Cartoonist designs thank you card for medical students

By FHS Advancement, January 8, 2009

    Lynn Johnston, an internationally-renowned cartoonist, designed a thank you card for McMaster's medical students to give to patients. Image courtesy of FHS.
Medical student Tiffaney Krushel always appreciates learning from patients who are good-natured about allowing students to do an extra exam or ask extra questions to aid their education. Many of her fellow students agree they'd like to be able to show their appreciation with more than a quick thanks and cheerio.

So they have developed a thank you card, thanks to an internationally-renowned cartoonist who was involved in the medical school when it began.

Lynn Johnston was a medical artist for the fledgling Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine in the late '60s, working on illustrations for the first medical students. It was her joking with Dr. Murray Enkin, her obstetrician and a medical school founder that led her to drawing cartoons that became the famous comic strip For Better or For Worse which now appears in more than 2,000 newspapers in 22 countries.

Lynn has drawn up a thank you card featuring a collection of enthusiastic and diverse McMaster medical students in their white clerks' jackets.

Inside, the students crafted a message by modifying a quote from Sir William Osler, who grew up in Dundas before making his reputation as a humanist physician in the U.S. and Britain at the turn of the twentieth century. Following the McMaster philosophy of having medical students interact with patients early in their training, the message is: "We are taught that medicine is learned by the bedside, not in the classroom. Thank you for being a teacher."

"So many wonderful patients have volunteered to be reassessed by medical students, and that often means being poked, prodded and asked 101 questions not for their own benefit but to help us develop our skills and to improve patient care down the road," said Tiffaney Krushel. "We designed a card to let them know how important and valued their role is in our education; it takes a special kind of person to give of oneself like that."

Lynn Johnston said working on the project took her back to her days with the medical school, working with Dr. Enkin and other founding faculty members including David Sackett and Fraser Mustard.

"It was refreshing to think back at my days at McMaster, it holds a special place for me," she said.

John Kelton, dean and vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences as well as dean of the medical school, applauded the students' initiative. "Our students are intelligent and caring people, taught to be collaborative and centred on the needs of the patients. I'm proud of their work on this project and I appreciate Lynn Johnston's willingness to help."

Distribution of the cards to patients will start early in the New Year.