Celebrating Netter’s legacy with poetry of human anatomy

Actors read poetry and prose about the human body to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Netter's Atlas at his alma mater, NYU

Atlas of Human AnatomyElsevier Health Sciences celebrated the 25th anniversary of Dr. Frank Netter's Atlas of Human Anatomy, one if its most celebrated textbooks, with an exhibition of paintings from the iconic author and medical illustrator. School of Netter: The "Michelangelo of Medicine" — which was open to the public from March 18 to April 30 at the NYU Langone Medical Center — concluded with Reading the Body: Live! – an event featuring dramatic poetry readings about the human body by two renowned actors.

Dr. Netter, who was born in Manhattan in 1906, graduated from NYU medical school and went on to become a surgeon. However, he ultimately pursued his lifelong love of art, becoming the world's foremost medical illustrator of human anatomy. Widely considered the gold standard in the education of human anatomy, Dr. Netter's Atlas of Human Anatomy presents depictions of the human body in clear, brilliant detail — all from a clinician's perspective. With its emphasis on anatomic relationships and clinically relevant views, his works provide a coherent, lasting visual vocabulary for understanding anatomy and how it applies to medicine today, and are a staple in a medical student's training.

Netter's Anatomy Coloring Book"Frank Netter, for many of us who went to medical school, is iconic in our lives," said Dr. Danielle Ofri, physician and editor-in-chief of the Bellevue Literary Revue, who provided introductory remarks. "For me, I recall the Netter's Anatomy Coloring Book that I used to draw in with colored pencils so that I could learn (anatomy) for my tests."

The event featured special guest readers Kelly AuCoin, an American actor who has appeared on Broadway in Julius Caesar, and Carolyn Baeumler, who has performed in King Lear and Mae West's Sex. The actors dramatically presented pieces pertaining to the topics of dissection, bones, the brain, and the heart, all of which are represented in Dr. Netter's Atlas.

"We thought we would commemorate the end of the exhibit … with a reading that would combine the literary and visual arts," Dr. Ofri said at the event.

Watch a video of the readings

Reading the Body: Live! featured dramatic poetry readings about different parts of the body

Below is the list of pieces the actors read marked by their starting points in the video.


  • 6:18 - "The Wills of Twenty Strangers" by Anna Mirer (Nonfiction, Spring 2010)
  • 13:43 - "I Want to Tell My Daughter Not to Name the Cadaver" by Linda Tomol Pennisi (Poem,Fall 2004)
  • 14:20 - "She Makes the First Cut" by Linda Tomol Pennisi (Poem, Fall 2004)


  • 15:28 - "Bone" by Joyce Peseroff (Poem, Spring 2002)
  • 16:57 - "How Air Moves" by Leslie Roberts (Nonfiction, Fall 2001)
  • 25:43 - "Bones" by Anne Pierson Wiese (Poem, Fall 2010)


  • 27:03 - "Stroke" by Celia Gilbert (Poem, V2N1, Spring 2002)
  • 29:31 - "The Mona Lisa" by Robert Oldshue (Fiction, Fall 2002)
  • 45:04 - "After the Stroke" by Margot Zucker Mindich (Poem, Spring 2005)

HEENT (head, eyes, ears, nose and throat)

  • 45:36 - "Ear Examined" by Cortney Davis (Poem, Fall 2002)
  • 47:32 - "In Between Time" by Eric Jones (Nonfiction, Fall 2002)
  • 57:37 - "Eye Examined" by Cortney Davis (Poem, Fall 2011)
  • 58:35 - "Sentence" by Barbara F. Lefcowitz (Poem, Fall 2002)


  • 59:09 - "Angina" by Alicia Ostriker (Poem, V4N1, Spring 2004)
  • 61:19 - "The Disease, Then, But a Constellation" by Daniel Gutstein (Fiction, Spring 2006)
  • 66:22 - "Father's First Heart Attack" by Hal Sirowitz (Poem, Fall 2009)


The School of Netter art exhibit

The School of Netter exhibit celebrated Dr. Netter's legacy with a selection of his own paintings (on loan from Novartis), as well as illustrations from over a dozen current artists carrying on the Netter tradition. The show included paintings by Dr. Carlos Machado, a physician-artist and Chief Contributing Medical Illustrator to the new edition of the Atlas of Human Anatomy, as well as pieces by several other leading medical illustrators and the finalist and winning entries from the Netter Images Medical Illustration Contest, held last fall.

NYU Langone Medical Center's Medical Science Building Gallery, where the exhibit was held, was established in 2008 to exhibit the works of artists who explore the relationships between art and human biology. Sponsoring between six and eight exhibitions yearly, it showcases medically themed contemporary art within the unique context of the medical center.

"Dr. Netter's illustrations continue to be an inspiration to medical students worldwide," said Dr. Robert I. Grossman, Dean and CEO of NYU Langone.

Learn more about Netter

Official Netter Images page
Netter Images on Facebook
Netter Images on Twitter


Elsevier Connect Contributor

Steve CisowskiSteve Cisowski (@SocialSteveC) is a Marketing Manager, Social & Digital Media with Elsevier Health Sciences, based in Philadelphia. In this role, he manages social media platforms and frequently interacts with followers on Facebook and Twitter about Elsevier's books and eBooks, including many titles in the Netter Images suite. With more than five years's experience in social media marketing, Steve has been awarded the William E. Surgner Excellence Award from the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A's), was published in Advertising Age, has been named an inaugural "Social Media Star" by the Philadelphia Business Journal, and helped Elsevier win two PR News Social Media Icon Awards in 2013.

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