NORTH HAVEN — To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Quinnipiac University Frank Netter School of Medicine, the college hosted a symposium and art gallery on the importance of medical illustration Wednesday afternoon.
The symposium was held in honor of the school’s namesake, Dr. Frank Netter, described as a “Michelangelo of medicine,” said Dean Phillip Boiselle. Over his long career, Netter published thousands of highly detailed medical illustrations depicting patients, their illnesses and their treatment.
“His illustrations were crafted with such a degree of empathy and humanity that they really captured the unique human dimension to illness and that serves as an anchor for our humanistic patient-centered model for medical education,” Boiselle said.
Boiselle explained that medical illustration is a form of visual communication that can help with medical education, patient education and patient care. He said that these illustrations could often be found in anatomy atlases, medical journals and public health campaigns.
Each presenter at the symposium broke down the importance of medical illustration and the many forms it can take.
The first presenter was Dr. Francois Luks, a professor at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University and the Pediatric Surgeon-in-Chief at Hasbro Children's Hospital. He explained that medical illustrations provide clear and straightforward explanations of procedures, organs or patient care habits that photos and videos may not be able to provide.
Board-certified Medical Illustrator Ni-ka Ford discussed using rendered illustrations and 3-D models as teaching tools. She also touched on the importance of representing different body types, races and ages.
"Medical illustrations like ones with darker skin or ones with tattoos can eliminate those biases, stereotypes, in healthcare," Ford said. "It can change their attitudes and perceptions so that it's more well rounded and all-encompassing of all different kinds of bodies in their training materials…that can really lead to more effective and empathetic care."
QU Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Dr. Katelyn Norman spoke about how medical illustration can be used for forensic facial reconstruction based on information gathered from the skeletal remains of unknown individuals. Norman, a Quinnipiac graduate, explained that the goal of reconstruction is to spur recognition in the audience, which can ultimately lead to recognition.
Dr. Michael Natter, clinical assistant professor at New York University Grossman School of Medicine, talked about how medical illustration was crucial when he first entered medical school to learn about the body's different systems. He also relied on art as a "cathartic" release of emotions whenever he felt overwhelmed at school.
The day's keynote speaker was Francine Mary Netter, the daughter of Dr. Frank Netter, who shared photos of her father and his work. She dove into his history and its lasting impact on the field.
In addition to the symposium, the school opened an art gallery highlighting original artwork from Netter and a variety of medical illustrations from eight professional artists and three Quinnipiac students.
The exhibit, which is free and open to the public, runs from Sept. 12 to Oct. 8 and is displayed at the Edward and Barbara Netter Library on the North Haven Campus.
"I think we can all learn the language of visual communication that will improve our skills," said Luks. "I think will make us better, more compassionate physicians, communicators and healthcare providers."
Health Equity reporter Cris Villalonga-Vivoni is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 203-317-2448. Support RFA reporters at the Record-Journal through a donation at https://bit.ly/3Pdb0re.