Scientific Proof: Medical Illustration Program Sparks Connection with Medical Publishing Giant

Posted December 20, 2015 in Student, Illustration, Alumni

This article was originally published in the Winter 2015/2016 issue of Portfolio. View the complete issue here.

With demand for medical illustrators continuing to rise, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University's (KCAD) Medical Illustration program is committed to providing students with opportunities that position them on the cutting edge of this booming field.

Among those opportunities is a newly established relationship with Thieme, an industry-leading global medical and science publisher that produces 70 book titles and more than 140 medical and scientific journals every year that are used by health professionals and medical students worldwide.

“In terms of influence and leadership, Thieme is to medical illustration what Disney is to animation,” says Medical Illustration Program Chair David Gianfredi. “For anyone working in or around the industry, this is a company you want to be involved with as much as possible.”

The program first caught Thieme’s attention in the summer of 2014 at an industry conference in San Diego, where images drawn by KCAD Medical Illustration students were used in a presentation. Thieme representatives were so impressed with the work that they immediately wanted to know how they could tap into the program’s burgeoning talent.

In the following months, Thieme worked with Gianfredi to bring 2014 Medical Illustration grad Emily Ciosek to New York City for a four-month internship. As the company’s first intern to be focused solely on illustration, Ciosek gained invaluable real-world experience working directly with medical professionals and Thieme publishers to create specific illustrations for upcoming publications.

“Working directly with publishers presented a really interesting dynamic,” she says. “They showed me the business side of the industry. I learned, for instance, how to talk to doctors in a more professional manner, and even though the people working on the publishing side aren’t artists themselves, they know how these drawings are supposed to look, so I got a very clear picture of Thieme’s professional standards.”

Medical Illustration student work

Thieme in turn benefited from an injection of fresh talent and thinking that can help them stay ahead of the game as illustration techniques evolve and the field continues to expand and change. “We understood that there would be a learning curve, but we saw it as an opportunity to groom a future freelance illustrator, which is exactly what we’ve done,” says Mary Jo Casey, Director of Editorial Services at Thieme. “Emily has been phenomenal; she came in and really took control and has been very easy to work with.”

It wasn’t just about the work Ciosek produced; Thieme had a genuine interest in helping her develop professionally as well. Immediately after her internship ended, Ciosek was offered and accepted a freelance position with the company. “They were so supportive and really interested in my work,” she says. “They didn’t just tell me what to do; they asked me how the process was going and if I was interested in or experienced in different artistic mediums. They’re really interested in what artists can do to push everyone forward.”

Tess Tobolic, another 2014 Medical Illustration graduate working for Thieme, was hired as a freelance illustrator shortly after receiving her diploma. For one of her first projects, Tobolic illustrated about 80 images for a surgical atlas that will be released in the near future. She worked directly with both an executive editor at Thieme and three doctors who are involved in the atlas, so it was critical to remain on the same page. She says the experience has taught her how important time management and communication are to becoming a successful freelance medical illustrator.

“Sometimes they want the image in a couple of hours. You’ve got to pick and choose where to focus your efforts. That’s something that you learn right away, and also that sometimes simpler is better—that’s huge in this field.”

Both Tobolic and Ciosek are working to establish themselves as career freelance medical illustrators, and having experience with one of the industry’s most influential companies on their résumés gives them a huge competitive advantage. Furthermore, the ongoing relationship between Thieme and KCAD ensures that future students will have that advantage as well. Samantha Stutzman, who graduated as the program’s 2015 Excellence Award winner, is in the midst of an internship at Thieme that began in early September.

Casey says she fully expects the relationship to continue. “If David finds someone who’s a good fit, we’d love to bring them in. We aim to get a good rotation going; that would be ideal.”