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BMC program names first Steve Gilbert Award recipient

Image of Cheralea Gilbert, Wendy Gu and Nicholas Woolridge

Cheralea Gilbert, Wendy Gu and Nicholas Woolridge. Photo Credit: Sarah (1T6) Kim

A student of pathology who viewed Wendy Gu’s visualization of Retinopathy of Prematurity would see a clear depiction of the disease as it progresses. What they would not see were the hours of research and the many, many sketches that Gu called upon to create the award-winning visualization.

The Master of Science in Biomedical Communications (BMC) awarded the inaugural Professor Steven Gilbert Award for Artistic Excellence in Biomedical Visualization to Gu on December 16, 2015. Cheralea Gilbert, Professor Gilbert’s widow, presented the award after the program’s annual Year-End Critique.

Gu graduated from the University of Toronto in Spring 2014 with an Honours Bachelor of Science specialist in neuroscience and minor in psychology. She joined the Biomedical Communications program in Fall 2014. The second year master’s degree student created the Retinopathy of Prematurity for the program’s graduate course “Visual Representation of Processes in Pathology” taught by Professor David Mazierski.

In her preparatory work, Gu created landscape and tissue cube sketches which she incorporated into one piece. Here she transitioned from her original grid design to a more arc-like layout inspired by the curve of the eye. Using a scanned copy of the final sketch and a fundoscopic image of an eye for reference, she created in vector-based software the basic shapes of the blood vessels in the background and the five retinal tissue slices in the foreground. Gu exported these images into digital painting software where she added shadows, highlights and colour. With desktop publishing software, Gu compiled the background, foreground and eyeball schematic into the eleven-by-seventeen spread.

“I really have to thank Professor Mazierski for looking at iteration after iteration before coming up with the final piece,” Gu says.

Professor Stephen Gilbert passed away in February 2014. Gilbert, an internationally recognized medical illustrator and master of the pen-and-ink technique, taught part-time for 23 years in the Art as Applied to Medicine program in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto. Tribute gifts received from the medical illustration community across North America and funds raised by the Biomedical Communications Alumni Association allowed the BMC program to establish the Stephen Gilbert Award in Fall 2015. This first award is valued at $2,000.

A committee comprised of BMC faculty selected Gu’s work from 103 entries submitted by 27 students.

“Wendy’s piece won because it clearly demonstrates a series of changes in tissues of the retina over time as a pathology develops,” says Nicholas Woolridge, BMC Director. “It does so while maintaining a sense of scale and context and it is technically really accomplished. It feels coherent in terms of its spatial relationships and the design really works to allow the viewer to read it easily.”

Now, Gu has begun work on her master’s research project, an animation to explain neuropathic pain to both patients and to undergraduate and graduate students interested in this area of research.

“It was an honour to receive this award,” says Gu, “and to know that the BMC faculty felt that my work was worthy of the Stephen Gilbert Award was humbling.”

by Maeve Doyle

Image of Retinopathy of Prematurity by Wendy (1T6) Gu

Retinopathy of Prematurity by Wendy (1T6) Gu

Image of Cheralea Gilbert, Wendy Gu and Emily Gilbert

Cheralea Gilbert, Wendy Gu and Emily Gilbert. Photo Credit: Sarah Kim

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