Skip to main content

Needlestick by Hannah Berry. Photo by Steven Haywood.

New display brings experiences of shame in medicine to life

The display space in the Queen’s Building on the University of Exeter’s Streatham Campus is showcasing graphic depictions of shame experienced by health professionals while in education, from now until December.

The Shame and Medicine Project (University of Exeter) and The Shame Conversation developed by Dr Will Bynum (Duke University) in collaboration with Charlotte Wu, MD (Harness Health Global) commissioned two graphic artists to work on Needlestick and Shame Conversation.  

The aim of this graphic medicine project was to depict shame experiences in medical learning, and for the artwork to be a resource to use in medical education and to contribute to the growing field of graphic medicine.

Shame and Medicine is an interdisciplinary research project based at the University of Exeter and the University of Birmingham, funded by the Wellcome Trust. The overall aim of the project is to research the role of shame in various aspects of health and medicine, including clinical practice, patient experience and medical student education.  

The project is hosted by the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health. This is a unique transdisciplinary research environment where collaborations across humanities, medicine and the arts are enabled through generous support.

Luna Dolezal, Principal Investigator, Shame and Medicine said: “It was exciting to work with such talented artists and skilled collaborators to bring an important theme of our Shame and Medicine research to life, namely shame experienced by medical students and trainees. These artworks are a resource that can be used in medical education and will contribute to the growing field of graphic medicine and we are delighted to see them on display at the University in the Queen’s building.”

Shame Spiral by Hannah Mumby

These visual representations of the facets of shame are an amalgamation of multiple real-world stories, depicting emotional and cognitive processes of shame that often occur in private after more visible emotional upswells wane. These processes may cause acute destabilization, spiralling shame, and skewed self-evaluations and if unresolved over time, significant and prolonged distress may follow.

Hannah Mumby is a freelance illustrator based in Exeter, UK. She works on all kinds of illustration commissions, but an area she is particularly interested in is mental health and wellbeing. Hannah is a trained psychoanalyst with a particular focus on illustrating challenging emotional states and dynamics, and is also interested in exploring the boundaries of what illustration can be, through engaging with emerging research.

Needlestick by Hannah Berry

Needlestick is a new comic that portrays the experience of US-based dermatology resident, Olivia Davies while she was in medical school. Olivia scrubbed in on a surgery and stuck herself with a needle while closing the patient. In that moment, she doubted her abilities and considered quitting.

Needlestick was published in the Graphic Perspective of The New England Journal of Medicine Medicine and will be used to teach medical students about the role of shame in their training to become doctors. 

Hannah Berry is an award-winning graphic novelist, comics creator, writer, illustrator and campaigner. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was appointed UK Comics Laureate 2019-21. 

Needlestick project team Olivia Davies MD, Luna Dolezal PhD (Exeter), Will Bynum MD (Duke), and Charlotte Wu MD (Harness Health Global), and Hannah Berry artist.

Shame Spiral project team Luna Dolezal PhD (University of Exeter), Will Bynum MD (Duke University), and Charlotte Wu MD (Harness Health Global), and Hannah Mumby artist.

This graphic medicine collaboration was funded by the Wellcome Trust 106517/Z/14/Z, the Exeter-Duke Collaboration Fund (2020-2021) and an Enhanced Research Award from the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health (2021), University of Exeter.

The new display is available to view from now until the end of December 2022 in the Queen’s Building display space situated in the West Wing foyer of the Queen’s Building on the University’s Streatham campus.

Date: 28 September 2022