Dr. Maruyama perceived two needs of young cardiac patients: the need for reassurance in stressful, pre- and post-procedural situations; and the need for education about the heart and related surgical procedures and terminology.
As a medical student, Dr. Maruyama created a “daily doodle” to understand teachings from that day’s classes; she also made anatomical models out of paper – Organami – which form the basis of her educational paper toys. Citing the valuable role that drawing has played in her own medical education, she says, “I greatly support the arts and humanities in medicine, and I think there are many opportunities for collaboration between the two disciplines.”
Dr. Maruyama is tapping into children’s rich imaginations and visual acuity with her creations. For example, her Sternotomy Bear is a paper toy that children cut out, assemble and then open the chest to look at the heart and its parts. It is custom-designed to represent the various heart conditions and procedures. Another, a stuffed teddy bear called the Ostomy Doll, can be disassembled so that children can see internal anatomy and how feeding tubes work.
In 2012, funded jointly by an Emerging Leaders in Health Promotion grant and a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the series of paper and plush toys representing common heart conditions and procedures has developed and evolved since Dr. Maruyama and a team of fellow second-year medical students at the University of British Columbia Northern Medical Program first created toys for doctors to use as aids in teaching young BC Children’s Hospital patients about their medical conditions.
Although the paper cut-out products are her favorite, because of their economy and accessibility, Dr. Maruyama has many ideas for future educational toys, including more anatomical models, health care action heroes, coloring books and more. She is also using gamification concepts to create surgical simulation kits to teach residents surgical techniques.
However, Dr. Maruyama will never stray far from her printable paper models. “I think education should be available to everyone, and that’s why I choose the materials I do,” she told the Edmonton Journal in an interview last summer. Indeed, her paper cut-out products are available for free on her website: artoflearning.ca.