Medical illustration student honored with Dean's Award

By Kristen Holland Shear / August 2010

Suzanne Ghuzzi was unsure how to pursue a career in art, but then a physician who had seen her work suggested an unfamiliar path.

“He said I should look into medical illustration because I could combine art and biology, something I had taken a liking to in high school,” said Ms. Ghuzzi, who is on track to earn a Master of Arts degree in biomedical communications — biomedical illustration from
UT Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences this month.

The New Jersey native followed the doctor’s advice, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in communication arts from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2008. Ms. Ghuzzi completed the science and premedical illustration tract and minored in biology at VCU. She then came to UT Southwestern’s graduate program in biomedical communications, one of only four in the U.S. that offer a graduate degree in medical illustration.

Suzanne Ghuzzi’s illustration titled “Chelydra Serpentina–Common Snapping Turtle” was chosen the outstanding work in the competition for the inaugural Dean’s Excellence Award for Scientific Illustration in Honor of Lewis Boyd Waters.

Countless illustrations and animations later, her sharp eye and artistic talent helped her to earn the inaugural Dean’s Excellence Award for Scientific Illustration in Honor of Lewis Boyd Waters. The award, named after the founder of UT Southwestern’s biomedical communications program, recognizes the individual with the most outstanding piece in the annual graduate student show. The recipient, determined by program alumni, receives $500.

Ms. Ghuzzi, 24, won the award for her illustration titled “Chelydra Serpentina — Common Snapping Turtle,” using Photoshop to complete a multicolored collage.

“I generally like to draw something first and then do my work in Photoshop. You can’t create a successful piece without sufficient illustration skills,” she said.

Ms. Ghuzzi, who has completed projects for the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, Parkland Memorial Hospital, and the Dallas Museum of Nature and Science, said she also enjoys using computer graphic software to render three-dimensional images as two-dimensional images.

Lewis Calver, chairman of biomedical communications, praised Ms. Ghuzzi’s undergraduate training.

“She has continued to develop not only as an outstanding medical illustrator and designer, as evidenced by this award, but also as a terrific animator,” Mr. Calver said. “Unfortunately, as hard as I have tried, I can’t get this Jersey girl to stay in Texas.”

Ms. Ghuzzi’s thesis project — “Neonatal resuscitation: Interactive flash cards for pediatric health professionals” — will be used by Parkland staff to test their critical thinking and memorization skills about neonatal resuscitation guidelines. She received a Vesalius Trust Research Grant from the Association of Medical Illustrators to develop and create the interactive computer application.

After graduation, she plans to return to New Jersey, where she hopes to find work with a health care marketing firm and continue her passion — helping others to understand the biological complexity of the human body.

“There is a great deal of diversity in the job market in that area, and I am confident I will find something interesting and get to work,” she said.