Inspiring Grad: Eyzel Torres-Vicencio

Eyzel Torres headshot
Eyzel Torres-Vicencio. (Photo: Martin Hernandez/UIC)

Eyzel Torres-Vicencio was in elementary school when she started serving as an interpreter for her parents, both immigrants, at doctor’s appointments. She was also a kid when she developed an interest in science, starting with catching insects to study them.

Biology was her favorite subject in high school. Her father and older brother were artistically inclined, giving Torres-Vicencio an early appreciation for art. 

At UIC, Torres-Vicencio has fused these experiences and interests into a unique career path. On May 4, she’ll graduate with a master’s degree in biomedical visualization from the College of Applied Health Sciences.

Biomedical visualization — art, animation and other visual media used to explain medical or biological information — is a niche field, Torres-Vicencio admits. Only a handful of universities in the U.S., including UIC, offer a master’s degree in it. Yet for her, it was the perfect fit.

“For medical illustration, I’m going into public health,” she said. “I’m also educating people, and I’m also doing the science, the research, the hard, accurate facts. And then on top of that, it’s like the pretty pictures and, ‘Oh, this is so nice to look at.’ So I feel like that really just encompasses a lot of the things that I’ve always been surrounded with and I’ve always been passionate about.”

You may have seen her art around campus. In the Heritage Garden by the Latino Cultural Center are plaques she designed and illustrated that explain the importance of pollinators to the environment.

A comic she wrote and illustrated, “Plant Power: A Guide to Managing Anxiety Using Medicinal Tea,” has been distributed around campus in the Latino Cultural Center, the Disability Cultural Center and the Writing Center. (Read the comic.)

With her master’s degree, Torres-Vicencio wants to continue helping people understand their health, especially mental health and reproductive health, two areas that are still stigmatized and not well understood, she said. Recalling her experience as a very young translator at her father’s doctor appointments, Torres-Vicencio recognizes that language can be a barrier to getting medical information across. So can illustration that doesn’t reflect the diversity of its audience, she said.

“Diversity is extremely important because if you don’t include authentic representations of people in your work, they might not be receptive to the information that you want them to learn,” Torres-Vicencio said. “And if they’re not receptive, they’re not going to take those steps to listen to the information or process it even, or apply it.”

Listen to story summary

Take a look at most medical illustrations and you’ll see what’s long been held as the standard of a “healthy” body, Torres-Vicencio said — skinny or fit, nondisabled, white and not wearing glasses. That’s gradually changing, she said, as more medical artists inject diversity into their work.

“Many people don’t see themselves in medical illustrations or art,” she said. “And so, for example, if I am learning about, let’s say, an ovarian cyst and everything that I look at has someone who doesn’t look like me, I’m not really going to be receptive to that information as I much as I could be, because I don’t see myself in it.”

“She really is a humanitarian at heart,” said Leah Amanda Lebowicz, director of the biomedical visualization program, about Torres-Vicencio. “Everything she does is, ‘How can I help people?’ She has insight into tailoring content for specific audiences so they feel empowered.”

Torres-Vicencio will be the first UIC biomedical visualization student graduating through the Guaranteed Professional Program Admissions initiative. Through the program, selected first-year students are guaranteed admission into a professional or graduate program after they finish their bachelor’s degree at UIC.

For Torres-Vicencio, that meant she had to apply for admission to the Honors College and UIC as a high school student — and show her portfolio of art for admission into the master’s program she’d start four years later. She’ll be the first in her family to earn a master’s degree and was the first to earn a bachelor’s degree. She’s assembled income from jobs on campus and loans and scholarships, including the $20,000 President’s Award she received as a first-year student, to make it to the finish line. 

But she also credits the communities she’s built at UIC with helping her earn her degree. 

Her classmates in the biomedical visualization program offered each other ideas and inspiration but also various perspectives, drawn from their diverse nationalities, religions, ethnicities and genders, Torres-Vicencio said. The people she worked with in the Heritage Garden have taught her about the environment as well as leadership and advocacy. And professors have shown her support and understanding when she felt the weight of all she’s trying to accomplish. 

“A big reason that I didn’t give up is because I’ve always been in community. It’s really hard to get through things on your own,” Torres-Vicencio said.

“I feel like I’ve found a lot of really great people here that helped me stay motivated.”

Read about UIC’s other 2024 inspiring graduates.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email