Christine Young Receives AMI’s 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award

Excerpts from the address by Bill Westwood – Atlanta, GA 2016.

The LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD is the AMI’s highest honor. The purpose of this Award is to acknowledge and honor a medical illustrator whose life, work and outstanding career accomplishments have significantly contributed to our profession and advanced the ideals of our Association.

Christine Young Lifetime Award

Further, to be eligible for this award, an individual must have maintained continuous Professional membership in the AMI for at least 30 years.

This year’s recipient is definitely someone whose professional life, perseverance, determination, innovative artwork and career accomplishments have significantly contributed to our profession and advanced the ideals of our Association.

This is a person I’ve known for some 40. She is an author, art director, and illustrator of books and book chapters, as well as medical and scientific journal articles, on a broad range of topics including medical illustration, anatomy, pediatric emergency medicine, orthopedics, and urology. She is a mover and a shaker, both in the AMI and outside as an influential, award-winning creator within the pharmaceutical advertising marketplace and as a teacher and shaper of the young minds of future medical illustrators.

Over many years of membership in the AMI, her contributions to the profession are undeniable: 9 years as effective leader and Editor of the AMI Sourcebook, 11 years on ARC-MI Committee, 10 years total on the Board of Governors and President of our Association in 2012-13, and the list goes on. She has served on and chaired too many committees to list.

So it is with great pleasure that I can take this opportunity to introduce you to this year’s recipient of the AMI Lifetime Achievement Award, my very dear friend Christine Young.

I salute Christine tonight as an effective communicator, an influential visionary, and an exemplary leader in our profession.

By her own description, and as you will hear, she is a person of dogged determination, is sometimes a “lone wolf”, is a calculated risk taker, is a 3D space whiz, is a true dreamer and sometimes, is a real smarty pants!

Growing Up

Christine was raised in an intellectually stimulating environment surrounded by art and music. She grew up on a “gentleman’s farm” located between Chadds Ford and Kennett Square, Pennsylvania – an area famously known for the location of Howard Pyle’s School of American illustration, N.C.Wyeth’s studio, and the studios of Andrew Wyeth and his son Jamie.

Visiting artist demonstrating skeletal anatomy

Visiting artist demonstrating skeletal anatomy

Christine loved art from a very early age. She was a self-proclaimed “monster” with a pen or pencil and drew on everything at every opportunity. But Christine had to beg her Mother art lessons. Christine’s father did not want her to be an artist. He considered her too smart to be an artist…. and had ideas for her future other than painting.

After High School, Christine went to Muhlenberg College, a private liberal arts college in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The head of the art department at Muhlenberg, Tom Sternal – a monumental sculptor – at one point, suggested medical illustration as something that might interest her. Christine called home to ask her father to make good on his promise to allow her to attend art school if she graduated from college.

Though unhappy about it, he reluctantly agreed and Christine started at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts in the fall of 1974.

Are you picking up on this trait of persistence? Then, like today, Christine is like a dog with a bone when she decides she wants to do something. That streak of persistence and stubbornness clearly evolved very early on.

Hopkins, Mayo Clinic, and AMI Activism

Bending to her parents efforts to convince her she needed a profession in order to become a contributing member of society, Christine decided to apply to graduate school for medical illustration and sent applications to Hopkins, Michigan, and San Francisco. To her disappointment, she was waitlisted by all three. She went back to PAFA for a second more year to get more art and then reapplied to the grad schools. (There’s that perseverance again!)

In 1976 she was accepted by Hopkins and entered the challenging world of medical illustration under the watchful eye of Ranice Crosby. Her classmates that year were Alex Meredith, Mike Carroll, Jean Kansky, Wendy Saraffian, and Lisa Palulatt.

During her first year at Hopkins, Christine met her future husband, Kevin McKenna, at the end of their first dissection lab as he washed his hands of formaldehyde. Kevin was smitten. Christine not so much…yet.

In the summer of 1977, after her first year at Hopkins, Christine was selected for a summer internship at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

That was when I first met Christine. At that point, I had been working at Mayo in the Section of Medical Graphics for 5 years. We were located in the historic Plummer Building, which was (and is) a really cool place to work.

Christine has said that her experience at Mayo “was life changing and a real world introduction to medical illustration, which shaped her understanding of the profession” - a dream summer under the watchful eye of six seasoned medical illustrators. Christine headed home from Mayo with a conviction that she could make it on her own, something very few medical illustrators were doing in 1977. Christine’s return to Hopkins for her second year was difficult after having tasted the real working world.

Just after Christine returned from Mayo in 1977, the AMI meeting was held in Baltimore. Back then, students could not be members of the AMI. And even after graduation, you had to wait for two years before you could apply. However, that year, for the first time, a number of students came to the meeting and organized a student committee, determined to have a student membership category in the AMI.

An AMI activist was born! Christine said that “I didn’t know until then how truly warm and collegial nor the depth of friendships that came from the AMI. It was amazing.”

Iconoclastic Freelancer

After graduation from Hopkins in January1979, Christine, always the iconoclast, was determined to “go against the grain” and embarked on a career as a freelancer. She started her business in Baltimore, with about $600 to her name and the ire of her Dad - who wanted her to get a real “job” – hanging over her head.

Ranice wasn’t supportive of her recent graduate’s entrepreneurial activities either, telling her point blank that “She would starve to death” if she took this path. As I mentioned, very few medical illustrators worked as sole proprietors at that time. But Christine was undeterred.

Mobile genetic elements

Illustration for article Barbara McClintock’s discovery of mobile genetic elements - ©1982 ChristineYoung.

Periodontal disease

Periodontal disease - ©2007 YM&A

She soon got into the medical legal market, which was still in its infancy. She met and began working with trial attorney Marvin Ellin known in Baltimore as the “Maestro of malpractice torts. ” Ellin became a consistent client and taught Christine every nuance of medical malpractice work.

Christine began working for John Duckett, a pediatric urologist at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, who had a reputation for eating medical illustrators for lunch – Christine was his 4th or 5th medical illustrator.

She said of this experience, “I learned I really like to work for demanding people. I loved working for what I describe as the ‘monster’ physicians and ‘monster’ clients who believed they could never find an illustrator to ‘get it right’. I made ‘getting it right’ a game.”

In 1990, Christine began work as Creative Director with the Anatomical Chart Company in Skokie, Illinois. She jumped into this opportunity with both feet and was soon designing unusual products such as an anatomical night shirt and a ‘Brain Hat.’ By the end of Christine’s first year there, Anatomical had turned a $750,000.00 profit from her custom anatomical charts concept alone.

After 20 months, in spite of her success, Christine wanted to be back on her own and in control. Once again she found she enjoyed working with hard to please medical art directors.

In 1998, Alice Katz, Director at the time of the University of Illinois Chicago Biomedical Visualization Program, hired her to teach surgical illustration along with John Daugherty to the UIC students.

About teaching, Christine has said “Teaching is without a doubt the most challenging assignment I have ever taken and at times the most rewarding and at times the most frustrating.”

Company Source book page

Medical Illustration SourceBook ©2010 YM&A

Hurd Studios

Hurd Studios, was a company co-founded by medical illustrator Jane Hurd, and two partners back in the mid-to-late 1990s in the SoHo section of Manhattan. Their business expanded rapidly focused primarily on producing best-in-class, 3D medical animations for the life sciences industry including most major pharmaceutical and many high-flying biotech companies.

In February 1999, Jane invited Christine to New York to attempt to rewrite a storyboard for an animation for Novartis. Two or three previous attempts had failed to come up with anything that satisfied the client.

Christine flew to New York City and attempted her first storyboard on Jane’s dining room table. Novartis was delighted with the result and Christine was completely hooked on a new type of project.

Hurd Studios partner Steve Biale said of Christine:
“Christine wore many hats, accompanied by her usual expertise. Our biggest ‘problem’ with Christine was figuring out what title to print on her business cards, as no one function adequately portrayed her true value to Hurd Studios and our clients. We settled on ‘SECRET WEAPON.’ This title was actually printed on Christine’s business cards!”

Jane Hurd said:
“Hurd Studios owes much of its success to Christine and her dogged determination. Christine was the science brain that delved into extremely complicated pharmacologic MOA science and interpreted it.”

Teaching at UIC

Shortly after leaving Hurd Studios, New Program Director John Daugherty asked her to expand her teaching role to include business practices and to help develop a new curriculum.

Always deeply committed to educational activities, Christine enthusiastically joined forces with the rest of the faculty and worked for over a year to create a constellation of courses offering students exceptional opportunities in illustration, animation, modeling, technology and new media.

Christine continues today as Clinical Assistant Professor in the Biomedical Visualization program.

She currently chairs eighteen graduate research committees and Teaches Animation I, Business Practices, Medical Legal Visualization, Visual Learning & Visual Thinking I & II

John Daugherty says this about Christine:
“Spend a few minutes with Christine, and you’ll be struck by her warmth, generosity and keen intelligence—a true artistic and scientific mind, full of observation, curiosity and creativity. Discussions in Christine’s classes are rich, problem-solving excursions into creative thinking that generate new perspectives and in turn, new solutions.”

In her 18 or so years of teaching at UIC, Christine has mentored and enriched the lives of some 300 students.

Evelyn Maizels, one of Christine’s students expressed her feelings this way:
“The words I feel characterize my relationship with Christine are “synergistic” and “magical” and I frequently remind her that those are the words for our work together.”

On top of her continuing work schedule, she returned oil painting – more than 30 years after art school – and tackled portrait painting. And then she got interested and involved in miniature painting – and folks, we’re talking about SMALL canvases here.

Using surgeon’s loupes, Christine creates detailed oil paintings like these that aren’t much larger than two dimes! I have no doubt that she will master this and later find something else to challenge her intellect, skill and interest.

In conclusion, I know everyone will join me in recognizing Christine Young as this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award honoree.