Erin La Cour wins ERC Consolidator Grant

Out of 2,130 candidates, the European Research Council (ERC) has selected 308 researchers for this year’s Consolidator Grants.

Erin La Cour , associate Professor of English Literature and Visual Culture, is one of the researchers who has received this year’s ERC Consolidator Grant for her project that investigates how Graphic Medicine can offer new insights to improve healthcare training, practice, and dissemination. With this Grant of 2 million euro La Cour and her team will study the helpful effects of comics in healthcare for a period of five years.

"The term Graphic Medicine was coined to denote the intersection between the medium of comics and the discourse of healthcare," says La Cour. "As a field that utilizes theoretical and artistic research practice, Graphic Medicine is concerned with encouraging more individualized healthcare practices through opening dialogues about health and healthcare."

"How can healthcare become more attentive to individual patient experiences? How can we take back healthcare by talking with and talking back to practitioners and systems? What tools are needed to open productive dialogue? These are important questions and I think Graphic Medicine can be an answer," says La Cour.

Need for different communication

Much of the communication between healthcare institutions and patients focuses on the ins and outs of healthcare systems, diagnosis, prognosis, treatment options, and statistics, often in the form of pamphlets and infographics handed top-down from the healthcare institution to the patient. La Cour: "While certainly information produced in verbal and/or visual shorthand is easy to read and can be helpful in navigating essential information, what it often lacks in both verbal and visual language is an in-depth exploration of how illness and disability, as well as healthcare systems and statistics, can make one feel."

The past decade has seen a proliferation of Graphic Medicine comics that aim to relay personal experiences of living with a particular illness or disability. These works, however, convey more to their readers than simple autobiographical accounts alone: they point to the urgent need for different communications-and understandings-of illness and disability than those found in conventional medical discourse. "The affordances of the comics medium, and particularly the juxtaposition of incongruent texts and images, verbal and visual metaphor, color, line, and pacing (through page layout, paneling, and guttering) allow Graphic Medicine to explore and expose subjective experiences of health and healthcare systems," says La Cour.

Research project

The project consists of five research projects that will evaluate and develop the aims, current applications, and potential of Graphic Medicine. Through cross-national, cross-cultural, and cross-linguistic analyses of Graphic Medicine, it will innovate the state of the art by elucidating how Graphic Medicine can positively affect not only healthcare scholars, practitioners, and students, but also comics artists, patients, their families, carers, and the public. To do this, it will focus on six countries: The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Canada, the UK, and the US.

La Cour: "Because these countries overlap in terms of language-Dutch (NL, BE), French (FR, BE, CA), and English (CA, UK, US)--but do not in terms of healthcare systems, access, and cultural norms, this project will provide fruitful comparative analyses of how the discourse and practice travels and shifts across national, cultural, and/or linguistic contexts."