LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Medical Illustration and Medical Education
I read Browns viewpoint with great interest, and particu-
larly two statements: first, that this profession has
diversified so much over the last decade, that we are in
the danger of becoming jacks of all trades and masters of
none; secondly, that it is too easy and tempting to take
on more and more areas of work to the detriment of core
skills.1 On the other hand, Morton has argued that the
strength of medical illustration departments is the fact that
they undertake such a wide variety of activities.2
No doubt in medical illustration we are in a state of
confusion because we have failed to define clearly and
explain our role in medicine to the public at large and more
particularly to clients, employers and other users of our
services. For half a century our profession has been
evolving but we still have not actively participated in the
effective utilization of our products. We need to broaden
our thinking and demonstrate the true value of our
profession to medicine, rather than just produce images
with the wow!-factor to surprise and delight clients. We
do not make a direct contribution towards the diagnostic
and/or therapeutic aspects of patient care, but we do play
an important role in the effective utilization of multimedia
Journal of Audiovisual Media in Medicine, Vol. 26, No. 4, pp. 161162
ISSN 0140-511X printed/ISSN 1465-3494 online/03/040161-02 # 2003 Institute of Medical Illustrators
to support medical education at all levels, and we do need
to develop our skills to understand better the needs,
processes and mechanisms of medical education. We have
concentrated on the production of illustrative materials for
far too long and have neglected to participate in the use of
In the area of education, medical illustration has
immense scope which medical illustrators have not
exploited.3 Engel has argued that a central department
would be concerned with educational aspects that are
becoming more diverse and complex from year to year ...
Medical illustration will thus be faced with a galaxy of new
tasksif it is prepared to accept the challenge.4 Likewise
Hansell has suggested that we have seen visual aids give
way to audiovisual aids only to be successively ousted
by educational technology and communication in
medical and biological education.5 The traditional teach-
ing of clinical medicine to medical students is already
being replaced by interactive multimedia and web-based
courseware.6 We are getting more involved in medical
education as communications and multimedia specialists
and as computer-based systems of all kinds are applied to
education and documentation in medicine and related
fields, the medical communications specialist has to be the
master of multiple media.7 The current and potential role
of medical illustration in medical education has been
described by Ansary and El Nahas,8 while Morton et al.
have highlighted the changing role of the medical
So I would plead that we should not concentrate on the
wow!-factor, but on participating actively as multimedia
experts in teams with our medical colleagues. Both Engel
and Williams have warned of the need to change our
emphasis from activity in its own right to the purpose it
should serve.10,11 Since our services are not of diagnostic
or therapeutic nature, we should work closely in partner-
ship with educators in medical education.
1. Brown S. Whither Medical Illustration? J Audiov Media Med2003; 26(2): 679.
2. Morton R. Communication in medical education: The futurefor specialist services. J Biocommun 1995; 22(3): 811.
3. Cattell W. Medical illustration in the new health serviceaconsumers eye view. Med Biol Illustr 1971; 24: 49.
4. Engel CE. Medical illustration in the new health service,broadening the base. Med Biol Illustr 1974; 24: 1746.
5. Hansell P. Editorial. From the first editor (19501958). MedBiol Illustr 1975; 25: 6.
6. Duguid KP. The team approach to the design of computer-assisted learning packages in medicine. J Audiov Media Med1995; 18(2): 538.
7. Morton R. Editorial. J Audiov Media Med 1997; 20(3):1001.
8. Ansary A, El Nahas AM. Medical Illustration in the UK: itscurrent and potential role in medical education. J AudiovMedia Med 2000; 23(2): 6972.
9. Morton et al. The changing role of the medical illustrator.J Audiov Media Med 2000; 23(2): 658.
10. Engel CE. Editorial. From the second editor (19591964).Med Biol Illustr 1975; 25: 78.
11. Williams AR. Viewpoint, a forward look. J Audiov MediaMed 1980; 3: 278.
162 Letters to the Editor