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McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences Newsmagazine — Volume 6, Issue 1, Spring 2012

The beginnings of anatomical drawings

Lynn Johnston's  comic of the rapid retrieval information  system
Lynn Johnston's comic of the rapid retrieval information system

Lynn Johnston, later creator of the comic strip called For Better or For Worse, was among the first medical illustrators hired to produce anatomical drawings for McMaster University's new medical school.

Hired in 1969, Johnston drew detailed drawings of the specimens at different stages of dissection. Using her animation background from the Vancouver School of Art, Johnston illustrated various stages of surgical procedures, such as heart operations and plastic surgery, using acetate overlays on her drawings. The individual acetate cells was photographed with a special camera and turned into animated films for students.

The technique was used until the development of computer-assisted animation and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Although she left in 1972, that was not the end of her connection to the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.

In 2009, she was asked to draw a thank you card featuring a diverse collection of medical students. The card given out by students to patients has won both national and international awards.

As well, OMNI.1 television featured Johnston in a one-hour documentary about McMaster medical students called M.D(iversity), which aired in March 2012.