Children’s book for pediatric patients

Rodney Ram stars in a children’s book for pediatric patients who are preparing for surgery at the VCU Medical Center. Image courtesy of Robert Meganck

Sarah King
Contributing Writer

Rodney Ram’s prestigious job of rallying fans at sporting events isn’t his only gig. The mascot now stars in a book distributed to pediatric surgery patients at the VCU Medical Center titled “The Day I Had My Surgery.”

The book, authored by former VCU medical student Richard Hubbard, M.D., and illustrated by senior communication arts student Corinne Reinert, is the story of Rodney Ram’s journey as he undergoes doctor’s visits, anesthesiology, surgery and recovery.

“Rodney the Ram is used as a vehicle to take a child through what the process of what anesthesiology and surgery is like. It was really designated to deal with the difficult anxieties that children have,” said Hubbard, who is now in his residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “One thing I noticed was that kids were very intimidated by the whole scenario, they don’t understand what surgery or the experience is. I wanted to educated the kids in order to quell a lot of that fear.”

Hubbard made the book his senior project, as a way to give back to the university.

“VCU had helped me out in so many ways that I wanted to make it my senior project,” Hubbard said. “A sort of gift, to give back to the university; the idea kind of came to me in my third year of medical school.”

The hospital is now distributing the book in the pre-operation clinic appointments office, as part of a packet given to families of pediatric patients. One-thousand copies have been printed and Hubbard estimates the first run will last about six months.

Although he authored the book, Hubbard attributes much of its success to Reinert’s illustrations, as well as the support of the Communication Arts Department chairperson Robert Meganck.

“There is a health sciences and the arts initiative within the School of Arts to support projects that connect the School of the Arts with MCV,” Meganck said. “This is part of the university’s larger Quest for Distinction, which is to connect the two campuses. To me, it’s a very worthwhile project.”

The collaboration began by reviewing portfolio submissions to choose an illustrator. A faculty committee reviewed the portfolio submissions, and Reinert was chosen to take advantage of the scholarship opportunity made possible by the Pollak Society and patrons of the School of the Arts.  The scholarship funded the illustrations and was also considered a six credit internship.

“I think I was selected mostly because all I drew were cute animals, it was totally meant to be,” Reinert said, laughing. “I got the manuscript last semester over the winter and I was supposed to start right away, but I broke my drawing hand the day before.”

The two month project didn’t officially start until March of last year, she said. The group had to work on a tight deadline, because Hubbard was preparing to leave Richmond for his residency in Pittsburgh, she added.

A broken hand did not hinder Reinert’s enthusiasm for the project, however.

“She was still so committed to this thing,” Meganck said. “Before she broke her hand she had already done some rough characters studies, and she had done some preliminary sketches that kind of put her in the ballpark for Rodney Ram, so we just kind of had to work through her broken hand.”

Hubbard, too, praised Reinert’s contribution, stressing the artwork is really what brought the project together.

“What’s so cool is that the characteristics of different doctors are portrayed in the illustrations; they’re based off of real doctors at MCV,” Hubbard said. “For example, Doctor Jay has a huge beard, and Corinne portrayed Doctor Jay as a goat with a big white beard in the book. The art department really took this project on, it was my idea and groundwork, but they really made it awesome.”

The initial funding for the project came from the School of the Arts, but funding to print the book came from Owens and Minor, a local business with ties to the School of the Arts. VCU owns the copyright to the book, but is open to distributing it to other hospitals and using the proceeds for charity, Meganck said. The book was not originally intended to make a profit, he added.

“I think the original idea was that if another hospital wanted to buy copies of it, then any proceeds would be split between the pediatrics (at) MCV and a charity that funds health issues in South Asia,” Meganck said. “We don’t have the resources to essentially farm this thing out, but if a doctor were to see it and wanted copies we could make it happen very easily.”

Hubbard said he hopes that in the future, the book can be marketed to a wider audience as he pursues a career in pediatric anesthesiology.

Reinert, now in her last semester at VCU, is in the process of illustrating another children’s book. Eventually, she said she hopes to do child-targeted animation.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply