Netter Contest Winner Shows It Takes More than Art Skill to be a Medical Illustrator

LEXINGTON – The Association of Medical Illustrators (AMI) proudly congratulates Paul J. Kim as the winner of Elsevier’s 2013 Netter Illustration Contest.

Mr. Kim, a board certified medical illustrator and animator with Thomas Direct Studios, was selected by a distinguished panel of judges as the grand prize winner from among 37 contest entrants from nine countries. He received a cash prize of $5,000.

The contest challenge was to create an original illustration, showing the spatial relationships of the nerve roots and surrounding structures, of such high quality that it could replace Dr. Frank Netter's illustration (Plate 163-top) in the next edition of the Netter Atlas of Human Anatomy.

“Since the spinal nerve and its branches do not lie in any single plane, I knew that a cross section would not be the best view for illustrating their spatial relationship,” Mr. Kim said. “Instead, I wanted to take a more dynamic view that would not only better tell the story but also help set it apart from Dr. Netter’s illustration. The biggest challenge was keeping the center of interest on the spinal nerve and its branches while also trying to show the bigger relationships between the vertebrae, aorta and spinal cord, especially because of the amount of real estate the vertebrae take up.” Read more about Mr. Kim’s creative process.

tspine final smalltspine sketch1 smallThe contest was designed to identify emerging artists in the complex field of medical illustration. Blending scientific understanding with artistic technique, today's medical illustrators use advanced computer technology to create illustrations, infographics and animations used in medical education, patient information, health news, litigation proceedings and pharmaceutical advertising.

Jane Hurd, Past President of the Association of Medical Illustrators (AMI), served as one of the eight judges. “Content and anatomical accuracy is paramount, but it only tells half the story,” she said. “After that, artistic and communication problem solving come to play. Deciding what to keep and what to take away, creating visual focus, refining the visual narrative so that the audience learns something new—that’s what it takes to make an effective medical illustration.”

The creative work of medical illustrators must meet exacting standards while solving demanding communication challenges. A proven pathway to acquire the multidisciplinary skills and knowledge to be a professional medical illustrator is to attend a graduate-level program that is dedicated to teaching medical illustration and animation. Mr. Kim earned his MS degree in Medical Illustration from the Georgia Regents University (formerly Medical College of Georgia). He was the recipient of the prestigious Orville Parkes Student Best of Show at the AMI Annual Conference in 2010.

Mr. Kim joins the growing list of outstanding medical illustrators who have created artwork for the Netter Atlas, including fellow AMI member Professor James Perkins, Director of the Medical Illustration program at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Dr. Carlos Machado, artist for the Netter Collection, recently spoke at the AMI Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. He presented his work in the evolution of the Netter collection as “bringing fresh air to a successful style.”

For more information about the contest, visit

To view more of Paul’s work, visit