Pioneers of Scholarship
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Applying Art to Medicine
By Melissa Hendricks
Though captivating for their intricacy, the main purpose of medical illustrations is to inform rather than to delight. The medical illustrator must be adept with pen and brush and also have an in-depth understanding of anatomy, histology, and pathology. The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine began training illustrators in 1911 through the the School of Medicine's Department of Art as Applied to Medicine. It was the first medical illustration department in the world, and for decades, the majority of credited medical illustrators were taught at Hopkins.
The department's first director, Max Brödel, had emigrated in 1894 from Leipzig, Germany, where he had been an art student. For his first 16 years at Hopkins, Brödel was the personal medical illustrator for chief gynecologist Howard Kelly. When Kelly retired in 1910, Brödel nearly left Hopkins. But through the intervention of Hopkins gynecologist Thomas Cullen and an endowment from Baltimore businessman Henry Walters, the medical school opened the new department and put Brödel in charge.
Now a three-year master's degree program, Art as Applied to Medicine still trains students in anatomy, organ histology, cell biology, and operating room sketching, just as the department did in Brödel's day. But the curriculum today also includes courses on digital imaging and animation; graphics production for websites; video production; and the creation of medical exhibits for courtroom use.
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