Type 1 Origins: Talking Comic Books with Partha Kar.
Dr. Kar has been a Consultant in Diabetes & Endocrinology at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust since 2008 and the Clinical Director of Diabetes from 2009-2015. One of his main areas or passion is in helping to redesign diabetes care in an attempt to integrate chronic disease management across primary and secondary care. He’s won many awards and has helped patients with diabetes across the spectrum. I’ve been following UK endocrinologist Dr. Partha Kar on Twitter for ages now and have been watching the development of his type 1 diabetes-centric comic book with excitement. Just recently, the comic was released into the wild.
The superhero twist that wraps around the diabetes narrative makes the idea all the more interesting. According to the comic intro, “As comic and superhero fans, it seemed to us that there were some parallels between the times when a type 1 diabetes diagnosis is made and when a superhero discovers their powers for the first time. There is often shock and surprise among the feelings experienced in both situations, followed by acceptance and adaptation.”
I couldn’t agree more, and was thrilled that Dr. Kar took a few minutes of his time to answer some questions about his work, the comic, and the DOC.
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Kerri: Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions, Dr. Kar! Can you give me a little background on your involvement with the diabetes online community, and how diabetes has touched your life, personally?
Dr. Kar: Social media and interaction with the DOC probably has been the biggest education I have received in my career. Its been fun, enjoyable and educational and I have enjoyed so much of it! Personally, this is my life, my work, my job and everyday in one way or another, diabetes always affects what I do – much needs to improve in my view. I see folks struggle every day with little things – somehow it would be nice if even a little bit of that could be improved.
Kerri: I’ve been watching the development of your T1D-centric comic book with great interest from the US. Can you tell me a bit about why you created this comic?
Dr. Kar: Comics are great source of education-as far as I am concerned – I have always loved how they have explored the issues of social isolation (X men); teenage angst (Spiderman) etc. and has always been one of my loves of life. Somehow it seemed natural to join that and diabetes together – it felt like a medium which hasn’t been used much – and perhaps could help with showcasing type 1 diabetes and raising awareness.
Kerri: What makes the narrative of diabetes so important, in your opinion?
Dr. Kar: Diabetes is and always has been a multifaceted condition – ignorance towards it – or simply labeling it as a condition of “being unhealthy” is wrong on so many levels, let alone the different types which are totally different entities. Its important we make that clear. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are fundamentally different with fundamentally different needs – it’s important as HCPs that we help in raising this awareness too.
Kerri: Who helped you bring your creative vision for the diabetes comic to fruition?
Dr. Kar: As regards the comic book, big thank you to many individuals. I don’t have type 1 diabetes – it would be silly as fellas wrong for me to do the narrative – I wouldn’t even know what it is to have a hypo. Thus, my huge thank you to Andy Broomhead, Jen Blackwell, Laura Cleverly, and Joe Griffiths who helped create the story board. Danny Mclaughin from Revolve Comics was the dude who brought it all to life – while my co-conspirator was Dr. Mayank Patel- we have always call each other Bruce & Clark. I will let you figure out who is who!
Kerri: What are you hoping to accomplish with this piece? And what part of the comic are you most proud of?
Dr. Kar: Raising awareness is a key theme, as well as maybe helping to explain type 1 diabetes to someone newly diagnosed slightly differently. My analogy is that its perhaps like a super power – but not one which people want – sort of like the Hulk, who spends his entire life trying to find the cure but along the way, learns to live with it, sometimes control it … a super power he never wanted in the first place. Proudest part? Perhaps the panel where the character meets someone he knows and understands he is not “alone.”
Kerri: Outside of the comic trade, I know you’re actively involved with the diabetes community as a healthcare professional. What is your background as a healthcare provider, and how does that background intersect with your creative outreach efforts?
Dr. Kar: I like trying different things- for example a one stop shop for those with type 1 diabetes or indeed TED style talks. I like changing things, shaping new things, exploring new horizons … I suppose I like a challenge and for certain, improving type 1 diabetes care is no small one. I have a huge desire to improve type 1 diabetes care – let’s see where it takes me!
Kerri: How can readers of Six Until Me check out your comic book? And also, how can they connect with you on social media?
Dr. Kar: Comic book is free! Go to Revolve Comics and feel free to download- use it, spread the word and hey if you like it and want more, come back with ideas! Who knows – I have ideas swirling in my head about turning this into an animation … early days but who knows!
As regards getting in touch- just follow me on Twitter (@parthaskar) and feel free to poke, ask anything you want. As I say to all and sundry, if asked with respect, no question is tough- if I don’t know it, I will be the first one to put my hand up. I look forward to interacting with as many folks with T1D as I can. As I said, it’s always such a fab learning opportunity and I genuinely enjoy the chats.
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Thanks for chatting with me, Dr. Kar, and I’m looking forward to more from your team of superheroes! To download the comic, visit Revolve Comics and you can grab it for free.