What is a Medical Illustrator? About the Career of Medical Illustration

What is a Medical Illustrator? About the Career of Medical Illustration

About the Career

What do Medical Illustrators Do?

Written by Laura Maaske, MSc.BMC, Medical Illustrator & Medical Animator


While it comes as a surprise to medical illustrators, it is very common when I mention the work I do to be asked, “So, what is a medical illustrator, exactly?”


So What is a Medical Illustrator?

Medical illustration, or biomedical visualization, is the practice of biomedical communication, specializing in visual representations of aspects of medicine and science. Common forms of expression include digital art, physical modeling, 2d animation, 3d animation and app development, among others.

While “medical illustrator” and “medical illustration” are the most commonly used terms to describe the nature of the work, there are many other terms which have been used to describe the field, including but not limited to, “biomedical illustration”, “biological illustration”, “medical art”, and “biomedical visualization”.

Medical visualizers work in various fields from textbook illustration, medical publishing, medical legal exhibit preparation, pharmaceutical illustration, medical training materials, advertising illustration, health promotion illustration or animation, and surgical illustration. Medical illustrators typically have earned an undergraduate degree in some field of art or science, and subsequently earn a graduate degree specializing further in the field of biomedical visualization. The graduate work consists of medical school coursework or its equivalent, as well as hands-on instruction from professors and colleagues in the field or in adjacent fields of study. Frequently summers are spent enrolled in internships or in research study for the Master’s degree.

Upon graduation, Medical illustrators have the option to freelance, to work for an organization, to work at a university, or to seek employment in companies specializing in animation or illustration.


The Primary Organization Representing Medical Illustrators in the U.S.

The Association of Medical Illustrators, AMI, was instituted to maintain the standards for training in medical illustration and to provide ethical guidelines for practice:

AMI Headquarters
1819 Peachtree Street, N.E., Suite 620
Atlanta, Georgia 30309 U.S.A.
(404) 350-7900, Fax: (404) 351-3348

Graduate Programs

Many illustrators go on to earn Master’s degrees in biomedical visualization or biomedical communication. There are five programs in North America that provide Master’s degrees in medical illustration. The programs listed below are accredited by the AMI.

    • University of Toronto
      Division of Biomedical Communications
      Located on two campuses at the University of Toronto:U of T Mississauga Campus
      Room 308, Terrence Donnelly Health Sciences Complex
      3359 Mississauga Road North
      Mississauga, ON Canada L5L 1C6
      Phone: 905-569-4849
      Fax: 905-569-4847
      U of T St. George Campus
      Room 75, Fitzgerald Building
      150 College Street
      Toronto ON Canada M5S 3E2
      Phone: 416-978-2659Email



    • University of Illinois
      Department of Biomedical Visualization
      College of Associated Health Professions
      University of Illinois at Chicago
      1919 W. Taylor Street, Room 213, M/C 527
      Chicago, Illinois 60612
      Tel: (312) 996-4975
      Fax: (312) 996-8342
      (312) 996-7337EmailJohns Hopkins University


    • Medical and Biological Illustration Graduate Program
      Department of Art as Applied to Medicine
      The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
      1830 E. Monument Street, Suite 7000
      Baltimore, Maryland 21205-2100
      Tel: (410) 955-3213
      Fax: (410) 955-1085Email


The United Kingdom has an organization for biomedical illustrators as well:

Institute of Medical Illustration UK


A few links to begin exploring

  1. Association of Medical Illustrators Question and Answer Page .
  2. The question about how e-books can be making use of medical illustrations dynamically.
  3. What it’s like as a medical illustrator
  4. Med Monthly’s article about medical illustration
  5. A personal perspective
  6. Wikipedia’s article on medical illustration
  7. Leonardo DaVinci’s Anatomical Drawings
  8. Wikipedia’s Frank Netter article
  9. Wikipedia’s Max Brodel article
  10. Wikipedia’s Andreas Vesalius article
  11. Eila Hopper Ross article

Read more about the career of medical illustration here.



Books About Medical Illustration


ISBN-13: 978-0517381052
ISBN-10: 0517381052


See all 2 images

Classic Human Anatomy: The Artist’s Guide to Form, Function, and Movement

December 23, 2008

Flip to back

See all 3 images




If you have any questions about the field of medical illustration not answered her or on the sites above, ask below, and I will do my best to provide an accurate answer. Or contact me directly.



Anti Angiogenic Mechanisms Medical illustration Copyrighted Material by Laura-Maaske Medical Illustrator www.medimagery.com

Medical Illustration of Arteries: Angiogenesis in tumor development


March 7, 2017


Laura Maaske, MSc.BMC.

Biomedical Communicator

Medical Illustrator

Medical Animator

Health App Designer

Medimagery Medical Illustration

Laura Maaske – Medimagery LLC
Medical Illustration & Design



About Laura Maaske

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