About This Project

Education is key in the rehab process for spinal cord damage, but precious few resources for children exist. We will build an engaging, dynamic website to fill this void, and test the use of illustrated techniques for teaching biomedical concepts to children.

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What is the context of this research?

Every year more than 15,000 new people in the US suffer a traumatic spinal cord injury. Thousands more will acquire spinal cord damage from autoimmune, infectious, vascular and neoplastic etiologies, of which children make up a significant percentage of the patient population. Education is key in dealing with the resulting life-changing consequences, which may include paralysis, loss of sensation and the inability to control bowel and bladder function. Teaching can help patients understand what is going on in their bodies and what to expect. However, there is a dearth of resources appropriate for pediatric patients to help teach them about the topic.

What is the significance of this project?

We will build an educational website to fill the critical void in patient resources for pediatric spinal cord damage patients. Our testing will help inform the goal of creating a fun, engaging site that children will enjoy exploring on their own. The site will be useful to not only patients and their families, but also can be used to help children's classmates and peers understand, relate and adjust to patients so that life can continue as normally as possible.The research will also help the field of medical illustration by providing insight into how children like to learn. In general, few websites exist to help children with chronic medical issues and children are an often overlooked audience.

What are the goals of the project?

1. To create a unique, engaging website that effectively teaches children and families about spinal cord problems.

2. To test the use of illustrative techniques to convey biomedical information to children, and gain insight into children's learning preferences for the field of medical illustration.

3. To disseminate both the content of the site, as well as the results of the research study to the public in order to improve learning outcomes, and advance the way this type of material is presented.


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Given the short time-frame of this project (about three months), we need to hire a programmer to help maximize the amount of content that can be tested and posted on to the site. The programmer would help with implementing interactive elements and site functionality. The more that we can raise will allow for more interactive elements that will make for a richer, more engaging browsing experience. Funding this project will help not only with our research, but will uniquely create a working resource that is tangible to you the funder, and hopefully helpful to many others as well! Please scroll below the "Meet the Researcher" section to see an outline of what we hope to include on the website.

Meet the Team

Jeff Day
Jeff Day

Team Bio

I'm excited to be combining all my interests into one project: science, cartoons, and creating for kids. Prior to starting graduate studies, I developed health programming for children at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, with an emphasis on fun, interactive lessons. My background is in medicine, having graduated from medical school and spending a year as a pediatrics intern at the University of Michigan. I have one published book, "Don't Touch That!", a cartoon guide to dangerous North American wildlife. After graduation, I hope to continue developing engaging science and medical education resources for all levels, and projects that make people smile.

My team includes Adam Kaplin, MD, PhD and Kristen Rahn, PhD, noted neuropsychiatric clinicians and researchers at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, who focus on disorders that can affect the spine. Assistant Professor Jennifer Fairman, CMI/FAMI is an award-winning medical illustrator who is guiding me with the artistic communication.

Additional Information

At a minimum, we are hoping to include the following web contents:

  1. Animation on normal spinal cord anatomy
  2. Animation on damaged spinal cord
  3. Interactive comic on the basics of neurons
  4. ...in addition to plain text descriptions illustrations for what to expect

With funds over the $3500 goal we could also include:

  1. Interactive* that illustrates spinal levels
  2. Interactive that illustrates the autonomic nervous system
  3. Interactive "Operation"-like game
  4. More elaborate illustrations of how various etiologies can lead to spinal cord damage

* An "Interactive" is a click-able illustration that viewers can interact with.

This is Mackenzie! She and her mom Casey inspired this project. After discovering a human body app they really like, they mentioned to Drs. Kaplin and Rahn, "Someone should make something like this for the spinal cord!". Here's Casey interviewing Mackenzie about transverse myelitis:

Click the links to learn more about the historic Department of Art as Applied to Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine!

Project Backers

  • 38Backers
  • 101%Funded
  • $3,535Total Donations
  • $93.03Average Donation
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