The Art of Giving

May 4, 2021 by Ashley Stimpson

Professor’s family continues legacy of supporting medical illustration students


Howard Bartner, Med ’58 (Cert), ’69 (MA), began his studies in medical illustration at Johns Hopkins in 1955, where his skill quickly became apparent. He returned to Hopkins to serve as the instructor for the ophthalmological illustration course in the Art as Applied to Medicine (AAM) program. And over the span of five decades, he would teach 235 students, including 25 from other programs who sought his renowned instruction.

That ophthalmology course — the final class of the program — became a rite of passage. “The best thing about the course was that Howard’s teaching reinforced all of our fine arts training,” says Cory Sandone, Med ’86 (MA), “reminding us that despite all the anatomy, medical knowledge, and understanding of science we had mastered in the program, we were artists at the core.”

Illustration of a surgical procedure on an eye
Blepharoptosis correction © Lauren Rakes, 2018

Although Bartner died in 2018, his legacy will remain very much present in the department. His family recently established the Howard C. Bartner Scholarship, which will support deserving students as they work toward their Master of Arts in medical and biological illustration, one of only four programs of its kind in the country.

“When artists speak about the quality of another artist, we often use the adjectives ‘creative,’ ‘gifted,’ or ‘talented,’” colleague and AAM Professor Emeritus Gary Lees said in his eulogy for Bartner. “When speaking of Howard’s artistic qualities they are elevated to ‘consummate’ and ‘superlative.’”

Sandone says his professor’s illustrations were “breathtaking in their apparent ease of execution,” even though each piece “had emerged from a meticulous process of measuring and sketching and a laborious series of revisions for accuracy and clarity.”

Bartner had high standards for his students, but he held himself to the same ones. When the AAM department approved a master’s degree, he completed a master’s thesis in 1969, purely out of devotion to his craft. His wife, Elayne, recalls that one of Bartner’s proudest moments was receiving AAM’s Max Brödel Award for Excellence in Education surrounded by 40 of his former students. “I know how much he loved the department,” she says.

After graduating in 1958, Bartner landed a position at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and after five years into the job, at age 32, he was promoted to chief of medical illustration. After his first week on the job at NIH, back in 1962, he wrote to his old friend and mentor Ranice Crosby, “I think only after you leave Hopkins do you finally realize how adequately you’ve been prepared.”


Learn more about Howard Bartner’s career at Johns Hopkins Medicine in the Johns Hopkins Magazine spring 2021 issue.

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Topics: Alumni, Faculty and Staff, Friends of Johns Hopkins Medicine, School of Medicine, Promote and Protect Health, Support Scholars