July 28, 2014

I am so inspired by this year's AMI meeting. Held at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, it naturally attracted many fantastic local speakers from this world class hospital. But what made this meeting even more special was that the program was filled with speakers a little bit outside the usual AMI roster, expanding the scope of the conference, and demonstrating just how broad and interdisciplinary our profession can be.

This was the first international conference I have attended where I felt like I was walking into a reunion filled with friends. Between meeting people at the two student exchanges and the AMI Board of Governor's meeting, it was impossible to look in any direction and not spot a familiar face.

AMI Salon Ice Sculpture
I knew that this year's AMI was going to be fancy when a life-sized human ice sculpture was at the salon opening.

The main theme of this year's conference was storytelling, and the stories told were diverse. We heard from the delightful Andrew Cawrse, a master sculptor in traditional and digital media, who told us about his career trajectory through movies big and small, and how his choices impacted his skill set.

We watched facial reconstruction artist Viktor Deak transform fossils with soft tissue based on empirical measurements, bringing anthropology to life. He also showed us how his deep understanding of the 3D forms of the face enabled him to digitally piece together a volumetric skull from flattened fossil scans that previously left scientists puzzled.

Mayo Clinic Gonda Building
The Mayo Clinic itself is gorgeous and filled with art, including this modern glass installation.

Taking advantage of the Mayo Clinic connection, we also listened to surgeon Christopher Moir tell us how their art department has been vital to their clinical practice. In particular, when conjoined twins Abby and Belle Carlsen presented with complex interconnected anatomy, illustrators worked with clinicians to clarify the structures visualized in medical scans. For the first time, this gave the operating team consensus and confidence that they understood the challenges ahead, resulting in a successful separation in the OR.

These are just a few of the stories that struck me.

I hope you'll also let me introduce you to two fantastic artists that I met and had a chance to interact with: Danny Quirk and Lisa Nilsson. Their work is amazing, and listening to them talk about their inspirations and process makes me want to create! I thought it deserved its own blog post.

In the midst of all of this, I also had a chance to present my thesis project. I ended up in the same session as David Odde, a fellow chemical and biomedical engineer. I knew that I was in good company, and took that opportunity to completely geek out and tell the audience about how blood flow is like fluid flow through a pipe. It was fun to see a room full of 400 colleagues respond to my animation. I got a particularly good reaction to my sound effects.

AMI Rochester
Photo credit: Andrew Q. Tran
I am on stage presenting my master's animation to an audience of 400 medical illustrators at AMI 2014.

Afterwards, I had a chance to support the Vesalius Trust at a charity auction. They give medical illustration students a lot of opportunities, and in particular they nominated me to give a talk at AMI. I missed out on the scavenger hunt after taking so many questions after my session, so by the time I got outside, I found out that the Fairmanators had already won without me! I still had the chance to place the winning bid on this sweet set of trading cards from the AMI mentorship program - a whole binder full of them, many of which are signed.

AMI Rochester
I placed the winning bid on this lovely set of trading cards with artwork from AMI members at the Vesalius Trust live auction.

The next day I had a chance to revisit the Mayo Clinic and walk around the Plummer Building, which was the original Clinic in 1927. I took the tour at the start of the meeting with William Dacy, who had no shortage of trivia to share, and could not have been more pleasant.

AMI Rochester
A close up of the glass art installation in the Gonda Building.

The philosophy of the Mayo Clinic is fascinating. Their buildings are gorgeous, and designed to be unified despite being built 50 years apart. The Mayo and Gonda Buildings are joined on every floor, up 20 storeys, nearly seamlessly. The original Mayo Building walls are cut to form a connecting walkway, with just enough of the granite wall showing to mark the threshold and signify their union. The marble floors and walls are built to last, but also to give a welcoming sense of tranquility as patients enter, so that their path to healing starts the instant they step foot inside. Nothing about this space looks like a hospital, and this is intentional.

AMI Rochester
The lobby at the Mayo Building. If you squint down that hallway, you can see where the granite wall adjoining the Mayo and Gonda Buildings sticks down just a touch where the buildings meet.
AMI Rochester
Nothing about the lobby areas at the Mayo clinic looks like a typical hospital environment. For patients, these are safe spaces where healing begins as soon as they step foot inside.
AMI Rochester
A close up of a marble wall in the Mayo Building with a pattern that happens to look like an angel.

Upstairs in the pediatric area, the look changes dramatically. There are tiles that were painted by the children, and decorations inspired by nature. There are also spectacular views of Rochester.

AMI Rochester
I love the idea of safe and engaging spaces for pediatric patients. What child wouldn't feel a sense of wonderment when looking up at these lights?
AMI Rochester
The pediatric floor draws a lot of inspiration from nature, and features this beautiful butterfly wall.
AMI Rochester
Beautiful views of Rochester, MN.
AMI Rochester
The original 1927 Mayo Clinic building: the Plummer Building

Next, I went exploring the original 1927 Mayo Clinic building: the Plummer building. It even has gargoyles. I tried to get closer to them, but couldn't find a public space to view them. What I did stumble on was the floor with the Mayo art department. And they let me inside! It was a fun final treat to meet everyone there, see their space, and chat about the amazing job they did organizing the conference.

AMI Rochester
Old buildings always have the best ceilings.
AMI Rochester
The wax surgical models that originally drew me to the same floor as the Mayo art department.
AMI Rochester
Beautiful handpainted wax models of the heart.
AMI Rochester
A display case filled with anatomical art inside the Mayo art department.