Lesser-Known Medical Careers: Medical illustration

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Students listen intently during a Global Health Tutorial in Iringa If you are considering a career in medicine and you have a creative flair, one of the specialties you should take a look at is that of medical illustration. A medical illustrator specialises in communicating scientific information using a combination of science and art. As a medical illustrator, you would use different types of art forms including videos, films, charts, journals and computer programs, to create visual interpretations of your client’s requirements. Very often, you would work as a healthcare team together with doctors, nurses and other professionals involved in delivering patient care.

To pursue a career as a medical illustrator, you would have to first undergo graduate-level training in art, science and communication, where you will learn how to put together brochures, journals, films and other forms of media for various medical purposes. This media may be used within an organisation, distributed to the public or used in educational institutions for training purposes. Some forms of medical illustration may be simple and focus on being visually appealing whereas others may be very detailed and highly technical.

You do not necessarily need to have a scientific background to pursue a career in this field; however, an understanding of medicine can be a valuable asset, especially when are working on assignments that require a high level of detailing.

Job Opportunities In This Field

Medical illustrators are employed in a wide array of sectors, from hospitals, pharmaceuticals, and publishing houses to medical and dental schools.

A medical illustrator may be employed by a hospital to develop a program for the staff or by a teaching institution to develop various visual teaching aids for the students. Sometimes, presentations are made especially for patients to give them a better understanding of medicine.

Pharmaceutical companies also hire medical illustrators for various media related jobs. Some illustrators prefer to be employed by a company or institution while others prefer to do freelance work on a project-to-project basis.

Medical illustrators with several years of experience in the field are also hired as supervisors, team leaders or teachers for creative teams.

On Becoming a Medical illustrator in the UK

In the UK, the IMI or the Institute Of Medical Illustrators sets and maintains standards of practice in this field. They are also the accrediting authority for Medical illustration programs.

These are some of the accredited courses in Medical Illustration offered by various universities across the UK:

University of Dundee

MSc in Medical Arts, MSc in Forensic Art

Westminster University

BSc (Hons) in Clinical Photography

Cardiff University

Postgraduate Certificate in Clinical Photography

Staffordshire University

Graduate and Postgraduate programmes in Clinical Photography or Graphic Design for Healthcare 

Continuing professional development (CPD) and maintaining CPD portfolio are compulsory requirements for continued membership with the IMI as the organisation strives to ensure that all their members are up to date with the latest developments in the field.   

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