University of Georgia
November 2014
The Arts
Alumna found her artistic niche at UGA

Diantha La Vine hiked the Grand Canyon during her years at UGA. While a student, she also studied abroad in Cortona, Italy, and completed an independent study during her last semester to prepare for graduate school.

Alumna found her artistic niche at UGA and thrived in her work

California-based medical illustrator is still active in alumni activities.

In high school, Diantha La Vine was applying to the Fine Arts Center, a Greenville, South Carolina, magnet school, when she told the interviewer that she dreamed of becoming an artist or doctor. The teacher recommended La Vine consider medical illustration—and the rest is history.

The fields of biological and medical illustration, collectively known as scientific illustration, use artwork as visual tools of communication solely for the service of education. For La Vine, this was the perfect career choice—it required use of both the right and left sides of the brain and appealed to her curious spirit.

La Vine’s home state of South Carolina did not offer scientific illustration and therefore, she headed south to the University of Georgia, which boasts an especially strong program. UGA has, for the past 20 years, educated approximately 10 percent of the 30 students who are accepted annually into one of only three accredited graduate programs in medical illustration.

Gene Wright, who teaches the science illustration courses and figure anatomy in the Lamar Dodd School of Art, fondly remembers La Vine from her time on campus.

“She was a very dedicated, responsible and agreeable student, and I’ve enjoyed seeing her grow as a professional illustrator,” Wright said. “She was a member of one of the most successful classes I have taught in my 23 years at UGA; that class had a 100 percent acceptance rate into graduate schools for medical illustration.”

Students in Lamar Dodd’s scientific illustration program are required to take an additional 12 hours of science coursework that normally includes human anatomy, physiology and vertebrate anatomy. While a student, La Vine also studied abroad in Cortona, Italy; completed an independent study during her last semester to prepare for graduate school; and got to know Wright and his wife, Alison, also a medical illustrator, whose work spurred her on toward a degree in the field.

In May 2003, La Vine graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in scientific illustration.

“My favorite memory from my time at UGA was the first day I walked under the Arch—and the pride I’ve felt every time I’ve done it since.”

The alumna was accepted into the medical illustration graduate program at Georgia Regents University (formerly the Medical College of Georgia). Between 2006 and 2013, she was a medical illustrator, technical graphics illustrator for The Scripps Research Institute La Jolla, issue manager for the Journal of Prosthetic Dentistry and a scientific illustrator with Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute La Jolla. She was certified in 2009 in medical illustration.

“In the past, I’ve worked regular hours at research institutes and been blessed to meet some of the brightest minds in science—even Nobel laureates. Currently, I am working for myself (, so my days are flexible.”

“There’s an instant connection between alumni and UGA fans out here, regardless of age, background or how long they’ve lived in California.”

—Diantha La Vine

La Vine’s clients are primarily conducting research. On the academic side, her images are used in publications, grant proposals and presentations. On the industry side, they help promote commercial products.

The alumna represents her alma mater by more than just serving as a fine example of the university’s high-quality arts program; she is president of the San Diego Chapter of the UGA Alumni Association. She and her husband, David La Vine (BS ’03), live in California and enjoy participating in chapter events.

“There’s an instant connection between alumni and UGA fans out here, regardless of age, background or how long they’ve lived in California. There’s a lot of emotion in moving across the country. We can all connect on that level—and by our accents.”

Here in Athens, Wright highlights the appeal of the scientific illustration program, saying that “creating an image that can reduce complex material down to an understandable and memorable medium is very rewarding.”

Interested in supporting the Lamar Dodd School of Art or its students pursuing a degree in scientific illustration? Click here.

Be sure to check out UGA’s third annual Spotlight on the Arts festival.

—Elizabeth Elmore, UGA Alumni Relations