Undertaking a PhD

  • July 2 2021

On the 25th September 2018 I started my Ph.D. study at the Faculty of Health & Medical Sciences at The University of Surrey, Guildford. Studying part time is a 6 year commitment and I am looking at finishing  at finishing in 2023 

The title of the study is, “Utilising Medical Illustration to Improve Understanding & Communication of Pathogenesis of Rare Disease Systems.”

Working with supervisors Dr. Rachel Simmonds, Professor Jane Ogden and Dr Caroline Erolin,  Joanna’s study is going to involve using her skills as a medical illustrator to visually record neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) such as the Buruli ulcer, yaws disease,  through documenting information as drawings and paintings. There is little current understanding so the aim is to document these rare diseases, recording their pathology and enhance disease detection for benefit of patient care. This follows in the long-standing tradition of medical illustration to document and communicate pathology and disease before there was even a camera. In fact, as much as a camera can add value as an instrument to record medical information, it will never be able to be used to photograph the anatomy that lies under the skin. Many a time the question is raised why is an illustration is still used because a trained medical artist can visualise what is normally hidden anatomy.

Using the Ph.D. Study in the Future

Joanna has chosen to study her Ph.D. part-time as this will allow her to continue to work as medical artist at Medical-Artist.com as she is self-funding the course. The study will take between 5 to 6 years, after which the ultimate aim will be to continue to work in this field of rare disease working directly with scientists, medics and patients. The format of the Ph.D. will be to use traditional artist’s techniques which is how all medical illustrations start out anyway. People sometimes forget that even a 3D animation starts life as a drawn storyboard and a digital medical illustration is still sketched out in pencil first to ensure the content and layout meets with a client’s requirements. There will be an opportunity though within Joanna’s studies, to explore the new technologies such as augmented reality which has significant potential in the healthcare field. Sometimes though, a simple 2D illustration is still the best communication solution as opposed to a very costly 3D fully immersive piece and it just depends on individual project requirements. If you are wondering how else medical illustration is used today then feel free