Leonardo in Scrubs
Visual problem-solving has an enormous role in health care and the practice of medicine, and it’s rapidly changing. Technology is reshaping the ways that physicians and patients “see”. CT Scans, MRIs and the revolution in medical imaging has increased exponentially the amount of visual information accessible for diagnostics and explanation. But a plethora of information doesn’t automatically lead to meaning, interpretation and usefulness. Seeing more does not, in effect, guarantee that more is really seen.
Being able to organize and communicate medical visual imagery is the problem-solving part.
Here’s where medical illustration comes in, an art than runs much deeper than making pictures.
Consider the spine as a visual problem. How can an image convey in a meaningful, accurate and useful way a form as complex as the human spine?
This was one question that the genius father of the art of medical illustration, Leonardo da Vinci, pursued in the anatomical illustrations he did in the 15th-16th century which he chose not to publish in his lifetime but which have endured as masterpieces into the 21st century. Leonardo’s newly appreciated portfolios of medical illustration are causing some to debate whether he was a greater scientist than artist. (He painted only about 20 paintings but did 240 anatomical drawings with 13,000 words of text). But the two, he showed, aren’t at all mutually exclusive.
When great art and great science come together, you see a Leonardo-like result.
Here, for example, is his illustration of the spine; the first-ever accurate depiction of the human spine: