I get this question all the time. Once people realize they are very familiar with this type of art (posters in doctor’s offices, school textbooks, magazines, animations on The Discovery Channel, ect.), they just didn’t think about someone specializing in creating it.
A medical illustrator is a professional artist with extensive training in art, medicine and science who creates visual material to help communicate biomedical principles. The work of a medical illustrator ranges from highly realistic, precise pieces to more imaginative, conceptual pieces. Contemporary medical illustrators often use both traditional and digital techniques to create their work.
Many medical illustrators hold master’s degrees from one of the five medical schools, accredited through the American Medical Association (AMA), that offer training in the field. Formal training includes gross anatomy, embryology, neuroanatomy, pathology, histology, surgery, hand drawing, pen & ink, design, animation and computer graphics.
Medical illustration has been around for a VERY long time…likely hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Some examples you might be familiar with are the medieval illuminated manuscripts on human anatomy, Vesalius’s De Humani Corporis Fabrica, DaVinci’s illustrations of the body, as well as some more modern figures such as Max Brödel and Dr. Frank H. Netter.