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Art and biology come together in U-M illustrator’s medical images

Along with the latest high-tech tools and procedures, the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Michigan Health System also depends on one talented woman with a pencil.

Megan Foldenauer, Ph.D., a certified medical illustrator (CMI), was recently featured in the news for her work as a UMHS medical illustrator.

An aneurysm image by U-M Medical Illustrator Megan Foldenauer, from the Department of Neurosurgery.

An aneurysm image by U-M Medical Illustrator Megan Foldenauer, from the Department of Neurosurgery.

“There’s an art to taking a photograph and then reducing it to its essential components,” she told Local 4 News in a July segment about the continued relevance of low-tech medical sketches.

Foldenauer was studying biology as a high school senior when a teacher explained that her talent for illustrating her lab reports might turn into more than a hobby. She continued to study science, along with art, so she’d be able to illustrate the most important parts of medical images. Foldenauer’s pieces aid understanding that a complex photograph tends to muddle.

“Part of what I do is to offer that kind of visualization of that information for patients so that they can learn about their body,” Foldenauer told Local 4 News.

She creates hand-drawn and digital illustrations, selecting the best way to represent the procedure, body part or other scientific concept; these subjects are always changing as medical advances continue.

“Every single day here is different for me, and that keeps me really motivated,” Foldenauer said. “I love working with UMHS faculty and residents one-on-one to create images for what they’re working on. It’s really gratifying.”

An image of foot anatomy by U-M Medical Illustrator Megan Foldenauer.

An image of foot anatomy by U-M Medical Illustrator Megan Foldenauer.

Megan Foldenauer, Ph.D., is a certified medical illustrator at the University of Michigan Health System.

Megan Foldenauer, Ph.D., is a certified medical illustrator at the University of Michigan Health System.

Foldenauer is also an artist outside of her work at UMHS, and her 2015 ArtPrize entry, a 28” x 83” carbon dust drawing called “Rob,” is currently keeping her busy. The technique, though, is a classic medical illustration drawing process: loose carbon pencil filings are applied to heavy paper with a brush and manipulated with tools like blending stumps, pencils, erasers and chalk to create highlighting and texture.

“This is the largest drawing I’ve attempted,” Foldenauer said of her second ArtPrize entry. She’s been recording the process to create “Rob” in time lapse videos.

Last year, Foldenauer’s first foray into the international art competition in Grand Rapids was also a carbon dust portrait, but of her roller derby teammates and derby officials. Those portraits were drawn on paper that was toned with the dirt of more than three dozen roller derby wheels. One of the portraits was named Best in Category for Drawing in last year’s U-M Employee Art Exhibition.

Take the next steps

  • Find out more about Neurosciences at UMHS.
  • Watch Megan’s segment to learn more about her medical illustrations for the Department of Neurosurgery at U-M, and visit her website to see more about all of her work.
  • Visit The B.O.B. in Grand Rapids between Sept. 23 – Oct. 11 to view and vote for “Rob” in ArtPrize (her artist number is 61400).

 

Neurosciences logoThe University of Michigan’s multidisciplinary neuroscience team is made up of more than 70 nationally recognized neurologists and neurosurgeons. Leading the way in brain, spine and nervous system care for close to 100 years, patients have access to services that can be found at only a handful of places as well as cutting-edge treatments with the latest research. Neurology and Neurosurgery at the University of Michigan Health System have been recognized by U.S. News & World Report numerous times for excellence in patient care.

U of M Health logoFor more than 160 years, the University of Michigan Health System has been a national leader in advanced patient care, innovative research to improve human health and comprehensive education of physicians and medical scientists. The three U-M hospitals have been recognized numerous times for excellence in patient care, including a #1 ranking in Michigan and national rankings in many specialty areas by U.S. News & World Report.