PharmExec Blog

Mastering Medical Animation

By Jane Hurd, President, The Association of Medical Illustrators

We thank you and your editorial staff for publishing the article titled ‘How to Choose a Medical Animator’ in the 1 February issue of Pharmaceutical Executive. This is a common industry challenge — choosing a qualified, knowledgeable, and trustworthy media partner in what is a significant asset and messaging investment. Many product managers and decision makers have little experience and fewer solid benchmarks to evaluate the scientific integrity and quality of biomedical animation.

In just the last decade, discovery in life science, medicine, and digital media technology has provided an enormous number of tools to media creators, enabling visualization of disease processes and mechanisms of action with greater and greater scientific integrity. The challenge to companies with significant educational and visual storytelling needs in the commercialization of biopharmaceutical products is how to evaluate the content and stylistic quality in media creation and to know the difference between sizzle and accurate content that creates a memorable, accurate visual story.

The criteria that the article’s authors Dave Gulezian and Noel Ashekian describe are sound but not all inclusive. One additional criterion in the evaluation process is the medical training of the animators, script writers and the storyboard artists who are responsible for shaping the content, narration and the visual look and feel of the medical science and molecular and cellular biology. Writing animation scripts requires both intimate knowledge of life science and medicine as well as an understanding of story development in animation. Writing ‘brochure copy’ is inadequate in harnessing the full potential of an animation’s visual journey.  Text on screen in an animation has the effect of creating split attention that cognitive scientist have proven inhibits learning and long-term memory retention in the auditory and visual multimedia experience. Many medical animators are trained at the graduate level in accredited programs in medical illustration [http://www.ami.org/medical-illustration/graduate-programs.html] where they not only hone their craft of medical animation and communications, but study the first two years of basic science next to medical students, the primary audience of MOA animations.  Also, many medical animators are Certified Medical Illustrators, thereby ensuring that they are up to date regarding the latest science, technology and business practice. So, in the selection process, one should ask if the animators are academically trained, if they are certified and if they are members of the Association of Medical Illustrators (AMI). All of these factors are benchmarks for quality medical animation.

The AMI website is a vast resource for anyone looking for a partner in visual communications in life science and medicine. The AMI’s publication titled the Medical Illustration Source Book at www.medillsb.com is an additional asset when looking for medical media companies. The AMI’s facebook page will also provide insight into the activities, speaking engagements, professional presentations and awards of its members. This month several of our members organized and are presenting at the VIZBI 2012 meeting in Heidelberg Germany sponsored by the European Molecular Biology Laboratory and NIH.

What is unique to the training of medical animators who are members of the AMI is that they have gained their knowledge through graduate study and continuing education alongside physicians and cell biologists and that they too speak the language of medicine.

Respectfully,

Jane Hurd, President
Christine Young, President-Elect
Linda Wilson-Pauwels, Immediate Past President
The Association of Medical Illustrators

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One Comment

  1. Posted October 2, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for a great article, I think the level of medical expertise required by the production company can vary from project to project, often we’ll consult with some of the world’s leading medical professionals for technical advice and we can handle the more common technical elements ourselves. We recently produced this medical animation for PAH, there were a number of experts who we consulted with on the project to ensure medical accuracy over many months.

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