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Our History

portrait of Maria Wishart

Laying the Foundations 1925 – 1945

In 1925 Maria Torrence Wishart (1893 – 1983), who had studied with Max Brödel at Johns Hopkins University, founded the Department of Medical Art Service in the Anatomy Building (now the McMurrich Building) at the University of Toronto. The Dean of the Faculty of Medicine   approved her appointment as the first professionally trained medical illustrator. For the first ten years she did all the surgical and anatomical illustration work herself. From 1931 to 1939, Dorothy Foster Chubb, a student of Brodel’s school, assisted Wishart in the service department. In 1939, she was hired by Dr. J.C.B. Grant to work on his An Atlas of Anatomy. Eila Hopper-Ross took her place as Wishart’s assistant from 1939 until 1945.

picture of Eila Hopper-Ross

Wishart’s Diploma Program 1945 – 1962

In 1945 Wishart founded a 3-year diploma course in medical illustration, at which time the name of the department changed to Art as Applied to Medicine (AAM). The department had been moved to the Banting Institute on College St. in the early 1930’s and with the establishment of an academic program students soon needed additional studio space which was found in the old church on the corner of College and Elizabeth Streets. Students attended classes with medical students, and worked under Wishart’s supervision on illustrations of gross anatomy, pathology and surgery. As her students gained proficiency, Wishart allowed them to produce illustrations for publication under her supervision. The only instructor in the academic program at the time was Eila Hopper-Ross, who assisted Wishart part-time with the teaching.

Holding Our Ground 1962 – 1985

portrait of Nancy Joy

Nancy Grahame Joy succeeded Wishart as chair of the department in 1962. Joy had been an assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Manitoba and well known for her outstanding illustrations in Grant’s An Atlas of Anatomy and Method of Anatomy.

From AAM 1962 – 1984

Joy believed that students interested in becoming medical illustrators should have a strong portfolio for admission to the program and, like Wishart, she required them to take courses with medical and dental students in the basic and clinical sciences such as anatomy, histology, physiology, and pathology. Largely as a result of Joy’s efforts, and the strong support of Dean John Hamilton, the diploma program was elevated to undergraduate status. On February 10, 1967, by Senate Statute (2975), the Bachelor of Science program in Art as Applied to Medicine (BScAAM) became a reality. After the program reached degree-granting status, student numbers increased fourfold: in the five-year period from 1963 to 1967 there were five students; from 1968 to 1972, there were 20.With the increase in student enrolment, Joy appointed Stephen Gilbert in 1973 to teach applied art courses. Gilbert, an American, had studied with two former students of Brodel’s: Ralph Sweet, Director of the School of Medical Illustration at the University of California (1952 to 1961), and Muriel McLathie-Miller, Director of the School of Medical Illustration at Massachusetts General Hospital (1941 to 1960). Gilbert’s unique line technique is evident in his well-known laboratory manuals, which he wrote and illustrated for use in comparative anatomy and embryology courses, and in his book Pictorial Human Embryology (1989).

In Transition 1985 – 1986

In 1985, at retirement age, Joy stepped down as chair of the AAM department, though she stayed on as program director for the academic year 1985 to 1986. During that period, Alex Wright, who has taught facial reconstruction to the AAM students for over ten years was appointed acting chair, part-time. Wright was at the same time Director of the Audio-Visual Department at the Hospital for Sick Children. He had completed the diploma course under Wishart in 1961 and upgraded his diploma to a BScAAM in 1979. He is well known for his collaborative work in facial reconstruction with Drs. Ian Munroe, Leslie Farkas, and Hugh Thomson, all from Toronto.

picture of Linda Wilson-Pauwels

Linda Wilson-Pauwels, Program Director 1986-2010. Played a key role in elevating the program from BSc to MScBMC in 1995.

Focusing our Strategic Position 1986 – 1995

In 1986 Linda Wilson-Pauwels was installed as acting chair and director of the department. Her academic background included a diploma from the Ontario College of Art and a BScAAM. While acting chair of the program she completed a Master’s degree (MEd) and doctorate in higher education (EdD), specializing in the health profession. In 1990, with the support of the AAM faculty, Wilson-Pauwels proposed relocating the program administratively within a larger, stronger department in which new projects and joint ventures could be initiated. Dr. Bernard Langer, Chair of the Department of Surgery was quick to respond and to encourage a liaison with the department of Surgery. As a result, on December 10, 1990, the AAM program officially moved out of the Basic Sciences Sector of the Faculty of Medicine and into the Clinical Sciences Sector where it became the Division of Biomedical Communications within the Department of Surgery. At that time, Wilson-Pauwels was appointed Chair of the BMC Division and Director of the newly names Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Communications program. BMC is presently the ninth division within the Department of Surgery at the University of Toronto.

From BSc to MSc 1995

In 1993, a BMC Graduate Advisory committee was established to prepare a proposal for a Master of Science in Biomedical Communications (MScBMC) for the School of Graduate Studies (SGS). The graduate proposal was presented and accepted by eight committee of the University of Toronto and forwarded to the Ontario Council on Graduate Studies. In the end, the Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Communications (BScBMC) program was elevated to a Master of Science in Biomedical Communications (MScBMC) program in the fall of 1994 and ultimately the BScBMC program was phased out.

The academic program relocated from 256 McCaul to the Medical Sciences Building in December of 1994. The new location brought faculty and students closer to university resources such as Grant’s Museum and the university libraries.

Two-Campus Program and Undergraduate Minor 2004

In May 2004, an agreement went into effect between the Faculty of Medicine and UTM allowing BMC to become a two-campus program. Since that time, BMC has doubled its existing graduate student cohort from 16 to 32. Nine new interdisciplinary undergraduate half courses were introduced on the UTM campus, with a view to creating a continuum of teaching from the undergraduate to the graduate level in biomedical, scientific and health communication.

The academic program retained student and faculty studio space and offices on the St. George campus in the Fitzgerald building, while designing a custom, dedicated space on the UTM campus for the graduate program. Construction on the Biomedical Communications Department’s state-of-the-art space was completed in 2011.

Administratively, the BMC Director reports to the Chair of Biology at the UTM campus. The primary appointments of BMC faculty are at the University of Toronto, Mississauga.

Academically, the MScBMC degree remains with the Institute of Medical Science (IMS), Faculty of Medicine at the St. George campus. Graduate appointments of BMC faculty are in the IMS.

Portrait of Nick Woolridge

Innovative Technology for an Innovative Program, 2008-Present

In 2008 Nicholas Woolridge assumed Directorship of Biomedical Communications. His academic background includes an MSc from the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Toronto. In 2011, the program moved into its new custom-designed, state-­of-­the-­art facilities in the Terrence Donnelly Health Sciences Complex (HSC) in Mississauga and updated offices and classroom space in the Fitzgerald Building on the St. George campus.

The UTM/BMC merger has created an innovative partnership between UTM and the Faculty of Medicine that has greatly strengthened the academic environment for the MScBMC students. This re-­structuring provided new opportunities for curriculum development and re-­conceptualization of professional practice outcomes. The relationship expanded BMC’s network of colleagues (Anatomy, Cell Biology, Pathology, Surgery, Pharmacy, Physiology, etc.) to other disciplines including Forensic Science, Anthropology, Psychology, Biology, Paleontology and Archeology. Building on BMC’s successful track record of innovative research in interpretive visualization, research initiatives have strategically positioned the graduate program as one of the leaders in visual scientific communication and research in North America.

A look to the Future

Since its initial establishment in 1945, the BMC program has evolved significantly in response to the changing nature of the scientific world and our profession, and it will continue to do so. As a forward-looking program we are eager to further expand our academic and professional impact, making inroads in areas such as educational gaming and scientific visualization, always focused on advancing discovery and understanding through the power of visual communication.

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U of T Mississauga Campus (Administrative Office)

Room 308, Terrence Donnelly Health Sciences Complex
3359 Mississauga Road
Mississauga, ON Canada L5L 1C6
Phone: 905-569-4849
Fax: 905-569-4847

U of T St George Campus

OA Building, Room 114
263 McCaul Street
Toronto ON Canada M5T 1W7

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