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When did you start drawing?

I have been drawing for as long as I can remember. My elementary school teachers probably remember that I doodled on every piece of paper I could find.

How do you have time to be a resident and also draw comics?

I use art to cope, and so it’s not so much that I find time than it is that I make time.

What tools do you use?

I mostly use an iPad (upgrading to a Pro soon) and an apple pen! I draw on an app called Procreate.

Do you do commissions? How much do you charge?

I occasionally do commissions. To see if I have any commissions available, check here. Currently, commissions are CLOSED. I charge ~$100/ hour- and this will likely get higher as I get busier. Why? Because it’s custom work and I deserve it. Kisses!

Are you interested in illustrating a picture book?

A picture book requires usually 15-30 full sized illustrations and is a huge undertaking. Please only reach out to me about this if you 1) have a budget of at least 5k and 2) need an illustrator who is both an artist AND a doctor.

Will you do an interview with me?

Please send all interview inquiries to shirlywhirlmd@gmail.com. Please check out my interview with UChicago Magazine, Medicine on the Midway, and Student Doctor Network.

Would you be interested in a speaking engagement/ teaching a class?

I might be. :) Before you send me an inquiry, please see if your institution will cover a $500/hr honorarium first. Email me with inquiries at shirlywhirlmd@gmail.com

Do you have advice for premeds or medical students?

I’m not the best person to go to for advice for premeds– it’s been a long time since I was one, and the landscape is different! For medical students, my advice depends on what you want to do. Medicine is a rat race, but you can run how you want to. Want to get into a competitive specialty? Then focus on your Step exams, as those are (for now) the determining factor for whether you’ll get through the door. If you aren’t deeply passionate about an area, focus on research projects you can conceivably finish, not the ones you’re necessarily passionate about. Keep your head down and ignore what everyone else is doing. People talk a mad game in medical school; protect your peace. Also, show the empathy that you intend to have for your patients to your classmates– you don’t know who is struggling, in what, or why.

How did you take your art from a hobby to scholarly work?

On accident.

What are good coping mechanisms for being a POC in medicine?

This is very dependent on the person. For me, embracing my blackness in its totality was step 1! You’ll notice that a lot of my comics use AAVE– because I code switch irl, and because manner of speech doesn’t equal intelligence. Keeping my locs was a deliberate decision as well, and making sure I publicize that I am not the one was the next. Step 2- picking a place to train where I felt that I could exist safely. Not everyone has that luxury. Step 3- Make sure that I direct my energy into mentoring the next gen. Step 4- not letting anyone around me get away with accidental racism esp toward patients. I’m a big fan of “What do you mean by that?” I can go deeper but I feel like this one is best geared for a 1 on 1 convo.

Would you tell aspiring doctors not to pursue the profession?

I would say: know what you’re getting into. This is a high intensity profession. It gets harder at every step. You will miss holidays, birthdays, weddings, the births of your nieces and nephews, funerals. You will be exhausted in ways you didn’t know you could be. Unless you come from money, you will be deeply in debt. There are a million ways to “help people” in the world- if that is your motivation, then I would look into those ways first.

How did you decide you wanted to do IM? How about Cardiology?

IM was a process of elimination for me. I didn’t want to deal with kids, didn’t want to live like a surgeon, was traumatized by Psych (lol) and liked the process of making a diagnosis. I remember all of my best diagnoses! See my Cardiology comic for the second part of this question.

Where did you find inspiration for your art style?

I watched a lot of anime growing up, and my “base style” is based on that. My ShirlyWhirlMD style is a mix of the anime style and more Western cartoons. Idk I’ve just been drawing like this for a while haha.

Where did you learn to draw?

I’m a hobbyist. I draw constantly and therefore practice all the time. I also try to apply what I know about anatomy to my art. I follow artists who I want to emulate.

How do you deal with imposter syndrome in your medical career?

I have terrible imposter syndrome. I remind myself that I am a boss everyday, and also try to be gracious to myself. Can’t know everything, can’t do everything, can’t be everywhere, you know?

Can you tell me how you’re getting your book published?

Please do your own research about this before you ask me! Still a busy resident. I’m happy to field more detailed questions about my experience, however. The rough process is as follows: finish your book. Query agents. Pray. Get accepted by an agent. Edit the heck out of your book. Send to editors at publishing houses. Pray some more. Potentially cry real thug tears. Hopefully get pubb’d.

When can I read your book?

I won’t be able to tell anyone but my close friends/family details about the book until I get the go ahead… so just keep an eye out for an announcement and assume that you won’t be able to read it for at least another 2 years :(

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