Medical Visualization Roots Run Deep in the Region

Peoria is a leader in many aspects of health care education and technology, including medical visualization. Jump Simulation, a part of OSF Innovation, is unique in its implementation of 3D printing and virtual reality to get a clearer look at human anatomy and ultimately improve patient outcomes.
It’s also created a Medical Visualization unit charged with transforming how medical education is delivered using animation, 3D imaging, 360° environments, medical illustration and mobile app design among many others. Jump Sim is also partnering with the University of Illinois at Chicago to attract the school’s Biomedical Visualization graduate students to help in this work.
While this work seems fairly new to the region, history shows that pioneers of medical visualization hail from the Midwest. 


Most people in the region have never heard of Dr. Elias Samuel Cooper (1820-1862). Dr. Cooper was a young Peoria surgeon who was somewhat controversial in that he researched and practiced surgical techniques on cadavers to perfect his abilities (in a time when dissection was still somewhat disapproved of outside of large cities).
Cooper became a skilled anatomist with a flourishing medical practice in Peoria when educational resources were often scarce, especially on the prairies of Illinois in the 1850’s. After leaving Peoria and studying in Europe, Dr. Cooper founded the first medical school on the Pacific coast in 1858 that later became the renowned Stanford Medical School. Obviously, anatomy was a strong foundation of the new school.
Years later, a highly talented artist named Thomas “Tom” Smith Jones moved with his family from Virginia to St. Louis so that the young Jones could continue his art education. He eventually worked as a medical artist in 1906 with famed anatomists Dr. Albert Eycleshymer and Dr. Daniel Shoemaker at the St. Louis University School of Medicine, publishing “A Cross-Sectional Anatomy”.
The atlas was regarded as the finest cross-sectional anatomy reference in the world for the next 60 years. It again found great popularity many years later when computer transaxial tomography was introduced, because of the clarity and accuracy of the illustrations.
Jones followed Eycleshymer to Chicago to join the faculty of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Chicago (which became the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago). In 1921, Jones founded the second (and largest) school of medical illustration in the western hemisphere in what is now part of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).
A little-known fact about Jones (shared to me by his son) was a secret project he was working on in the late 1920’s to early 1930’s with George Eastman (of Eastman Kodak). It involved the creation of surgical “moving pictures” painted on celluloids to teach medical students and surgeons how to perform new operations. This process was also introduced by Walt Disney at about the same time with the release of “Steamboat Willy” in 1928.
Every other month, Jones would take a train from Chicago to Rochester, New York to hold clandestine meetings with Eastman on this new technology. Had Eastman’s sudden death in 1932 not ended the project, the history of animation might have had a very different beginning.
To Jones’ credit, UIC is widely regarded as the top graduate program for biomedical visualization in the United States, if not the world. It is one of the oldest academic programs at UIC. 

Full-Circle: Making it Personal 

As a personal insight, it has been a privilege to have collaborated with the renowned anatomy and medical visualization group at Stanford. Stanford Medical School was involved in the creation of the Anatomage Table, a life-sized “virtual dissection table”, which will be introduced to University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria anatomy students in September as part of a new medical anatomy curriculum.
On an even more personal level, to follow in the footsteps of Professor Thomas Jones at UIC as the sixth director in the graduate program’s rich history was an honor and responsibility. The unique program introduced a number of “firsts” to the profession. UIC was the first academic program to teach computer-based medical illustration, digital medical animation, medical virtual reality, maxillofacial prosthetics education and the integration of CT and MRI data into anatomical and surgical solutions.
Graduate students complete a rigorous academic program combining medical science, anatomy, computer science, art, design, illustration, animation, clinical data integration, research methods, interactive design, medical gaming and a number of other disciplines in a small profession called medical or biomedical visualization. It is one of only three accredited programs in the country. Ties to Disney, Apple, pharmaceutical companies, software developers, museums and medical “think tanks” have made the UIC program unique and unequalled. 
Now, in the tradition of Cooper and Jones, Peoria is leading the state and the country forward as a center for medical visualization and creative thinking in health care. Dr. Cooper and Professor Jones would be proud.
Categories: 3D Printing, Augmented Reality (AR), Education, Education, Medical Visualization