The Daily Heller: Mayo Clinic’s Med School for Kids

Posted inThe Daily Heller

Mayo Clinic Press uses illustrated books like a virtual medical school, telling fascinating stories while empowering children and adults with the knowledge to build healthier, happier lives. The press’ publications promise reliable and trusted content by some of the world’s leading healthcare professionals on difficult themes, including cancer and mental health. For these books, young people who have been Mayo Clinic patients worked with officials and French artist Hey Gee to share their experiences. The resulting stories authentically bring to life the patients’ emotions and their inspiring responses to challenging circumstances. Mayo Clinic physicians contributed the latest medical expertise on each topic so that these stories can best help other patients, families and caregivers understand how children perceive and work through their own challenges. Proceeds benefit important medical research and education at the Clinic.

I spoke with Nina Weiner, editor-in-chief of Mayo Clinic Press, to explain the idea behind the series My Life Beyond …, which will cover subjects from a mental and physical medical perspective.

What excites you most about this series of books?
It’s hard to come by trusted health information for kids that’s illustrated and designed at this level. Yes, the books are helping kids have important conversations about health, but they’re also just plain fun.

Is this the first time a publishing program of this kind has been tackled by a healthcare institute?
Organizations like the American Psychological Association’s Magination Press have been producing great books for kids for years, but it’s the first time we’re aware of a hospital being involved in the release of a book line with mass distribution.

How was the style/brand/identity conceived?
The original concept was the brainchild of one of Mayo’s top physician leaders, Dr. Frederic Meyer, and Dr. James Levine, president of Fondation Ipsen in Paris. Their teams engaged with French-American artist/writer Hey Gee to bring it to life.

What is the process of conception and creation of each title?
Once the subjects have been identified (Bullying, Leukemia, Autism, Diabetes, etc.), Kim Chandler in our education department works with pediatric physicians at Mayo Clinic to identify and interview patients about their stories and the ways they’ve put their imaginations to work in developing resilience along their journeys. Their physicians check all the facts and provide additional medical information for the kids (and their adult humans) who want to go deeper into the science. Then Céline Colombier-Maffre at Fondation Ipsen and Anna Cavallo at Mayo Clinic Press step in to work with Hey Gee as he develops the storyboards, script and eventual final art. Many others are involved, of course—too many to name and thank here!

How are the subjects prioritized?
By the expert docs leading this venture.

Who is the audience?
Reading levels and interests are so varied, but this should appeal to 6–9-year-olds. That said, as far as I’m concerned, graphic novels are for all ages.

What is in the pipeline?
My Life Beyond Autism (March 2022)

My Life Beyond: Immunizations (July 2022)

My Life Beyond: Neurofibromatosis (July 2022)

My Life Beyond: Diabetes (October 2022)

Knowledge should be shared, especially when it comes to health and medicine. Not everyone can come to Mayo Clinic for care, but everyone’s life can be enriched by the expertise and empathy at the heart of the practice. The way we publish is guided by the Mayo Clinic model of care, whose collaborative approach puts the needs of the patient first.

The Mayo Clinic’s new series reaches people of all walks of life, at all stages of life. In concert with Fondation Ipsen, the goal is to improve the lives of millions of people around the world by rethinking scientific communication.

Children’s voices are rarely heard amid the complexity of modern medicine. That’s why every story in the My Life Beyond series stems from the imagination and experience of a Mayo Clinic patient.

For more information about Mayo Clinic Press, visit MCPress.MayoClinic.org.