Last year, Paul S. Moniz, DO, launched his own series of children’s books, The World Inside Us, that he hopes will help instill healthful habits.
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Hero Next Door: Missouri DO pens health-focused kids’ books

The World Inside Us, a new children’s book series by Paul Moniz, DO, explores what happens in the human body.

While growing up on the island of Bermuda, a British territory, Paul S. Moniz, DO, developed a love of literature, particularly poetry. In high school, his favorite poets included Robert Frost and Ted Hughes. But he didn’t start writing light verse until after he opened his own family medicine practice in Farmington, Missouri, in 2007.

“Whenever my staff members would have a birthday or some special event in their lives, I would write them a little poem to personalize the occasion,” says Dr. Moniz, who co-owns Midwest Health Group. “My staff really got a kick out of it.

“So I began to spend more time playing around with words and expanding on my ideas and discovered that writing came quite easily to me.”

Last year, Dr. Moniz decided to apply his literary talents to a new project: a series of colorful, zany yet purposeful books for young children. Dr. Moniz hopes the self-published series, titled The World Inside Us, will educate children and their parents about the human body and health in a lighthearted, accessible manner.

Dr. Moniz came up with the idea for the books while contemplating solutions to a persistent challenge: improving patient compliance.

“I was thinking about how we can get patients to do what we want them to,” he remembers. “One of the biggest problems with medicine is that we don’t train our kids on the right things to do from a young age. By the time they get into their 40s like I am, all of their bad habits have been instilled.

“I hope my books can help instill healthy habits by giving kids a better understanding of the human body in a fun way.”

Simple books, complex topics

Published in June 2014, the first book, The Land of Digestion, introduces the characters, Professor Ann Attamee and her friend, a computer named Fizzy OLLA-G, who show kids what happens to food after it is chewed and swallowed.

Dressed as construction workers, microbes in the story carry on a conversation. “Where does this go?” asks one of them while grabbing a load of sugar. “That goes in the bloodstream—our blood, the healthy body’s river,” replies another.

Later on, the book explains that the colon is “where they take care of all the poop.” This job is so important “ ’cause who wants to deal with all that gloop!”

Rhyme and whimsy serve to captivate children’s interest and kindle their curiosity to learn more, says Dr. Moniz, who has so far sold approximately 400 copies of The Land of Digestion and considers the project a labor of love.

The second book in the series, Pumpers, Puffers and Other Stuffers, covers the role of the heart and lungs and was released in December 2014. Dr. Moniz has written 13 manuscripts so far, including those on the hazards of smoking, a girl’s battle with cancer, and the challenges people with dementia face. He aims to address serious subjects in an engaging way and effect change in people’s behavior.

Illustrated in a high-energy style influenced by Japanese “manga” graphic novels and anime, the books are meant to be eye-catching and entertaining, says Dr. Moniz. He initially expected to do the drawings himself, given that one of his hobbies is wildlife sketching, but soon realized he lacked the skills needed for caricature. Fortunately, he discovered that Alicia Boyer, one of his teenage patients, had the cartooning talents perfect for his series.

One day in his office, Dr. Moniz happened to be chatting with another patient, Boyer’s grandmother, about his series and mentioned his struggles to illustrate it. The patient pointed out that her granddaughter, who was sitting in the waiting room sketching, was an accomplished artist.

“It was so serendipitous,” Dr. Moniz says. “I asked Alicia to read through my first manuscript and come up with some ideas of what the characters would look like. Within 10 minutes, she had drawn exactly what I had envisioned. I was ecstatic to partner with such a marvelous young lady and artist.”

‘Incredibly imaginative’

Dr. Moniz’s wife, Stephanie Moniz, DO, whom he met while attending the A.T. Still University-Kirksville (Missouri) College of Osteopathic Medicine, encouraged him to write the books. His two daughters, both teenagers, read the manuscripts and offer suggestions, even though they are older than the series’ target audience: children age 3 to 12.

Roughly 32 pages in length, full of short dialogue, narration balloons and large pictures, the books are designed so children and adults can read them together in a brief time, such as right before bed or while waiting for the doctor.

In person, Dr. Moniz effervesces with eagerness, and his passion and good humor shine through in his books, his colleagues in Farmington say.

“Paul is extremely enthusiastic and very fun,” says James N. Moore, DO, a family physician with a practice near Dr. Moniz’s. “He is a very likeable and approachable individual and also incredibly imaginative.”

While the books are lively and playful in tone to interest young readers, those that deal with diseases encourage children to be compassionate and empathetic. These books can also serve a valuable purpose of helping to deepen a child’s understanding of a disease he or she is fighting, Dr. Moore says. In fact, one of Dr. Moore’s patients, a 7-year-old girl with brain cancer, inspired Dr. Moniz’s fourth manuscript.

The book series reveals Dr. Moniz’s positive outlook and ever-upbeat personality, echoes Victoria Damba, DO.

“Paul Moniz always has a smile on his face, and he’s always in a good mood no matter how stressed he is,” says Dr. Damba, a family physician with Mineral Area Regional Medical Center.

Dr. Damba plans to display Dr. Moniz’s entire series in her waiting room as each book becomes available.

“The animation is very cool, and it’s a simple story line,” she says. “Although the series is directed at kids, adults should enjoy it too. There are many people who don’t know much about anatomy and physiology, and these books may spur them to read further.”

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