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News . Feature Stories . Biomed Major Draws on Science and Art Talents to Illustrate Surgical Mileston

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September 01, 2010

Biomed Major Draws on Science and Art Talents to Illustrate Surgical Mileston

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Biomedical Art major Trisha Shah took on a summer assignment that might have intimidated a veteran in her field: illustrate the first near-total face transplant performed in the U.S. for an article to be published in the Journal of Anatomy. The historic procedure performed in 2008 by a team of eight Cleveland Clinic surgeons lasted nearly 22 hours and transformed the appearance of a trauma victim. Shah’s Cleveland Clinic internship lasted nine weeks and was transformational for her too.

“I feel like I’ve grown so much,” she said. “It was an awesome experience. I had to do so much research on the anatomy of the face.” Shah worked directly for plastic surgeon Frank Papay MD, chairman of the Clinic’s Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Institute. She met weekly with the Clinic’s staff medical illustrators, including CIA graduates Joseph Pangrace ’83, Ross Papalardo ’00, and Elizabeth Halasz ’89. Papalardo, Halasz and Clinic medical illustrator Dave Schumick all teach in CIA’s Department of Biomedical Art.

Shah worked from several references — including photographs, other illustrations, x-rays, and 3-D skull models — starting each illustration as a hand drawing, then scanning it in to a computer and finishing the work using a digital Wacom drawing tablet.

“It’s the same way we work at CIA. The first semester in the biomed major, we only use traditional media, like colored pencil, graphite, and carbon dust, which is excellent for really realistic images,” Shah explained. “Then we move into digital art. (Department Head) Amanda Almon always stresses that for biomed, you need strong traditional skills and strong digital skills; so she calls it ‘tradigital.’”

While art was always her favorite subject, Shah said she also enjoyed science as a student growing up in Mumbai, India. “We’d been taught science very intensively, so I knew it and it fascinated me. And if you combine art and science, what do you get? This is the major,” she said of biomedical art.

Shah chose CIA, from among five American art schools she applied to, partly for its small size and the individual attention she knew would be important to her development as an artist. “Especially in art, you need one-on-one critiques and I go to my teachers very often because I like to discuss my work with them. I’ve never come across a teacher at CIA who wouldn’t help you after class.”

Her hard work and that individual attention have already paid off. In addition to the coveted internship through Cleveland Clinic’s Office of Civic Education Initiatives, Shah has received the Institute’s only scholarship designated specifically for her major, the Gertrude Hornung Award for Excellence in Medical Illustration.

Almon said “Trisha has worked hard within and outside the Department of Biomedical Art to develop her skills and talents. She has proven that communication is not just visual but also involves professional research, writing and collaboration. Trisha has demonstrated to her classmates that challenging illustrations and research are meant to be taken head on.”




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