes actually suffered from medical maladies?" This helped me to learn and recall the illness scripts of different diseases. Mr Fantastic, to me, is so stretchy because he has a connective tissue disorder.

    From Med Student to Intern

    In the weeks before my transition from medical student to full-blown doctor, my anxiety was at an all-time high. Often, the last few months of the fourth year of med school are spent hanging out with friends and
    doing very little medicine. Looking back on it now, I believe that is healthy and helpful; however, at the time, it worried me that all those important medical facts I spent years shoving into my brain were slowly coming undone.


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