Degree helps grad draw attention to ill-understood disease

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A University of Dundee graduate will be able to proudly receive her Master’s degree this week knowing that she has helped draw attention to an often misunderstood condition which affects 176 million women worldwide.

Aimee Hutchinson will cross the stage in Caird Hall on Thursday 14th November to receive her MSc in Medical Art, a degree which she says has allowed her to add to the visual information available to the public about Endometriosis, a gynaecological disease which she has personally been affected by since she was 10 years old.

“I first started to experience the symptoms almost 18 years ago,” said the 28 year-old from Newry, Northern Ireland.

“There is no known cause for Endometriosis but the symptoms can include incredibly heavy and painful periods as well as mimicking gastro-intestinal issues, which for me, were so constant that for years doctors thought I had Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. I was prescribed the pill, which was meant to help with my heavy periods but unfortunately, I ended up having a mini-stroke because I was left on it for too long.”

Cross section of a uterus by Aimee Hutchinson

However, it was in large part thanks to Aimee’s granny, who in a throwaway comment to family admitted that she too had lived with similar issues, that Aimee was finally correctly diagnosed with Endometriosis after 17 years of misdiagnosis and suffering.

“It was a daily issue which affected my entire life for so long that when I was finally diagnosed in July 2018, I was genuinely shocked to find little to no information about the condition. It affects so many women across the world but little is known or shared with the public and what is shared can sadly be inconsistent.”

For her Masters Show, which was on display for the public in August, Aimee created two 3D printed sculptures; one of a complete uterus and one of a cross section of a uterus, as well as a website and 2D illustrations to raise awareness of the condition.

Her work to raise awareness of Endometriosis was recently recognised as one of the best New Voices by the Institute of Medical Illustrators.

Coming from a Fine Art background, Aimee said that her Medical Art degree was the perfect fit, as it allowed her to gain a brilliant understanding of human anatomy, and ultimately what was happening to her own body.

“When I tell people I studied Medical Art they think I’m doing something like CSI but actually we spend a lot of time learning about the body, which then informs the work we do with the NHS or staff within the University’s Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification (CAHID).”

Aimee, who now lives in Cambridgeshire, will receive her degree on Thursday surrounded by family and friends. Having recently accepted a job to work as an illustrator for pharmaceutical company Pfizer, she plans to create an illustrated history of Endometriosis.

“It’s an invisible disease that currently has no cure, but I want to make it visible so we might find one soon,” she explained.

 
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