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This Med Student Makes His Own Comics To Help Him Study

Laughter makes pretty good medicine...even for med students.

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This is Mike Natter. Most of his teachers said since he was bad at math and science, he would never get in to medical school. They said he should stick to the arts, but he changed paths and worked hard in his post-bacc program and proved them all wrong!

Another thing about Mike: He's been drawing and sketching since he first learned to use a pencil.

He wanted to major in studio art in college, but he ended up majoring in neuropsychology and minoring in art, because, parents.

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But the beginning of med school was rocky for him.

"The first thing everyone notices about medical school education is the sheer volume of information, and the rate that it flows at you is CRAZY," he explains.

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So to keep the material manageable, he went back to his roots and started illustrating it.

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And some of them are INTENSE.

Courtesy of Michael Natter

This sketch depicts the two kinds of COPD (or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). The guy on the left is called a "pink puffer," because his skin is still a normal pink hue but has labored breathing due to emphysema. The guy on the right is a "blue bloater," and he suffers from chronic bronchitis and is cyanotic (which means his skin is blueish).

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And this is what our backs look like!

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This is Weezy, illustrating Myelofibrosis:

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(It's a disease where your bone marrow scars over and turns into fibrotic tissue. What happens then is your red blood cells get squeezed out through the marrow and into your circulation. Under a microscope, blood cells look like tear drops instead of their normal biconcave shape — and that's what made Mike think of Weezy.)

And his mnemonic devices are great too. This is Dr. Dre talking about digital rectal exams:

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This is an NHL player explaining non-Hodgkin's lymphoma:

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This baby on a motorcycle illustrates Kawasaki disease:

Courtesy of Michael Natter

Kawasaki disease is an inflammation of blood vessels that's seen in young kids. It usually includes a rash on the hands and feet, as well as a cherry-red tongue. But, scariest of all, it can affect the vessels of the heart!

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Even if you're not a doctor or in the medical field, you can usually get the gist of most of what's going on in Mike's sketches:

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And when he's not sketching body parts or study guides, he's drawing just to express what he's feeling and what it's like to be in med school:

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Mike has also had Type 1 diabetes for 20 years — so he wants to go into endocrinology. Maybe even pediatric endocrinology!

Courtesy of Michael Natter

“I want to go into endocrinology so I can help those who share my disease. It’s an interesting field in and of itself.

"However, since a lot of the treatment with chronic disease is up to patient compliance, being able to relate to the patient firsthand goes a long way. For example, an 11- or 12-year-old diabetic kid will have their doc tell them to take injections, prick their finger, and go easy on the Fruit Loops. Not eat Fruit Loops? Fruit Loops are delicious!

"But, if a doctor could get on their level and look them in the eye and say, ‘Hey, this SUCKS, and I know it sucks because I have to do it too, but we can work together and make it suck a little less and be healthy people,’ I think that would go a long way.”

Of his journey, he says, "I was intimidated at first with the massive amount of material I needed to learn, and I was unsure how to go about it, especially for a nontraditional, 'artsy' student like myself..."

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"But I quickly realized that visual learning was the most natural approach for me."

This is a sketch from a comic book that Mike made about a diabetic superhero named Captain Langerhans. It's to help explain the disease to newly diagnosed diabetic kids!

Follow Mike and his journey through med school by following him on Instagram.

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