Career Narrative

Patrick J. Lynch

The line that runs through my career is a fascination with the visual structure of nature. I have always worked at the nexus of biomedical science and visual explanations. As a child, my favorite books were Golden Guides to various science and biology topics, and the diagrams and illustrations they contain. I have always been enthralled with detailed natural history illustrations, anatomy illustrations, and the intricate diagrammatic artwork in magazines like National Geographic. I have vivid memories of discovering the illustrated Golden Guide edition of Rachel Carson’s The Sea Around Us in a first-grade summer reading program. Sixty years later, I remain engrossed with the visual beauty of the natural world, not only as artists perceive it, but as scientists understand it.

I was born in 1953 at Fort Ord, California, where my father was stationed at the Defense Language Institute. Almost immediately, my family moved to Yokohama, Japan for four years. My father was a sergeant in the U.S. Army. We had modest financial resources, but life on Army bases also came with excellent schools and libraries, and I had many interesting opportunities to see life in different cultures and landscapes. We lived in many places in 2 to 4-year stints, in Japan, North Carolina, Okinawa, New York City, Virginia, and Germany. In 1970 my father was stationed to Thailand and Vietnam, and our family could not accompany him, so my mother decided to return to her hometown of Branford, Connecticut to wait out his tour. In 1971 I entered Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) as a freshman.  In late 1971 my father was assigned on short notice to Fort Eustis in Virginia. Given a sudden choice between moving away from New Haven, or staying with my college plans at SCSU, I decided to stay in New Haven and independently support myself and my education through a job offer to work at Yale University.

Yale School of Medicine, Department of Medical Illustration and Photography, 1972–1992

I began my professional career at age 18 when I was hired by the Medical Illustration Department of the Yale School of Medicine to do medical illustrations and photography. In my early years in the department, I illustrated surgical procedures and helped re-build the medical photography unit after the retirement of the previous chief photographer. Although I was not formally trained as either a medical illustrator or a medical photographer, I was fortunate to have walked into a unique situation where my skills (however modest) were immediately useful to the Yale surgeons and physicians. My work as a medical and surgical illustrator gave me entrée to a world of bioscience, anatomy, and surgical practice that helped me exercise and sharpen my skills as an illustrator, and gave me access to sophisticated camera equipment that was then far beyond my means. I was very aware of my fantastic good luck, and I threw myself into my work at Yale. Over the next two years, I gradually transitioned from a part-time employee to a full-time employee by the time I started my senior year at SCSU.

In 1975, as part of a class term paper in introductory ornithology, I began a comprehensive study of the anatomy of birds, under the tutelage of SCSU Professor Noble Proctor, a world-renowned naturalist, birder, and birding tour guide. My illustration work with Noble and other SCSU faculty allowed me to learn a great deal of comparative vertebrate anatomy even as I was also learning human anatomy in my work at the Yale School of Medicine. After my undergraduate work, I continued my education at SCSU, earning a Master’s Degree in Biology in 1982, again while working full-time at the School of Medicine. During the time I was working on my M.S. degree, I discussed the lack of a well-illustrated ornithology lab manual with my teacher and mentor Noble Proctor. Throughout the mid-to-late 1980s, I did a comprehensive set of bird dissections and anatomy drawings, and descriptive to support a lab manual, while working on other projects in my “day job” at Yale.

As I deepened my skills as a medical illustrator and photographer, I also began to purchase early personal computers, pen plotters, and laser printers for use in the Yale department, now called Biomedical Communications. During the early-to-mid 1980s, I also developed a small audiovisual production unit to produce short videos to support and publicize faculty research at the School of Medicine. By the mid-1980s, it became apparent that the combination of audiovisual content and personal computers would become a powerful force in medical education. Under my management, the department began to explore what was then known as interactive multimedia. In 1987 I started a collaboration with cardiac radiologist Dr. Carl Jaffe and his colleagues in the Radiology and Cardiology departments of the School of Medicine, using a new program from Apple Computer, HyperCard. HyperCard allowed me to combine on-screen illustrations, interactions, and quizzes with computer-controlled video content from videodisc. Using HyperCard and later tools like Macromedia Director and Aldus SuperCard, we developed a series of Macintosh and Windows programs to educate medical students and residents in echocardiography, general cardiothoracic imaging, nuclear cardiology, and radiographic anatomy. I have detailed the published titles and papers in my Curriculum vitae.

During this time, my administrative career at the School of Medicine advanced, and I became the Director of Biocommunications in 1990. While I was increasingly involved in designing and programming interactive learning programs, I also continued—by choice—my “hands-on” work as a surgical illustrator, surgical photographer, in addition to my administrative work. In 1991 I decided that my work was losing focus. I decided to give up my position as Biomedical Communications department director to pursue our computer-based teaching work full-time as a Lecturer in Radiology at the School of Medicine. I also was appointed a founding director (along with Carl Jaffe) of a new center at the School of Medicine, the Yale Center for Advanced Instructional Media. Our multimedia work received many professional awards (see the list below), as well as grant and travel support from Apple Computer, Dupont Radiopharmaceuticals, The Howard Hughes Institute, and C.V. Mosby publishers.

Once I was (slightly) more free to concentrate on things besides Yale work, Noble Proctor and I completed our work on bird anatomy, and in 1993 our Manual of Ornithology was published by Yale University Press. I illustrated the Manual and co-authored the text—particularly the anatomic descriptions. Although I drew most of the Manual’s anatomy illustrations in traditional pen-and-ink, I designed and laid out the book in a (then) brand-new Macintosh program, Aldus PageMaker 1.0, the first real desktop publishing software.

Yale Center for Advanced Instructional Media, 1990–2000

My Yale colleague Carl Jaffe and I conceived the Yale Center for Advanced Instructional Media (CAIM) primarily to develop training materials to teach medical students, medical residents, and post-doctoral professionals the details of current medical imaging. We looked at clinical imaging as a good subject area to pursue for personal computer-based training. An early 1990s Macintosh could not match the computing power and storage of a clinical imaging workstation, but it could display the same kinds of images, in excellent quality, for a price that was a fraction of what a clinical MRI or CT workstation would cost. We also developed interactive teaching programs for medical students and practicing physicians on general cardiothoracic imaging, reference programs to tomographic imaging techniques like echocardiography, MRI, and CT scanning, particularly of the chest, heart, and mediastinum. At the Center, we also developed programs to research the way physicians learn diagnostic skills from imaging. We used custom-designed software (that I programmed) to test diagnostic accuracy in both new and mid-career physicians.  Our research showed that for experienced radiologists, instant-judgment exposures to a clinical image for just a few seconds were usually more accurate than test questions where the participants were asked to make detailed judgments from a list of characteristics to build the summary diagnosis of an image, and we then developed course software to speed and enhance the process of visual learning. In the early days of the Center, working with my physician colleagues, I did much of the technical design, graphic design, interaction design, programming, and image processing to construct the programs. Later our Center expanded to include six full-time staff, including an expanded co-investigator arrangement with my close colleagues Carl Jaffe, Phillip Simon, and Sean Jackson.

In its roughly ten year lifespan, the Yale Center for Advanced Instructional Media created 47 professional papers, and ten multimedia teaching programs published and distributed by C.V. Mosby. I was a co-author or lead author on all the publications. CAIM also won 20 professional awards for our work, including two software awards from MacWorld Magazine, two Gold Medals from the NewMedia Magazine-INVISION Multimedia Awards, as well as numerous awards of merit from medical professional associations, including the Radiologic Society of North America, and the American Society of Anesthesiologists. See my site for a complete listing of awards and publications from this period.

At CAIM we began experimenting with web-based teaching materials almost as soon as the first version of NCSA Mosaic (the first graphical web browser) was released in late 1993. I quickly recognized that many of the interaction design and user interface issues we encountered with early complex web sites were very similar to the interface challenges we had faced for years in our multimedia work. I also feel that my decades of work as a bioscience illustrator gave me an analytic and creative background that was ideal for graphic interface design.

In 1994 I wrote and published the first version of my Web Style Guide as a free site based on Yale’s web server, explaining interactive user interface design in a text illustrated with graphics, example sites, and concept diagrams. I kept evolving and expanding the content of the Guide to keep up with the web itself. The Style Guide site quickly attracted attention from the broader web community, and for at least ten years after that, the Web Style Guide was the most-accessed web resource at Yale University. My CAIM colleague Sarah Horton believed that readers would find a paper version of the Web Style Guide useful, even though every word of the Guide was also online. In 1998 we approached Yale University Press with a proposal to publish the Web Style Guide as a book, co-authored by Sarah Horton and myself, and Yale Press was enthusiastic. Yale Press published the first paper edition of the Web Style Guide in 1999, and the Guide became one of the Press’ best-selling book for several years. The Guide has been translated and published in eleven international editions and is now in its fourth edition as of 2015. Given how rapidly the web evolves, Sarah and I joke that the only thing that remained the same for each edition was the title. Each Guide edition was essentially a new book.

A transition to the mainstream web: Yale Web Design and Development

In the late 1990s, CAIM continued to produce medical teaching programs, in both stand-alone applications and web-based programs. We converted and updated some of our earlier stand-alone applications to take advantage of the growing network bandwidth and web browser capabilities. Our comprehensive Introduction to Cardiothoracic Imaging site supplanted the Web Style Guide as the most high-traffic site at Yale University. The Style Guide remained the second most popular web resource at Yale.

During this time CAIM produced one of the first ambitious and widely-used web-based science training programs for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, on laboratory safety. However, pressure grew for CAIM to also help the School of Medicine and the general Yale community enter the world of institutional web sites, and to establish standards and guidelines for Yale’s web presence. By the early 2000s, the group of co-investigators and staff in the Yale Center for Advanced Instructional Media decided to transform into a university and Medical School web services department. The new unit would meet the pressing needs of the university community for institutional and department web sites. The early 2000s were also a time of professional change for our CAIM faculty partners. Carl Jaffe left Yale to became head of imaging research grants at the National Cancer Institute, and several other key faculty partners left the university. Thus we dissolved the Yale Center for Advanced Instructional Media, and our ten full-time staff became the primary web development unit for the Medical School and broader Yale community. I became the director of the new Yale Web Design and Development department, and our focus was building out the web presence of the Medical School and Yale University.

The road back to natural history

My creative career at Yale was essentially hijacked by my administrative responsibilities, both as director of Web Design and Development, and shortly after that as Director of Media Services for the School of Medicine. This position consolidated the School’s web development, video, illustration, photography, and printing facilities. As the head of a 45-person department, I had little time for design work. Although I had satisfactions in guiding the various units through a sometimes rocky transition to the world of digital media, I felt increasingly constrained, and I missed creative work.

Throughout my professional work at Yale I was (and remain) a very active birder, wildlife artist, painter, and nature photographer. These creative outlets were both an antidote to administrative work, and increasingly became part of my long-term plan to eventually ease out of my Yale career. I intended to get back into my first and original love: illustrating nature and bioscience through writing my book projects. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, I was doing a lot of whale watching and seabird watching off the New England coast and was dissatisfied with the field guides then available. There were no real field guides then available to Northwest Atlantic marine mammals, and my friends and I were carrying a pile of seabird reference books on each offshore trip. My friend Noble Proctor and I decided to create an all-in-one guide to North Atlantic seabirds, whales, seals, sea turtles, and other larger marine surface life and sold the idea to Yale University Press. In 2005 Yale Press published our Field Guide to North Atlantic Wildlife, which I both co-authored and illustrated, as well as doing the book design and layout.

In 2007 Yale University began a significant reorganization and consolidation of information technology services within both the School of Medicine and the central university campus. I made it clear to the University Chief Information Officer that I was unhappy in a purely administrative role, and was looking for a job that where I could focus on creative projects around media and information technology. Yale graciously created such a job for me as Director of Web Architecture and Technology Projects, in the Office of the CIO. Not surprisingly, most of my projects turned out to be in media (media units were consolidated with the information technology department), communications, and web publishing. When Yale decided to consolidate communications resources, I became part of the university’s Office of Public Affairs and Communications (OPAC) in 2010, as the Director of Design and User Experience. Another administrative job. I continued to be determined to return to creative work and found a niche for myself by founding a one-person video production unit for OPAC. For six years, I created about 50 short videos a year, mostly centered on faculty research and sometimes on general university programs and events. I was producer, director, camera and sound operator, illustrator, and editor all-in-one, beholden only to the Vice President for Communications, and I loved the job. These six years brought me well beyond the point where I could retire with full benefits and healthy retirement accounts.

During my various Yale transitions, I had an idea for a series of regional-based field guides to the U.S. Atlantic coastline. My friend Noble Proctor and I produced A Field Guide to the Southeast Coast & Gulf of Mexico in 2012, published by Yale University Press. Again, I both co-authored and illustrated the guide, and did all the book layout and design work myself. Unfortunately, my dear friend and collaborator Noble Proctor died not long afterward. However, I was determined to carry on the vision of regional field guides to the Atlantic coast.

In 2016 I chose to retire from Yale University after 45 years of service. I was completing work on my Field Guide to Long Island Sound, published by Yale University Press in 2017, and ready to become a full-time author, photographer, and illustrator of my projects. In 2017 I joined the board of the Connecticut Audubon Society.

In early 2019 Yale Press published my Field Guide to Cape Cod: Including Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, Block Island, and Eastern Long Island. I am now completing my tenth book, A Field Guide to the Mid-Atlantic Coast, to be published by Yale University Press in late 2020 or early 2021.

Regional field guides suit my personal view of the holistic nature of landscapes and environments. The plant a songbird perches on matters just as much as the bird. The two are inextricably linked in a web of relationships that cannot be understood if thematic field guides train you that animals and plants all exist in separable realms (birds, flowers, insects, etc.), without consideration for the geologic, ecological, or human history of an area. So I will continue work on the Atlantic coast, in book projects that summarize my work in a natural history of the Atlantic Coast, and in a volume of photography, maps, and illustrations that looks at climate change in today’s wild environments of the Atlantic Coast.

I still collect and read Golden Guides, and I own far too many National Geographics.


All artwork and photography by Patrick J. Lynch.



National Outdoor Book Award, 2012. Winner, Nature Guidebook Category, for A Field Guide to the Southeast Coast & Gulf of Mexico, by Noble S. Proctor and Patrick J. Lynch.  Yale University Press.

Silver Award, H1N1 Poster Communications Campaign. 2010 Health Sciences Communications Media Festivals, Boston, June 2010.

Top Prize for 2005, Pirelli INTERNETional Award. Pirelli INTERNETional Awards, Rome, Italy, May 2005. Introduction to Cardiothoracic Imaging.

2005 First Prize for Higher Education, Pirelli INTERNETional Award. Pirelli INTERNETional Awards, Rome, Italy, May 2005. Introduction to Cardiothoracic Imaging.

Overall Winner, General Service Promotional Materials. Association of Computing Machinery, Special Interest Group for University and College Computing Services (SIGUCCS) Providence, RI, November 2002.

Best Internet Site: Gold Award for Hospitals With 400+ Beds. eHealthcare Strategy and Trends, Internet and Healthcare Conference, Las Vegas, November 2000.

Lamplighter Award of Excellence, Web Site Design, for Yale-New Haven Hospital. New England Society for Healthcare Communications. October, 1998.

Association of Medical Illustrators. Literary Award. 1997.

Health Science Communications Association. Literary Award. 1997.

Certificate of Merit, Scientific Paper. Radiological Society of North America. 1996.

Patrick Lynch named one the “Top 100 Multimedia Producers.”

Multimedia Producer Magazine, December 1995.

Certificate of Merit, Scientific Paper.

Radiological Society of North America. 1994

First Place, Interactive Media, 1994.

Health Sciences Communications Association.

Holly Harrington-Lux Award for Creative Design, 1994.

Health Sciences Communications Association.

Silver Medal, Higher Education Applications.

NewMedia Magazine-INVISION Multimedia Awards, 1994.

Honorable Mention, Best Book in Biology: Manual of Ornithology.

American Association of Publishers, 1993.

Certificate of Merit, Scientific Paper.

Radiological Society of North America. 1993.

Silver Medal, Professional Training.

New York Festivals-1993 International Interactive Multimedia Competition.

Award of Excellence

NewMedia Magazine-INVISION Multimedia Awards, 1993.

Gold Medal, Corporate Applications-Medical Training

NewMedia Magazine-INVISION Multimedia Awards, 1993.

Award of Excellence

Illustrated Book – Manual of Ornithology. Association of Medical Illustrators, 1993.

Holly Harrington-Lux Award for Creative Design, 1992

Health Sciences Communications Association.

First Place, Interactive Media, 1992

Health Sciences Communications Association.

Certificate of Merit, Scientific Paper

Radiological Society of North America. 1992.

Elmer Friman Best-in-Show Award, 1992

Health Sciences Communications Association.

Literary Award, 1991

Association of Medical Illustrators.

Boston Computer Society

Software Award, August 1990.

Interface Design Award

Macworld Magazine SuperStacks Software Contest, 1990.

Bird Anatomy, one of the 200 Best Macintosh Products

MacUser Magazine, December 1989.

Interface Design Award

Macworld Magazine SuperStacks Software Contest, 1989.

Association of Medical Illustrators Literary Award, 1988.

Exceptional Merit Award, Scientific Exhibit, 1988

American Society of Anesthesiologists.

Magna Cum Laude Award, Scientific Paper

Radiological Society of North America. 1988.

First Place, Educational Category

Macworld Magazine SuperStacks Software Contest, 1988.

Muriel McLatchie Miller Award & Grumbacher Art Award

Association of Medical Illustrators, 1988.

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