Medical Illustrators as Translators

Leslie portrait

Leonard is a senior medical illustrator at Medical Legal Art in Kennesaw.

AMI member Leslie Leonard was interviewed by 90.1 WABE about accuracy and artistry in medical illustration. See the originally published article or listen to the radio interview here.

Accuracy And Artistry Are Key In Medical Illustration

Atlanta, Ga. (90.1 WABE Story by Erin Wright)

Imagine you were in an accident at work that required surgery, but something went wrong with that surgery and the surgeon insists that the complications were beyond his control. You suspect medical malpractice. The case goes to court.

How do you show a jury that your trauma could have been prevented? And if you're the surgeon, how do you illustrate that the unfortunate outcome was out of your control, or worse, that the patient is to blame? You hire a medical illustrator.

To learn more about this ancient art, Producer Erin Wright spoke with Leslie Leonard, a Senior Medical Illustrator at Medical Legal Art in Kennesaw, Georgia.

"With the medical legal art, you're trying to educate the jury and you're also trying to tell the story [that] whichever side you're hired by is trying to tell," Leonard said. That could mean illustrating a surgery in all of its bloody, messy confusion for the surgeon's case. The patient's illustrator may choose to "clean up" their picture, showing the mechanism of injury instead and focusing on trauma or pain. Both illustrations are accurate.

The medical illustrator is the translator between the layperson and medical professionals. This, of course, requires an intimate knowledge of the body's structures, hands-on training in dissection and the ability understand MRIs and the like.

While Leonard specializes in medical legal art, she is also an artist in her own time. She counts hiking among her favorite hobbies, as well as drawing the beautiful landscapes she encounters. When asked what her favorite organ or body part she likes to draw, Leonard is quick to answer: "The liver! ... It's got a great texture, it's got a great shape, it's shiny, it's just really wonderful."