AMI Portland 2010

Recently I was asked to write an essay on my experience at this summer’s Association of Medical Illustrators Annual Meeting in Portland, OR to be featured in our quarterly newsletter. Here’s the article in its entirety:

The highlight of many of our members’ summers was undoubtedly a trip out to Portland, Oregon for the 2010 Annual Meeting held at Portland State University. As always, the meeting was filled to the brim with beautiful artwork, inspirational presentations, the chance to network and make new friends, and of course, to catch up with old ones.

Having never traveled to the Pacific Northwest before, I was very excited to discover that the 2010 Annual Meeting was to be held in Portland. Finally, the AMI gave me the perfect excuse to board a plane and head to a city with which I knew I would fall in love. I’m fairly certain that all it took was the spectacular view of Mt. Hood from the plane to make me realize that this meeting was going to be like no other I’ve experienced.

As I stepped off the plane and boarded the spotless MAX Light Rail, the first thing that hit me was that I had not packed enough cool weather clothes! Having noticed that the AMI meetings always seem to coincide with unusually hot weather for whatever locale we visit that year, I didn’t quite believe the reports of cool and comfortable Portland summers. But here I found myself in a gorgeously green city, green not only because of the lush trees and flora, but also a community that has a tremendous focus to recycle, compost, and above all, to fully enjoy the environment that is and surrounds Portland.

The Meeting Planning Committee, led by Meeting Coordinator Chris Gralapp and Program Chair Lynn Kitagawa, played off of the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest in choosing the theme “Branching Out: Always Growing.” This theme was echoed throughout the meeting, particularly in Betsy Palay’s Presidential Address and the outline of the AMI’s new strategic plan that includes goals to increase membership and reach out to other associations.

Likewise, presenters at the meeting were largely those in related fields or AMI members who have been adept to embracing change and expanding the role of the medical illustrator.  Highlights included Tim Girvin’s keynote presentation regarding design and communication not only in everyday work, but also as a personal tool; Bang Wong’s impressive Data Visualization Initiative at the Broad Institute at MIT and Harvard which converts raw research data into visually striking and relatable imagery; Scott Fassett presented his career as a background painter in the Walt Disney studios and later at Laika Entertainment in Portland; and there was even a little history with tales of 19th century Scottish grave robbers and the fascinating biography of Gregory Pincus and development of oral contraception. Truly something for everyone!

The Portland State University campus provided the setting for the Salon and presentations, with the Salon housed in the main atrium of the Student Center as well as branching off into a few neighboring rooms. One of the highlights of the Salon was the traveling sketchbook, a project spearheaded by Dave Ehlert and 27 fellow AMI members. The sketchbook was auctioned off in the live portion of the Vesalius Trust Auction and raised over $1300 for the Trust, and the second volume recently started its adventure around the world.

Luckily for all those attending, PSU is also home to one of the largest farmers markets in the nation. The market appeared Saturday morning and was an amazing sight to behold, filled with booth after booth of beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, local coffee, handmade wares, at least one beer brewer, and food carts. As a fan of a good farmers market (and I frequent many), I was blown away by the diversity, quality, and sheer magnitude of the Portland Farmers Market at PSU.

And thankfully for anyone interested in food, this was just a drop in the bucket for what Portland had to offer! From seafood to food carts to doughnuts to some of the country’s best coffee, the city provided an endless array of tasty and unique treats. On Saturday afternoon I gave myself a break to wander around the city a bit and stumbled upon countless restaurants and boutiques and really wished that I had booked myself a few extra days in the city to take them all in. Next time, Portland, next time!

As Chair of the Awards Committee, much of my time at the meeting is spent working behind-the-scenes on the preparations for the Awards Banquet. Knowing how much effort is put into this one aspect of the meeting, I am in awe of all of the AMI members who willingly volunteered their time to put together this fantastic meeting. There was a very obvious feel of excitement in the air as the membership embraced the notion of branching out and growing, and I am proud to be an active member as the AMI sets forth on its new goals and embracing the changing environment. I look forward to seeing you all in Baltimore!

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