Doctor by Day,
Cartoonist by Night
Valerie Jones' 01
PHOTO CREDIT: CHUCK ZLOTKUS
BEING A DOCTOR IS SERIOUS BUSINESS, BUT THAT doesn't stop Valerie Jones'01 from seeing the funny side of all things medical. Dr. Jones, who is chief resident in rehabilitation medicine at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City, has penned medical-themed cartoons that have appeared in Medscape/WebMD and are being considered for other publications.
She started drawing cartoons in 1991 while working as a freelance graphic designer. Medical school intervened and the cartooning stopped until a friend, an editor at Medscape/WebMD, mentioned the dearth of "good medical humor" for the Web site. Dr. Jones produced a cartoon series for the site. "It is my personal look at the whimsical side of medicine. I call it Laugh It Off because I believe that humor is therapeutic and can encourage a positive approach to the challenges of medical training."
Her cartoons, which cover subjects ranging from medical research to medical education to patient perspectives, were exhibited at the annual meeting of the American Pain Society in Boston in April 2005. "I enjoyed seeing so many of my peers chuckling away. And I was flattered to be asked to sign autographs."
Dr. Jones cites studies that have shown the therapeutic benefit of laughter on patients. "Doctors also can use a regular dose of laughter to help them through the illnesses they see every day," she says.
Her cartoons have been described as a cross between Gary Larson's cartoons and cartoons that appear in the New Yorker magazine, and she credits both as inspirations. "I would love to become the Gary Larson of medicine, but instead I'll probably use cartooning as a medical tool. My cartoons could be my contribution to increasing national endorphin levels."
While she sometimes creates cartoons after seeing humor in medical situations, she also creates custom cartoons to illustrate a topic. Medscape asked her to create a series of cartoons on allergies, for example.
Dr. Jones was born in Greenwich, Conn., but moved with her parents to Canada when she was 2 years old. She graduated from Dalhousie University in Canada in 1990 with a B.A. degree in comparative religion and classics. She earned an M.A. in Biblical studies from Dallas Theological Seminary in 1992. She then threw herself "into the arms of life," as she puts it, and held jobs all over the United States and Canada before settling on a career in medicine.
She entered P&S with a personal tie to the medical center. When she was a baby, she underwent surgery at the former Babies Hospital to correct intussusception (a condition in which part of the intestine is pushed into the lumen of an adjoining segment). The surgeon was John Schullinger'55, now retired professor of clinical surgery. At the 1996 Parents Day for families of incoming P&S students, Sonia Jones, Valerie Jones' mother, recognized the luncheon speaker -- Dr. Schullinger -- as the surgeon who saved her daughter's life 24 years earlier.
Originally a member of the Class of 2000 at P&S, she took a year off between her third and fourth years to conduct research with Jeffrey Ascherman, M.D., assistant professor of surgery and director of the Cleft and Craniofacial Center. After graduating from P&S, she interned in emergency medicine before deciding on rehab medicine.
After her residency, she may try to create a new field within physical medicine and rehabilitation that focuses on nutritional rehabilitation. In serving as editor of Clinical Nutrition & Obesity, part of Medscape General Medicine's online journal, she has been exposed to some of the top minds in nutrition and obesity management. "The road to healing is so influenced by our nutritional status, yet physicians rarely give this a second thought."
Cartoons by Dr. Jones will be published occasionally in P&S Journal. She has asked to dedicate her whimsical take on medicine to her role model, Dr. Schullinger.