University of Brighton Alumni Association

Anatomy of the eye and iris coloboma

From Midwife to Medical Artist

Emily Paul graduated from the University of Brighton in 2015 with a BSc Hons Midwifery. After a traditional start as a practicing midwife, Emily discovered where her career path would take her. Here she writes about her career change, showing that unexpected twists and turns after university can all be part of a wonderful ride.

I graduated with a degree in midwifery from the University of Brighton in 2015. I started practising as a midwife at my training hospital but since then, my career has followed an unusual path.

photo of Emily Paul I loved my work as a hospital midwife but it didn’t satisfy my creative side, although painting a mural on the wall of labour ward certainly helped! Finding out that medical art was a career was an incredible discovery for me. No one had heard of it, and no one could offer any advice, but I knew it was perfect. I could have a creative career full of medical and scientific curiosities.

Medical artists create precise and intricate illustrations which are used in education, research and publications. An essential part of their work is providing information to patients. They use a range of media, from linework, greyscale and colour to digital 3D models and animations. Traditional artwork is still used although more and more illustrations are created digitally. It is a science as much as an art, one of few careers to bridge both disciplines.

I started drawing as a hobby after starting work as a midwife. I got through countless journals sketching every day. Maybe it was a quick five-minute drawing whilst eating lunch at work, or a lazy watercolour on the beach after a night shift. My artistic skills progressed with such regular practice and I was accepted to study the postgraduate programme in Medical Art with the Medical Artists’ Education Trust in 2017.

Image showing an illustration of x ray showing someones foot pointing toes

I continued working full-time as a midwife while I worked on my medical art coursework and attended workshops and seminars on my days off. During this time, I took on challenges in the midwifery world. I cared for women in clinics, homes and on the labour and postnatal wards. I was privileged to work on a continuity of care team, so I could get to know women by providing antenatal care before looking after them in labour and postnatally.

A poster showing the anatomy of a human eye

Finally, after six years of guiding families through their pregnancies and births, I felt ready to leave the NHS and take on the illustration world. Since leaving midwifery last year, I have been working on finishing my medical art studies. I’ve set up as a freelance medical artist and have already won several awards for artwork and animation. My career as a midwife feeds my artwork, both in my medical and anatomical knowledge and in the empathy I have for healthcare professionals, students and patients.

Phot of an open text book showing the anatomy of a hyman eye

If I could offer any advice to students and graduates it would be that you don’t have to follow a conventional pathway to break into a career you love. I was told it was impossible, foolish and that I didn’t have the right qualifications but here I am! There’s always a way.

To view Emily’s portfolio, visit her website at you can also follow her work on Instagram @humantouchart, Twitter @humantouchart, and LinkedIn


Meredith Brooklyn • October 21, 2022

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