Graphic Novel Worth Thousands Of Words To UTC Athletic Training Students

  • Tuesday, May 30, 2023
Dr. Lynette Carlson uses a graphic novel to spark conversation in class
Dr. Lynette Carlson uses a graphic novel to spark conversation in class
photo by Angela Foster/UTC

For students of UTC Assistant Professor and Athletic Training Clinical Education Coordinator Lynette Carlson, the proverbial picture is worth a thousand words. Or many more.

Two years ago amid the pandemic, Dr. Carlson hatched the idea of single-slide graphic novels—four-panel comic strips drawn by a now-former student, Bry Edwards—to teach cultural competencies such as ethics, compassion and humility.

One comic shows a female, wheelchair-bound basketball player who moves from the basketball court to a school hallway. Another student assumes she needs “help” and insists on pushing her chair.

“Let go of my chair!” the disabled athlete yells. The wannabe good Samaritan says: “Chill, I was just trying to help. Geez.” The woman responds: “If I wanted your help I would have asked! And you can’t just touch people or their chairs without their consent, okay?!” The good Samaritan apologizes and concedes, “I shouldn’t have assumed.”

Another graphic slide shows an older woman on an airliner asking a tall, beefy stranger to retrieve her bag from the overhead bin and asking him what football position he plays. “I’ve never played football … but thanks,” he responds.

The point, Dr. Carlson said, is to make students think before acting on any preconceptions.

“So I’m doing a study right now, where I’m having them take a pre-survey and a post-survey, and asking them about their cultural competency—questions like, ‘Do you believe that bias can impact patient care?’ for example. And so I’m starting to measure how well the graphics move their cultural humility forward,” Dr. Carlson said.

Dr. Carlson shares her comics with other universities, such as research partner University of California Long Beach. Also sharing her comics are Carthage College in Wisconsin, the University of South Carolina, Michigan State University, Lee University in nearby Cleveland, the University of Mary in North Dakota and the University of Alabama.

“A lot of us grew up looking at comic strips,” Dr. Carlson said. “This is just a really fun way to talk about differences.”

To learn more about the athletic training graphic novel project and other campus happenings, visit UTC News.

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