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Using Design (and Comedy) to Inspire in Healthcare and Health Education

It is hard to ignore bad design. I came from two backgrounds that inspired me to make design a priority in my work as a physical therapist.

The first was growing up in an underserved neighborhood where trash was everywhere, and violence and drugs were rampant. In other words - not a beautiful place upon initial appearances. This had repercussions on the healthcare world too. Even going to clinics with my father or grandparents when they were sick, clinics were sterile, the atmosphere was sad, the chairs were uncomfortable, and doctors were eager to get to their next patient, and didn’t even speak the same language.

The second was when I was in physical therapy school. For someone who was a visual and kinesthetic learner, the program was heavy on lecture, and lectures were very difficult to digest because I was someone who found auditory processing very difficult. In addition, most of our books or PowerPoint presentations were explaining 3D movement with 2D pictures. Fast forward to becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist, and the same issues remained, now pushed onto the patient. Most physical therapy sessions end with giving a patient a few exercises to do at home by handing the patient a piece of paper with stick figure drawings.

During my clinical internships and my early years of practice I knew there had to be a better experience for patient and trainee education, so I set out to learn how to make design a part of the patient (and public) experience. I started thinking of ways to democratize the knowledge that I gained in physical therapy school and make it accessible to the masses. YouTube videos and television felt like a natural way to do this, but physical therapy school didn’t exactly train me to film and produce professional grade educational video content. And so, I would teach myself these skills which I felt were gaps in my ability to truly convey physical therapy education to my patients. After all, if I learned anything in the rigorous curriculum of physical therapy school, it was how to quickly digest large amounts of information, and quickly hone new skills. I learned about lenses, prime, and zoom. I learned about lighting. I learned about color correction and color grading. Cinematography was one thing, but it still wouldn’t allow me to connect with my patients on the level that I felt I needed to. I also needed to learn how to create 3D digital content so that I could more accurately teach about anatomy, pathophysiology, and treatment. And so, I learned the basics of Blender, Unreal, Unity, and animation. It did not happen overnight by any means, but finally I felt equipped to be the physical therapist that I needed to be - one armed with the knowledge of the human body, but also with the skills necessary to convey that knowledge to others.

That knowledge base and skill set would give way to Gross Anatomy Studios, my production company focused on using video content, and often comedy, to teach about anatomy and physical therapy. Design is crucial in Gross Anatomy. I realized that if I can make you be awed at something, if I can make you smile, then I can get your attention and help you learn about your body. Design in Gross Anatomy begins in the ideation phase, carries through to outfits and props, the tone of the scene, the editing color grading, the sound and music, the anatomy graphics, and to the real world themes the sketches are about. As a physical therapist, I use design to reach patients and engage them long enough so that hopefully they feel encouraged to improve their physical and mental health. In doing this, I hope that just like design has inspired me as a young child, taking my grandparents to the bleak clinics of my childhood neighborhood, all the way through my professional career, it will now inspire my audience to make a positive change in their lives. Gross Anatomy has showed me that the future of healthcare and health education does not need to be dull and that it can soar past the status quo. My journey has taught me that design inspires, even in healthcare.

About The Author:

Adrian Miranda is a physical therapist based in New York City. He has 13 years of clinical experience as well as 9 years of content creation experience. He is the creator of the comedy edutainment series called Gross Anatomy and the Founder and CEO of Gross Anatomy Studios, Inc. based in New York

City. “With my physical therapy training and my filmmaking skills, I’m working to democratize health education by using humor to teach people about the human body so that they can take better care of their health.”

Learn more about Gross Anatomy Studios:

About The Health Design Blog:

The Health Design Blog invites you to meet the newest specialty of medicine: the health designers - and learn from their backgrounds, experiences, and stories. We hope that our stories will inspire others who feel the pull to move against the grain, to light the spark inside of them, and unleash it onto the world. To keep up to date with these stories, make sure to follow this blog and sign up for the health design newsletter here.

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