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Medical Illustration Exhibit Showcases Students’ Talent

From left, Communication Between the Central Nervous System and Enteric Nervous System, Amanda Slade; CRISPR-Cas9: How Bacterial Immunity Remembers and Recognizes Infecting Bacteriophage, Mary Tianxing Shi; Endophilic Tumor Dissection, Tziporah Thompson.

To show how nerves communicate, medical illustrator Amanda Slade has crafted a detailed image of yellow neurons coursing from the brain to an intricate network of intestinal nerves. The piece took weeks to complete, and there were very few preexisting illustrations on the topic to guide her, she says.

Slade’s rendering is among 120 medical and biological illustrations by graduate students from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Department of Art As Applied to Medicine. The artwork will be on display in the Phipps Building’s Houck Memorial Lobby, beginning May 22. All employees are invited to an opening reception that day, from 4 to 6 p.m.

Featured works cover a breadth of subjects—from shoulder replacement surgery, to gene expression, to how feathers grow in puffin chicks. In addition, two flat-screens will continuously loop students’ 2D and 3D animations on such topics as molecular mechanisms, ovulation and the management of difficult airways in infants.

One of only four accredited medical illustration graduate programs in North America, the Department of Art As Applied to Medicine was established in 1911. Despite the advent of technological aids to enhance artist renderings, the program’s goal remains unchanged: to communicate science, medicine and health care visually through the rigorous teaching of scientific principles and techniques.

The program continues to evolve, says interim director Cory Sandone, who is also a graduate of the program. “We still teach traditional media, like pen and ink,” she notes, “but because new technologies provide excellent tools to communicate, we’re designing more interactive media, creating animations and incorporating 3D modeling.”

The Master of Arts program in medical and biological illustration accepts seven students per year from among 60 to 70 applicants, says Sandone. During the two-year program, students take the course in human anatomy with the medical students, observe and sketch in the operating rooms, the facial prosthetics clinic and at the National Aquarium. Students must demonstrate “exemplary science preparation” in chemistry, anatomy, physiology and biological science, and prepare a portfolio with realistic renderings, says Sandone.

The annual exhibit, now in its 34th year, aims to enlighten visitors about the scope of students’ artistic skill, often in unexpected ways, says Sandone. “What surprises me most each year,” she says, “is that our students complete such elaborate portfolios in just 22 months!” Graduates have accepted jobs at other academic medical illustration departments or in industry, such as modeling and animation firms.

The artwork will remain on display until April 2019.

Learn about the 2018 graduates and their work: Art as Applied to Medicine

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