BMC alum wins student writing competition

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Stefania Spano received the good news last December in the kitchen as she enjoyed some therapeutic post-exams baking with her mom.

The Biomedical Communications graduate’s graphic story Out of Service took first place in the Dalhousie University Department of Psychiatry’s Annual Student Writing Competition 2012.

“I was thrilled,” said Spano. “Healthcare is a very dynamic, interdisciplinary and multiplayer experience and graphic medicine is a potent tool for communicating that experience.”

Spano learned of the competition through a notice distributed to her class in early October at Queen’s University where she now studies medicine.

Dalhousie’s competition invites Canadian medical students and residents to submit essays, poetry or short fiction to explain the intersection of mental health and the humanities.

Spano wrote and illustrated Out of Service which explores the Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) experience through visual storytelling as part of the “Comics & Medicine” course taught by BMC Faculty, Dr. Shelley Wall.

“Stefania’s beautifully-drawn comic tells the story of a Vietnam veteran’s struggles with post-traumatic stress and its impact on his family,” said Wall. “She uses the comic form to great effect, telling some parts of the story wordlessly through the juxtaposition of images, the selective use of colour, and the characters’ facial expressions and body language.”

In the last decade, “graphic medicine”—as this growing body of work has come to be known—has received increased interest from medical and nursing practitioners, patients and families, literary and cultural studies scholars and teachers in medical humanities as an important resource for the communication of a range of medical issues, said Wall.

Spano said she intends to invest her $100 prize in that most fashionable of options—to give it to her landlady.

by Maeve Doyle