RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) - You've probably never heard of the term medical illustrator; however, the people who choose this career path have the ability to change our lives and the course of medicine. A medical illustrator creates drawings, computer animations and even 3D models of every possible organ in the body. This process helps teach medical students and some patients, what happens before they enter an operating room.
Richmond native, James Abraham is one of those people who chose this career path. He received his undergraduate degree from Virginia Commonwealth University, but he then went on acquire a Masters degree focusing on medical illustration from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
"It's pretty competitive at Hopkins, they only take seven students every year," says Abraham, who recently graduated.
"All the doctors and surgeons love medical illustrators because we pretty much taught them through the books, we pretty much bring light to their research too," says Abraham.
8News spoke with Dr. Amelia Grover in the Division of Surgical Oncology at VCU Massey Cancer Center. Dr. Grover depended on the work of medical illustrators during her early years as a medical student, now she works side-by-side with an illustrator to prepare for surgeries.
"It's priceless, I mean it's absolutely priceless what they do," says Dr. Grover. "I think sometimes it's very fearful like are these people telling me everything that's going on with me, and when they see the actual picture of what they look like, they can say oh, now I see it, now I get it."
Abraham's thesis focused on using his education to change the way arm transplants are conducted. He's worked with a team at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and their research on arm transplants will be used by a non-profit in Baltimore.
"It's like a big hot button now, because a lot of these war vets are coming home with amputated limbs, so it's very important for them at the moment," says Abraham.
"[The Guide] could be distributed nationally so it can set the standard for arm transplantation," says Abraham.
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