The Body as Art: Micaela Motzko’s Anatomy Diagrams Help Her Connect with Students

There’s something about Miceala Motzko’s hand-drawn anatomy diagrams that are simple yet eye-catching, informative but still, well, pretty. Maybe it’s the neat lettering or variegated lining or the subtle use of color, but Micaela’s diagrams are, in their own way, little works of medical art.

A third-year medical student at Kansas City University, Micaela began drawing the diagrams out of frustration and a bit of boredom. She had been accepted to her school’s prestigious Clinical Anatomy Fellowship in fall of 2019 and she was very much looking forward to the teaching opportunities it provided, in particular, running labs and leading prosection/dissection demonstrations.

Then, COVID struck and KSU, like other schools, had to restrict student access to the lab to just two people per session, per room, which really limited interaction with the students. “I remember being a first-year medical student and seeing the anatomy fellows and just thinking they were so cool,” she said. “And I was looking forward to having that same role in the younger student’s lives.”

The silver lining was that COVID protocols and lockdowns did give the fellows, including Micaela more time to focus on other things since they weren’t on campus all the time, including her drawing hobby. Armed with her iPad, an Apple pencil and a $10 app called, Procreate, Micaela started drawing diagrams based on her school’s curriculum as a way to keep busy during long periods at home. “I started drawing the diagrams for fun and to relearn the anatomy myself,” she explained. She also posted the diagrams on her Instagram, @anatomyadventures.

Soon, students were sliding into her DMs to tell her how useful her drawings were. “I started getting feedback from the students who said it was so helpful and they were really appreciative it because they couldn’t be in the lab. Not that this is a substitute for lab time,” she quickly clarifies. “But they needed more one-on-one instruction that they weren’t getting.”

Word of the drawings spread between the Joplin and Kansas City campuses and more students got in touch with Micaela to ask questions. “Students messaged me asking me to explain regional anatomy or how to approach a certain system,” Micaela said. “It was fun to interact with them virtually, since we couldn’t be in person and I felt like I missed out on that. It’s just something I wanted to do and once I found out that students liked them, I just kept doing them.”

In August, Micaela created a website, anatomyadventures.net, where the diagrams can be downloaded for free. Her Instagram and her website have drawn the attention and admiration of not only KSU students, but visitors and followers from around the world, including England, Oman, Poland and Syria.

So far, she has completed and shared more than 60 diagrams covering everything from the basal ganglia to the plantar foot, all done in her distinctive drawing style. “I drew them based on how if I was learning anatomy for the first time and how would I want this presented to me,” she said. “Surprisingly, there are not a lot of anatomy resources out there that are that simplistic.”

Download Micaela’s anatomy diagrams for free here and follow her on Instagram at @anatomyadventures

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