Telling patient stories: Comics journalism at the Seattle/King County Clinic

Rosa's family (2016)
Rosa’s Story by ET Russian

Armed with pen and paper, a dozen artists roamed the floor of the Seattle/King County Clinic, a  four-day pop-up clinic at the Seattle Center’s Key Arena that provided free medical, dental, and vision care to nearly 4,500 people last October. These were some of the most respected comics artists in the Pacific Northwest, and they were there to find out who these patients were, what experiences they had in trying to get healthcare day-to-day, and why so many were willing to wait for many hours at the Seattle Center–even overnight–for this clinic.

These stories came together as a series of short comic strips that will be exhibited at Cupcake Royale on Capitol Hill starting Thursday, March 9 as part of Capitol Hill Artwalk. They have also appeared in The Stranger, the Seattle Globalist, and the International Examiner. Eroyn Franklin, co-founder of the beloved Short Run Comix and Arts Festival, also created a longer piece of comics journalism that tells what is involved in standing up a clinic of this scale and how it fits into the larger healthcare landscape in Washington which was published in The Nib, a national comics publication.

Eroyn Nib shot
From “Can Free Pop-Up Clinics Save American Healthcare?” by Eroyn Franklin in The Nib

I was one of the Public Health employees working at the Seattle/King County Clinic, and I also spearheaded the comics journalism project. Our idea was to draw attention to the gaps in the healthcare system that drives the need for this Clinic, with the aim of stimulating ideas and conversations about what we can do to start addressing those gaps. We also wanted to show the diversity of circumstances and situations that bring people to the clinic. Reporters and visitors to the SKC Clinic are sometimes surprised that the patient population includes people with jobs and families, people who look like their co-workers, friends and neighbors.

Why Comics?

Some of the artists addressed this question at a panel held at Emerald City Comicon over the past weekend. Kelly Froh, the other enormous talent behind the Short Run festival, explained that the blend of images, narrative and dialogue, told in sequence, can tell stories that quickly create an emotional and empathetic connection between readers and the subjects shown. Megan Kelso, an award-winning graphic novelist, described how the hand drawn quality of lettering and images adds to the immediacy and intimacy of the stories. In the coming debates over healthcare and the Affordable Care Act, we hope that these comic strips will be one way of reminding both voters and policy makers about the great challenges that so many already face in getting the care they need and the impact of health policies on real people who live in our communities.

Patient Stories from the Seattle/King County Clinic

Moriarity2-SKC-clinic-HUAVIA (1)
Huavai by Pat Moriarity
Pirate Treasure by Tatiana Gill
Graham by David Lasky
Sci-Fi by Kelly Froh
Dental Start by Meredith Li-Vollmer
Thomas by Robyn Jordan
Phyllis by Megan Kelso
Owen Curtsinger Clinic Comic Final resized
George by Owen Cursinger


Pickles by Pat Moriarity
Roberta Gregory Free Clinic 300 (4)
Free Clinic by Roberta Gregory
Clinic by Jose Alaniz
David Lasky Calvin
Calvin by David Lasky
John by Megan Kelso
One Tooth by Tatiana Gill
Lottery - Froh
Lottery by Kelly Froh


Meredith Li-Vollmer Blurry
Blurry by Meredith Li-Vollmer
Limited Time by Tatiana Gill
Nick by Pat Moriarity
Good to Go by Tatiana Gill

Lottery by Kelly Froh

Toothless by Tatiana Gill
Timing Froh
Timing by Kelly Froh
Ousman by Megan Kelso
Two teeth by Tatiana Gill
Roberta Gregory Vision 600
Vision by Roberta Gregory

Originally posted on March 6, 2017.


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I am a risk communications specialist at Public Health - Seattle & King County.