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A comic about birth control educates patients — and providers

IUD15Growing up in India, Aparna Sridhar, MD, devoured comics like Tintin and Asterix. And as a gynecologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, Sridhar spends lots of time explaining contraceptive options to young women in her care, so when she spotted a comic called "Mom Body" by graphic artist Rebecca Roher, an idea was hatched. Sridhar emailed Roher and soon, the pair had connected over Skype and were collaborating on a new project.

During a Medicine X | ED talk on Sunday afternoon, Sridhar described the collaboration and showcased the ensuing comic, "Birth Control Tales," which features a ponytailed Dr. A offering counsel to patients with questions about birth control. The first issue focuses on intrauterine devices and the situation depicted is one Sridhar said she encounters frequently: A young woman hears a friend talking about IUDs, she heads online to research and then visits her doctor, still a bit confused.

In an initial trial of patients and providers, feedback was largely positive, said Sridhar, who was speaking as part of a session on inclusive and effective ways of communication. She has hopes of distributing the comics to medical trainees just beginning clinical work because it familiarizes them with common patient questions.

Sridhar said that one benefit of comics is that as long as the material depicted is culturally appropriate, comics are easy to distribute in different languages by swapping out the text bubbles.

They are well-suited for "not-so-very-open topics" like sexual health because they allow the reader to peer in on the experience of the characters privately. They also insert a bit of fun, making a serious topic more approachable, she said.

And although they have never met in person, Sridhar and Roher have new issues of "Birth Control Tales" in the works. Future topics include birth control implants and shots.

Previously: Superheroes to the rescue: A creative approach to educating kids about asthma, Stanford alumnus writes children's book to inspire next generation of curious minds and Graphic medicine takes flight
Comic by Aparna Sridhar and Rebecca Roher

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