Topic: “Architecture of the Body, Anatomy of Gender, and the Art of Surgical Pleasure”
Location: Ballroom, Nittany Lion Inn
Introduction / Moderator: Nicholas Jones / Patty Satalia
Penn State alumnus Dr. David Teplica (Bachelor of Philosophy, 1981) uses his unique combination of talents in the Fine Arts and Plastic Surgery to guide scientific investigation toward a better understanding of human anatomy. He has proposed the novel concept of “anatomic predetermination” and performed the background scientific work showing that anatomic features are genetically destined both for their 3-dimensional location as well as the timing of their appearance on the body. As a result, he is not only changing the way society sees human form and understands its genetic underpinnings, but also how the body may be surgically reconfigured in a natural and gender-appropriate manner.
Teplica disavowed the generally-held belief that the field of human anatomy was a “dead science” with nearly all discoveries having been made long ago. Instead, using his penchant for twins and his dual training in the Sciences and Fine Arts, he was able to develop techniques for highly standardized digital imaging and analysis of anatomy that virtually re-dissect our understanding of the development and aging of the human body. Even such trivial things as the branching patterns of wrinkle creases, the timing and location of acne eruptions, and the lopsided shape of love handles are all the same as one’s twin or all on the mirror opposite side, proving they are genetically encoded.
In a world of round and square pegs and holes, Teplica, an interdisciplinary enigma, sees himself as an octagon. “At first glance, I don’t belong anywhere, but with a bit of a twist, fit into several places at once.”
At Penn State, Teplica’s cross-disciplinary approach was embraced. He was permitted to create a unique major to study the human system–drawing and sculpting the body while learning its anatomy and physiology. An undergraduate thesis on the anatomic evolution of man helped garner entrance into Dartmouth Medical School, where his dual interests were also encouraged. During his seven-year surgical residency at the University of Chicago, and to everyone’s astonishment, Teplica received the Trustee’s Scholarship from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and earned a Master of Fine Arts Degree. Concurrently, he also launched his twin research efforts with a Surgical Scientist Training Grant from the National Institutes of Health, and that project continues 25 years later.
Teplica manages a busy plastic surgical practice with patients from around the globe. His creative work is widely exhibited and is held in many corporate and museum collections, including the Palmer Museum of Art here at Penn State, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. Major features of Teplica’s work have appeared on ABC’s 20/20, on the BBC and Learning Channel, in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and on the cover of Wally Lamb’s #1 New York Times best-seller (and Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club pick) I Know This Much is True. At present, Teplica continues his creative/scientific efforts, serves on the Clinical Faculty in the Section of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery at the University of Chicago, and is working to define the anatomy of gender as Senior Research Fellow of The Kinsey Institute. With the help of colleagues, he recently created The 803 Foundation to further investigations at the Art/Science interface.