There was always one kid in the class who doodled in the margins of notes, textbooks or, sometimes, right on the top of the desk ...

Just doodling ...

Julie Coats doesn't remember a time when she was not doodling in her notes. Now she's turned that nervous need to draw into a livelihood and a valuable asset for the doctors and medical researchers at Eisenhower Army Medical Center.

Coats joined Drayton, Drayton and Lamar, EAMC's IMD contractor, in early July as a medical illustrator, a position that had been open for several months.

In addition to its mission of serving the health-care needs of active duty service members, their families and beneficiaries, EAMC is a teaching hospital with a robust graduate medical education and research mission.

"Having a medical illustrator [on staff] allows our physicians to produce better education materials for medical learners, patients and the community," said Col. Dean Seehusen, director of Medical Education at EAMC. "It also allows our researchers to produce very professional scholarly projects to [present] to medical conferences or publish in the medical literature."

Medical illustrators are highly trained and certified. Coats, who most recently served in the Northwell Health system in Long Island, N.Y., earned a master's degree in medical illustration from the Medical College of Georgia (now Augusta University) and completed undergraduate studies in biopsychology and fine art from The College of New Jersey.

"I am a researcher, artist and scientist with specialized skills that permit me to draw scientifically detailed and medically accurate illustrations that communicate a specific component," Coats said. "I create scientific visuals for print publication, dynamic presentations, interactive apps, patient education and more."

Like any good health-care provider, Coats is board certified.

"The Board of Certification of Medical Illustrators administers a certification program as a recognizable means to signify a practitioner's current competency in the profession," according to the Association of Medical Illustrators' website. "A certified medical illustrator has passed examinations dealing with business practices, ethics, biomedical science and drawing skills, and has undergone a rigorous portfolio review. Competencies are maintained by meeting continuing education requirements and must be renewed every five years."

Coats' "talents can be used to produce patient education material or material to educate the public about various important medical topics," Seehusen said. "Every medical provider at EAMC as well as every patient can benefit directly. Actually, the entire Fort Gordon community can benefit from the products [she] will help produce.

Her skills as a medical illustrator, combined with those of John Corley, EAMC's medical photographer, provide a full complement of artistic, professional, communication resources to the practice of the medical sciences through visual communication.

And Coats swears she has never once doodled on the top of her desk … on purpose.