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Medical Illustration

Occupational Description

Medical illustrators specialize in the visual display and communication of scientific information. Their graduate-level training in science, art, and communications enables them to understand and visualize scientific data and concepts. They create images, animations, simulations, and user experiences and design communication strategies to teach diverse audiences, from medical professionals to the general public. Medical and scientific illustration can be extremely realistic and structurally precise, interpretive, or even abstract and conceptual. Medical illustration is an essential tool in many major markets, including but not restricted to advertising, editorial, institutional, and instructional. It is also at the forefront of growing markets such as legal, home health, and patient education. Medical illustration demands a particular focus on accuracy, suitability for a specified audience, and clarity. Medical illustration is a technically demanding and time-honored method of visual communication, and has always engaged with the technological forefront of communication.

Job Description

For all medical illustrators, a core activity is research of the subject matter they are interpreting; science and health information is constantly expanding, and medical illustrators must be prepared to be lifelong learners. Since medical illustrators are scientific communicators, their work often serves an educational role. Although some medical illustrators specialize in a single medium or confine their interest to a medical specialty, the majority will handle a variety of assignments and subjects. In industry, they often work collaboratively with editorial or development teams. As independent contractors, they might target a variety of venues for medical illustration such as medical books, journals, magazines, pharma or biotech marketing, films, online video, exhibits, posters, wall charts, educational games and computer programs or applications, and computer programs. A medical illustrator may also work as a member of a research team to provide illustrations or participate directly in the discovery process. Some bring their specialized anatomical, physiological and technical knowledge to the creation of three-dimensional models for instructional purposes, surgical planning and simulation, or custom prosthetics for patients.

In addition to the production of graphics and three-dimensional works, medical illustrators may serve as art directors, project managers, producers/directors, or designers in the development of educational games, documentaries, or public education campaigns. They also may organize and serve as administrators of biomedical communication centers or illustration services at major teaching hospitals or health science centers.


 

Employment Characteristics

Accredited programs prepare students for a career in academic or research health science centers, industry, or independent contracting/consulting. As members of the health career profession with strong communication skills, medical illustrators work closely with clients to interpret their needs and create visual solutions though iterative design and problem solving. Medical illustrators are employed by medical schools, dental schools, and schools of veterinary medicine. Large medical centers involved in teaching and research and animation studios involved in commercial and private media production also employ medical illustrators. Many medical illustrators work as private practitioners for medical publishers, pharmaceutical houses, advertising agencies, and lawyers. Medical illustrators with appropriate background and professional experience are qualified to direct an illustration service unit or a biomedical communication center.

Educational Programs

Length. Accredited programs generally last 2 full years resulting in a master’s degree.

Prerequisites. All current accredited medical illustrator programs are at an advanced level and are based on a master’s model. Generally, 4 years of undergraduate study are necessary to gain the required foundation. All programs culminating in a graduate degree require a baccalaureate degree and a good academic record. A preparatory program for the professional or graduate level of study should include a balance of art, premedical biology, and the humanities. Applicants for the advanced professional-level programs must submit a portfolio of artwork.

Curriculum. Although the area of major emphasis may vary from program to program, study usually includes most of the following courses: human gross anatomy with dissection and courses in other biomedical sciences such as embryology, histology, neuroanatomy, cell biology, molecular biology, physiology, pathology, immunology, pharmacology, and genetics.  Art and theory courses include anatomical drawing, illustration techniques in line, tone, and color (hand-rendered and digital media), surgical illustration, graphic design, user experience design, instructional design, visual storytelling, three-dimensional modeling and animation, management and business practices, and professional ethics.

Certification/Registration

The Association of Medical Illustrators
201 E. Main Street, Suite 1405
Lexington, KY 40507
Phone: 866-393-4264
Email:
hq@ami.org
Website: www.ami.org 

Careers/Curriculum

The Association of Medical Illustrators
201 E. Main Street, Suite 1405
Lexington, KY 40507
Phone: 866-393-4264
Email:
hq@ami.org
Website: www.ami.org