About the Medical Illustration Program at Augusta University

The Medical Illustration Graduate Program within the College of Allied Health Sciences at Augusta University is one of only three such programs in the country. Completion of the twenty-one-month curriculum in Medical Illustration results in a Master of Science in Medical Illustration degree granted through the College of Graduate Studies. Augusta University is part of the University System of Georgia.

Accreditation

Our program is accredited by the Committee on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. For more than 50 years, the program has been meeting or exceeding the high standards for graduate education in medical illustration and biomedical communications.  The program was the very first to be granted accreditation, in 1967, and has maintained continuous accreditation ever since. Accreditation was renewed in 2018, for the full term of 8 years (renewal in 2026).

In 2018, the program underwent a comprehensive program review as required by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. This review found that the Medical Illustration Graduate Program exceeds the standards for quality instruction and program sustainability. Further, the final Provost's report says, "this program's accomplishments promote AU as a destination of choice and help AU fulfill its educational strategic priority to prepare a diverse student body for lifelong contributions. As the oldest graduate degree at AU, the medical illustration program specifically has contributed through its reaffirmation of accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs earlier this year, graduates' 100% first-time pass rate on the certification exam, high positive placement rate, and strong commitment by faculty to research."

Student Outcomes

As an ongoing means of assessing the teaching effectiveness of our program and the learning success of our students/graduates, we track several outcomes measures, including the following.

Comprehensive Examination: Administered in the 4th semester (Fall of second year), each student is challenged with three illustration problems. The students must complete these illustrations within a proscribed period and without any input from the faulty. The students' illustrations are then scored by a panel of highly respected professional medical illustrators from across the U.S. Recent outcomes were:

2018— 8 of 8 students took the exam, 6 passed on the first attempt and 2 passed on the second attempt.
2019— 9 of 9 students took the exam, 5 passed on the first attempt and 4 passed on the second attempt.
2020— 9 of 9 students took the exam, 5 passed on the first attempt and 4 passed on the second attempt.

On-Time Completion of Masters Project/Thesis: The completion of an approved Masters Project or Thesis is a requirement for graduation. Students are expected to complete their project or thesis in the 5th semester (Spring of second year). The project or thesis is evaluated by the program faculty for content, effectiveness, and completeness. Recent outcomes were:

2018— 8 of 8 students completed their Masters Project on time and met or exceeded expectations. All 8 students graduate in 2018. 
2019— 9 of 9 students completed their Masters Project on time and met or exceeded expectations. All 9 students graduated in 2019.
2020— 8 of 9 students completed their Masters Project on time and met or exceeded expectations, and 1 student completed their Masters Project the following semester. All 9 students graduated in 2020.

BCMI Exam, Part I: The Board of Certification for the Medical Illustrator administers a two-part examination for professional competency. Part 1 is a written examination comprised of sections on anatomy, business practices, and artists rights. Students from accredited graduate programs in medical illustration are eligible to take the exam upon graduation. Recent outcomes were:

2018— 8 of 8 students took the exam, all 7 passed on the first attempt.
2019— 8 of 9 students took the exam, all 8 passed on the first attempt.
2020— 7 of 9 students took the exam, all 7 passed on the first attempt.

Program Emphasis

In addition to being skilled artists, medical illustrators must be knowledgeable in anatomy and the health sciences. This is because an illustrator's work, unlike a photograph, must often show what cannot be directly observed in order to best communicate an idea or complex concept. Therefore, an understanding of basic medical subjects is essential. In addition to studying communication theory and illustration techniques, our students also take graduate-level science courses, such as gross anatomy and cell biology, with the medical students.

The program emphasizes anatomical and surgical illustration for print and electronic publication, as well as for projection and broadcast distribution. Because of the importance of good drawing skills, our students learn a variety of traditional illustration techniques during the first year. In addition, computer technologies and digital techniques, used to prepare both vector and raster images for print, projection, animation, and multimedia are extensively integrated into the curriculum.

During the second year, students refine their illustration skills and are introduced to the various media, rendering styles and illustration techniques used by contemporary professional medical illustrators. They also learn professional production techniques for interactive communication media. In addition, they spend time each week in the operating room observing and sketching. Assignments are based on their observations, and are developed with the guidance of our internationally renowned faculty.

Visual problem-solving is a crucial skill for the professional medical illustrator. Throughout the curriculum, the faculty work with the students to develop their problem-solving abilities. In addition to formal classes, seminars and lectures, our students learn by hands-on performance, by participating in project critiques, and by cultivating creative thinking in peer-to-peer interactions. To better prepare our students to be productive in the rapidly evolving world of communications, class assignments are designed to give them not only theoretical knowledge but practical experience as well.