Anatomy and Art

a blog by Sara Egner

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2013 AMI Conference

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Okay, so the last time I wrote in, it was a race to see how quickly I could get something coherent down before falling asleep.  Let’s see if I can slow down now and try to recap things a little better this time.

**note – A lot of letters that are meant to be printed after people’s names have been left off for the sake of my sanity in trying to get a recap down.  Rest assured we had a lot of degree toting folks out**

My coworker and I arrived in Utah last Tuesday to settle in to our room and be up and ready for an early Wednesday of workshops on ePMV and AutoPACK with Graham Johnson, and co-instructors Fabian de Kok-Mercado, and Merry S. Wang.  We use ePMV all the time at Sapling Learning to explore and illustrate molecules.  It’s a plug-in that works with the major 3D animation programs, and probably works best with Cinema 4D.  It reads pdb files, and when you pull them from the Protein Data Bank, they come chalk full of all kinds of information.  The polio virus molecule image that I posted last time was created using data labeled as 2plv. What was especially cool about this, was that we learned how to pull in a repeated portion of a molecule, undo the auto setting for it to center to origin, and then apply another setting that repeats the biological unit to fill out the entire molecule.

We also got our hands into AutoPACK which I didn’t have previous experience with, but I’m looking forward to exploring further now.  It allows you to pack molecules appropriately into spaces like in blood serum or cytoplasm.  Actually, it lets you pack any objects that you might want organically into any defined space.  It’s a cool trick, and one that I’m sure will come in handy.

We also had the big salon opening that night.  There were walls full of fantastic pieces, as well as those that needed tables, there were interactives, animations, all sorts of awesome.  I had “Translation” showing that I made last year with Sapling Learning.

The next day started up early with the mentor breakfast.  I haven’t participated on either end of the mentor program as of yet, but it seems like a nice idea.  Over breakfast, a man named David mentioned doing a little model sculpting on the side and he told me about this stuff, CX5 that sounds really cool.  I may have heard of it once before, but I’ve definitely never played with it.  I think I want to.

We then caught Dr. Roberta Ness‘s talk on Innovation.  She spoke a lot about frames, meaning expectations or what is conceivable from a particular mindset.  She spoke about the power of metaphors, and the importance of frame breaking.  And she reported that innovation and creativity has been dwindling in America.  And told us that creativity can be taught.  It was a good talk, and one that I have called pieces of to memory on several occasions since.

Then Jens Krüger spoke to us about 3D data visualization rendering systems that he has been working on.  I’m not sure I really got the full potential of everything he was showing us, but there were some really nice representations he had to show.  Seemed like he kept coming back to the notion of looking for more problems for all of these solutions they were developing. I think that they will do just fine finding ways to implement their technology.

We had the big business luncheon that day, and afterwards Chris Converse spoke about the future of web animation.  He showed us some fun examples of html5 simple interactives and spoke a bit about Adobe’s Edge Animate.  It is on my list of things to do, to explore that particular software, so the little tour was much appreciated.

After that I caught Tim Butler’s talk on past and present mobile technology.  Having grown up along side the advent of mobile phones, it was interesting going through their history, and I might someday have to make my own personal timeline of communication technology.  I’ve pretty well gone from corded phones and pen pals to Facebook, blogging, and a smart phone with a whole lot of steps in between, but even more steps outright missed, as Tim’s lecture really pointed out.

I also attended a workshop on improving one’s posture and work habits for healthier working with Esther Smith.  We went over some stretches and work station arrangements.  She recommended finding a MacKensie physical therapist to anyone looking for someone to work with them on improving their own work set up and personal habits.

Friday morning started with a talk from medical illustrator, Dr. Carlos Machado.  His work was beautiful.  And the only note I took, was reminding myself to never take up gouache.  Seriously, that stuff sounds like such a pain to work with.  But man, Dr. Machado has really mastered the art. The way he paints skin, just blew me away.

Next we had Andrew Hessel come out and talk about genetics, nanotechnology, bacteria, synthetic virology, and all kinds of teeny tiny awesome that could easily be imagined turning creepy, but his enthusiasm was contagious!  We learned about Project Cyborg, and iPhone controlled roaches, and how Kickstarter is becoming a good funding platform for scientific innovation.  He also brought up the new wave of kids working with Autodesk software, namely 123D.  I don’t know how robust the software they’re using is, but I can’t help but think that those kids will have such a great edge on understanding how to communicate in software, and understanding the inherent usefulness of geometry and physics as they go through their early math and science classes.

Peleg Top was next on the stage to talk about the importance of marketing and how marketing is more than just advertizing.  At the time, I didn’t feel like I was that in to all the marketing fervor, but while he was talking I scribbled down a couple of good ideas, so maybe it was a more effective talk than I’d realized.  One was for Sapling Learning, and the other was a website design strategy for selling my paintings online.  Here’s hoping I can follow up on them.

After lunch, we reconvened to hear Brian Dunham discuss his strategy for improving the surgical atlas.  He was bringing work to a digital format, and emphasizing more of the routine surgical steps that accompany the surgical cuts and maneuvers themselves.  It sounded like he was doing good work.

And the next one I’m still pretty excited about.  Brandon Pletsch, who I had met earlier and gotten a little mini view on what he would talk about, and Adam Pellerite spoke to us about Autodesk’s 123D Catch application.  It’s a free app for the iPhone, or a desktop app if you use a PC.  It lets you take a bunch of photos of something, or someone holding very still, and the software weaves the images together ala stereophotogrammetry to create a 3D image that you can look at from different views, and even bring in to your 3D software as an obj file with a photorealistic texture map.  So far I’ve managed to capture a moderately good 3D image of my co-worker Alex but I’m not sure if she’d want me to post that attempt on the internet, so I’ll just snag the shared image of this guy from the website to give you an idea.

They were using it mostly for capturing dissections.  I can only imagine having something like that to study from when you’re trying to memorize the spacial relationships in anatomy.  And I am excited about finding ways to use this one in future endeavors!

After that I caught Tonya Hines (our new AMI president)’s talk on Open Access publishing and contract dilemmas.  After so much attention at work lately on the various kinds of licenses out there, this was especially interesting.  I honestly had no idea just how varied people’s perceptions were on what the expression “commercial use” means.  I may have even submitted my animation to the salon incorrectly, I was so convinced that anything that was sold was commercial.  But apparently a lot of people take more the advertizing definition of commercial when deciding what is or isn’t a commercial use.  And people put out creative commons licenses without realizing just how varied that label is.  I’ve always found contracts and permissions to be difficult terrain, but this talk definitely made me take note of a couple pit falls I hadn’t yet thought of.

That night we had the awards banquet.  My animation didn’t take any awards this time, but one of my teachers from grad school, John Daugherty, was recognized for his long time legacy of fantastic work.  I’m glad that I got to see that.  I learned a lot from him in school.  He’s pretty much the guy in charge over at my old biomedical visualization department as I understand it now.  Go John!

Then Saturday morning, people were thrown to find themselves eating breakfast to Fredric Hellman’s talk on criminology and solving violent crimes.  I heard a number of people lament not having been ready for some of those photographs over their morning coffee and bagel.  But he did present an interesting area where medical illustrators could conceivably go and be of value.  It was also interesting to hear a little about how these violent murder cases are worked out.

Christine Young then delivered the presidential address, and we were then off to the tech showcase.  These are generally a fun opportunity to walk around and check out all different sorts of expertise.  I know I learned a little about Zbrush, picked up a few C4D tips, was introduced to VMD, but I was probably most excited about the guy making guitars using autocad software and a CNC milling machine in his basement.  I mean come on, that’s just awesome.  It also plays into my dream of just being able to just make everything I need rather than getting stuck in so many shopping loops as seems to so often happen.

The event ended in a final speech from Carl Zimmer, who has some really interesting work on evolution and all kinds of crazy creatures.

After his talk, the AMI presidential gavel was passed from Christine Young to Tonya Hines.  And then a good portion of the conference attendees landed in the hotel bar to unwind a touch after such an educationally packed event.



Written by Sara

July 27th, 2013 at 1:52 am

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Anaplastology Conference

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Well, I’m back from the International Anaplastology Association Conference in sunny Sarasota, Florida now.  It was a lovely event, and so great to get to meet so many people working in anaplastology and hear their stories and what they’re up to.  We also teamed up with the International Symposium of Bone Conduction Hearing-Craniofacial Osseointegration this time, so there was a bit of a crash course for many of us in the details of bone conduction hearing aides, though most of the lectures remained separate.

The first day, some were busy taking certification exams for anaplastology.  I haven’t done this myself, nor am I even close to being qualified to take them (it takes 18 cases, handled solely start to finish, and photo documented along the way), but it seemed like those who did were relieved to be done afterward.  And what better way to relax after a test like that, or get to meet people for the first time if you’re like me and only just got there, than to have everyone out to the hotel’s beach house for a meet and greet get together with drinks, hors d’oeuvres, a little music, and a positively stellar view of the sunset.

Then bright and early Thursday morning, we kicked off the lectures with an opening ceremony followed by our first two invited lecturers, Barbara Boyan, and Anders Tjellström.  Barbara spoke on “Cell-Material Interactions: What They Mean Clinically,” and Anders spoke on “The Evolution of Titanium Implants.”  After that, we broke into anaplastology specific lectures and bone-conduction hearing lectures, with workshops happening at the same time in other rooms.

Personally, I stuck with the anaplastology lectures all day Thursday, and again on Friday morning.  There was a great deal of emphasis throughout these lectures on matters of surgical success in the placement of implants with regard to both the osseointegration of the implants into bone, as well as the peri-abutment tissue, and avoiding skin reactions there.  There was also a lot of talk about measurement and new technology for dealing with 3D forms as we do.

Then Friday afternoon, I attended my first of the workshops offered.  It was David Trainer’s “Mold Making: Materials and Techniques,” wherein he went over the use of some different materials he’s worked with to make sturdier, lighter, and yet very detailed molds.  I know I’d like to give some of those materials a test drive myself.

After his workshop, came another workshop in “Color Science and Acuity in Anaplastology.”  This one, I believe was put together by Paul Tanner, but then presented by Art Schmehling of X-Rite.  He spoke of various color systems, and how lighting affects color.  He brought attention to the inherent weaknesses we share of being able to remember colors with precision, and our susceptibility to color fatigue.  One interesting recommendation he had was to keep a space in the room where you see a patient for color matching painted a good neutral gray so that your color matching isn’t compromised by the surrounding environment.  He also mentioned briefly a bit about metalics and how they affect perceived depth.  I don’t believe that I’ve written about it here, but I’ve been mulling over some ideas about metalics in silicone for the last couple weeks.  So after the workshop, I was really excited to get to ask a few questions of a bona fide color expert about my thoughts there.

Saturday we only had a half day there.  We began with two more invited speakers as per our usual program openers.  Ichiro Nishimura’s “Systems Biology and Genetic Networks of Osseointegration” lecture was particularly interesting I thought.  He told us about his work at UCLA, and it sounds like they are finding a connection between vitamin D deficiency and osseointegration failure.  I’d never heard of that before, but if you type in vitamin d, and osseointegration into Google, you get a lot of links from research being done in this direction.  You also get some information about a circadian rhythm connection, which he brought up as well.  I won’t even attempt to try to tackle explaining his work in any depth here, but I would recommend that you look for it if you are interested.

And then the conference wrapped up with one last round, for which I chose to go back to the workshop room again, and hear a panel discussion on “Creative Problem Solving for Challenging Craniofacial Cases,” featuring Julie Jordan Brown, Gillian Duncan, Susan Habakuk, and Greg Gion (who started the clinic where I am presently interning.)  This was a nice opportunity to listen to the kinds of strategies more experienced anaplastologists have taken with their more complicated cases.

All in all, it was a very educational event, and a great opportunity to meet people and better understand the whole of the anaplastology field.  I’m so glad that I went.

Written by Sara

March 28th, 2011 at 12:52 pm

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Taking in the International Association of Anaplastology’s annual conference in Sarasota Florida this week.

Yeah….   life could be rougher.

I’ll tell ya more when I get back.

Written by Sara

March 25th, 2011 at 5:45 pm

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AMI Conference – Part 3

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Wrapping up this recap of the AMI conference, I suppose I should come back in with Saturday morning.  The first lecturer was Leon Speroff, MD who spoke about the beginnings and history of oral contraception, focusing specifically on Gregory Pincus and his work in creating the birth control pill.  The talk was really very positive, but I couldn’t help thinking that I am so glad not to be one of those women that fell into the trial and error portion of learning about the pill.

After that Graham Johnson and Brad Marsh got up and spoke about their work visualizing the pancreatic beta cell with the use of electron microscope tomography.  The big finale is that they are putting together this really extensive 3D atlas of an entire cell by collecting data from smaller scans which can collect better data than anything you can view an entire cell under so far.  This was some really cool work.

Then Scott Fassett got up and spoke about Illustrating for the animation industry.  Most of his work was with Disney.  Beautiful work, but I have to admit to being a touch burnt out on the magic of Disney from my time in LA.  The techniques he discussed were not ones I am likely to use myself, but it was a nice introduction to them.

I would say I found myself the most interested in the panels which followed next.  First on the list was “From Concept to Completion: Real World Development of High End 3D Medical Animations (Part 1 of 2), and then the continuing panel discussion which was part two.  these really brought home for me the value of having a full company from which to do business.  They seemed to have found ways around some of the pitfalls I myself hit in trying to do freelance work right out of college the first time, and a lot of it came down to having the staff, resources, and clientele base to allow a client lots of time to make decisions or change their mind while you are simply working on something else.  That ability to have multiple jobs going at one time struck me as a matter of key importance.  It just isn’t possible to juggle like that while marketing yourself and arranging for new clients when it is just you doing everything.

After that there was another panel discussion that fed right in to the same momentum, called “Your Future as a Self-Employed Medical Illustrator: Starve, Survive, or Flourish?”  This brought out a lot of concerns amongst self-employed medical artists, some of which became rather heated as the discussion continued.  From concerns about marketing, to the increasing outsourcing of jobs overseas, to reinventing ourselves into more complete service providers and resources, there was a lot to take home and process from this discussion.  Business has clearly changed in the last decade or so, and a lot of people are struggling to find new ways of doing business to keep on top of those changes.  I really heard reiterated again and again throughout the conference in it’s entirety, that the push is to offer a more complete service, rather than marketing our work as a final product.  For one thing, we tend to be better at using our illustrations and animations than just anyone putting things together, but we also become more useful to employers when they can hire us to provide a more complete solution to their needs rather than just another piece of the puzzle that needs further management to bring it to it’s audience.

I had to duck out of the  panel discussions just a touch early to get back to the room and dress for that night’s banquet and awards ceremony.

I was signed up to work this one, so I needed to be there a little bit early.  This was a lovely event where everyone dressed up and we had a nice dinner catered while the awards from both the salon entries were given as well as the larger awards recognizing life long achievement and such.  Being so new to the crowd, I think I was most excited to see our very own Matt Cirigliano‘s work take an award.

Congratualations Matt!  And thank you Josy Conklin for the pictures!

If I find out it’s posted anywhere, I will come back here and edit this post to provide a link, but Matt put together this fantastic comic book to teach young students about cell biology.  The parts of it that I have seen look phenomenal.

After the awards ceremony people milled about a bit longer and had those last chats and goodbyes before we all went off to whatever the night held.  I believe for some of my classmates it was karaoke, but for me it was Bridgefest.  I was told a few days prior about the 100th aniversary of the Hawthorne Bridge, and some very lovely friends of friends wanted to take me to the celebrations.  I missed the big band and party on the bridge itself, but made it out to the celebration afterwards just at the end of the bridge featuring live music, beer sales, and fun people all around.  I was even so lucky as to get a comfier room to sleep in that night and an early ride out to the airport with my new friends in the morning.  Not a bad way to end my Portland tour indeed.

Written by Sara

August 15th, 2010 at 12:36 pm

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AMI Conference – Part 2

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So, to continue the telling of my own personal AMI experience, I suppose I should jump back in at the annual business meeting. Apparently the AMI has this formal meeting every year during the conference.  As a student member, it was a little strange being asked to attend but not as professional members and therefore not to vote.  One couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at the required box lunch purchase followed by the realization that it was to get us at a meeting where we were to remain silent.  Just the same, it was an effective tactic. And the meeting did actually provide some good insight as to how the AMI works, and where it stands today.  We seem to be recovering from a recent slump in member numbers over the past several years now.  There seems to be a lot of attention to ideas of branching out, and reinventing ourselves to meet modern needs.  One gets the impression that the medical illustration industry has seen a lot of changes in just the last decade and that there is a lot of uncertainty and just flat out differing opinions out there regarding how best to proceed, be it as individual professionals, or as the AMI group in it’s entirety.

Since that first day, Emily and Meggan had planted the seed that we should pay attention to our observations as first timers.  I guess the thought stuck with me, and I spent a lot of the business meeting jotting down the basic umbrella problems I was hearing alongside my own ideas for little things that might be worth trying.  Sadly I never did manage to get that idea board in my sites, so my thoughts were never really submitted anywhere.  Mostly I just made notes about things like having an open night with friends and family and local medical professionals and students (we were on a university campus) to increase the public’s awareness of us and give attendees an easy opportunity to visit with local friends and family, or creating a separate supporter level AMI membership, or maybe just a magazine subscription.  I figure the work we do is interesting and a couple blurbs, a few interviews, or even just pages of the work submitted to the salon by willing artists would be pretty cool, get what we do out there a little more, and raise funds for the group.  I think the rest was just doodles and something about viewing spaces for animations and interactives.

After the meeting I went into my first shift working for the event.  I had been assigned to work the techniques showcase that afternoon.  As it worked out, I found myself stationed in a room with Nick Klein and Wes Price.  Nick presented some useful action scripting techniques for Flash, a bit of which I have every intention of using in my Poke-a-Brain interactive in the coming week.  Actually, I felt very fortunate to have someone putting out such useful tips while I had my laptop on hand and could work on my own interactive.  He even took a look at it with me at one point when he had a break between sessions. I had a few people comment while I had that up actually, one of which was an artist who specializes in neuroanatomy.  He told me about a professional project happening that follows a similar structure, though it is being done on a larger scale.  I guess I’m not the only one who wants to poke at brains!

And then Wes Price was a pure inspiration with his stop animation pieces. Any concern about working on something so silly as my Poke-a-Brain interactive in such a professional crowd was easily abated by the fantastic ridiculous clips he was showing.  I’ve never really picked up stop-motion myself, other than maybe that one project back in my film school days.  But it’s hard not to love the medium as a viewer.  Somehow I kept happening to catch one of his closing statements “If it’s not tedious, it’s not animation.”  I guess that one stuck with me, and I think it’s going to be running through my head a lot in this week to come, as I work to finish up so many end of semester projects.  Creation takes time and I just have to remember that I’ve put in the hours before and I’ll put them in again the next time.

Well I wish I could say I was able to listen to both Nick and Wes in full for their showcase presentations.  Instead I found myself with the task of managing the Adobe CS5 Design Suite raffle, and giving out 30-day trial CS5 disks.   Having only just recently upgraded my own software to CS5, I was actually pretty familiar with what software comes with the different packages, and found myself ready to answer more Adobe questions that I would have guessed I’d have remembered about the stuff.  A lot of people mistook me for an Adobe representative.  But no, I’m just slow to make purchasing decisions and apparently have been keeping a lot of those package and software comparisons running in my head since the last time I had to do it.

That night we had the silent auction followed by the live auction.  I was a little bit jealous of the arm bone model that Julia Klein came away with there (from scapula to distal phalanges), but over all I was very good about not throwing my money around.  I suppose that kind of thing comes more naturally when there isn’t much to throw.  This night was a big fundraiser night, but it was also fun.  There were lots of raffles, and one particular fundraiser event where we moved these wooden beavers along a grid as money was donated from the various schools attending toward the Vesalius fund.  Each school had decorated their own beaver, and the race was on.

*photo by Kylie Bergam

This actually wound up being our earliest night to be left to our own devices and a bunch of us agreed to meet at Deshutes downtown for a drink.  Actually I think a lot of individual groups from our conference made the same move.  Great minds think alike I guess.  But there were so very many of us, that we found ourselves with a long wait to get a table.  So Josy Conklin (who was also my roommate for the conference) and I decided to make a crash run over to Powell’s Bookstore, the famous bookstore that covers an entire city block and gives you a map upon entry to navigate their many rooms.  Thank you Josy, I am soooo glad we did this.  But at the same time, I can’t help but laugh at the fact that such a giant bookstore was sold out of the one book I was looking for.  One of the speakers had mentioned a book about Mitochondria called Power, Sex, Suicide, Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life, and I was curious to check it out, but I guess someone else must have had the same thought.  Oh well.  I wound up picking up a copy just recently though, and it looks really cool.  I can’t wait for the last dregs of this semester to finally wrap up so that I can have the time to read again.

We made it back to Deshutes in time to have a lovely night out with classmates soon to move on, and new acquaintances, and in my own case I had the pleasure of getting an old friend to come join us.  With as much as Portland reminded me of my early years in Austin, what a fantastic surprise that two of my old friends/ neighbors from Austin were living together again as roommates now out in Portland.  And one of them, Ashley Miller, chef extraordinaire, came to visit us that night and meet everyone.

And once again I’m back to working on projects, and will have to postpone the continuation of my Portland story until I can return!

Written by Sara

August 8th, 2010 at 5:25 pm

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AMI Conference – Part 1

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Hello Readers!  Today I write to you from a plane, returning from Portland, where I have been attending the 65th annual conference for the Association of Medical Illustrators.  So far this entire experience has been amazing.  I feel that I have truly been surrounded by knowledgeable and talented people over the last week.  And all of this against the backdrop of Downtown Portland, which has made quite an impression on me itself.  We kicked things off on Wednesday morning with a first timers workshop to get us all acquainted with the basics of how these meetings go.  Emily Shaw and Meggan Foldenaur did a great job of fostering a friendly environment for us first timers to meet each other and ask questions about how these things work.  David Bolinsky also spoke to us a bit about his own artistic journey and work creating the company Xvivo in collaboration with Michael Astrachan, who was also there attending as a first timer, and a handful of other brilliant folks who were not in attendance.

Later that evening we had the Salon Opening Reception, which was a real treat.  There were literally hundreds of submissions of medical art to check out, and most of the creating artists right there, many of which choosing to share their accumulated wisdom with the lot of us.  Overall the AMI has shown itself to be a very friendly and inviting crowd.

*special thanks to Kylie Bergman for her pictures!

Thursday morning started with a welcome to Portland talk, which was quickly followed by Dr. John Hunter‘s speech on both the history of Max Bröedel as well as a really helpful overview of how surgeons learn from medical illustrations and what makes an illustration more or less useful to them.  This was followed by Tim Girvin‘s presentation entitled “Design for a New World.”  Not being particularly drawn to design myself, I wasn’t too excited about this one, in fact I even considered skipping it.  But I am so glad that I did see it.  I think that more than a presentation on design, Tim delivered to us performance art on life and living as an artist.  You kind of wanted to hug the guy by the time he was finished.

After that Betsy Palay got up and spoke about finding new opportunities and expanding our definition as medical artists in her presidential address entitled “In Search of Invisible Lizards.”  Here she compared the strangely unnoticed giant pink iguanas of the Galapagos to the opportunities in front of us that we regularly fail to see by simply not recognizing them for what they are.

Thursday afternoon, after a nice lunch outing to the famous food carts of downtown Portland, I had a chance hear the Vesalian scholars session and get a glimpse at just what kind of projects took home the big money that I failed to get with my own application for my own research last year.  Neil McMillan spoke first about creating a model to help explain the pharyngeal flap procedure to patients and their families with velopharyngeal insufficiencies due to a cleft palate.  This was really cool, as I initially assumed that he meant to create a digital model, and found myself obsessively writing notes about that sculpture idea I’d had back in Dr. Reisburg’s maxillofacial prosthetic’s class to explain this very procedure, only to realize that Neil was only using digital tools to arrive at a physical 3D model.  I’m a fan of good anatomical models like that, so I thought that this was pretty cool.

Then Shizuka Aoki got up and spoke about her research with incomplete midline closures, which is the underlying cause of cleft palates.  Her work has been more targeted at visually communicating information about these cases to medical professionals and students of medicine, and she is doing some fine work to that end.

Then Gwun-Yee Chin presented his own work in laying the groundwork for computerized programming intended to study the movements of patients with autism via motion capture.  The program allowed for various means of seeing and measuring the nuances of movement in a patient by utilizing a standard gaming program and setting it up to instead acquire patient data.

And lastly Elizabeth Weissbrod, who if I remember correctly from meeting her at the salon opening more commonly goes by Besty, got up and presented her Flash interactive about Malaria.  From what I gathered from her presentation, the easiest way to stop malaria is to stop it in the mosquitoes rather than the humans, but the easiest way to reach mosquitoes is to inoculate the humans from which they feed.  It’s actually a rather elegant solution to the problem, except that most humans aren’t too keen, nor should they be, about receiving injections that do absolutely nothing to protect them against malaria directly, but instead can only help stop the spread of malaria after they already have it, from being passed via mosquito onto the next person.  The interactive does a great job of educating its audience about the details of this matter.

After the Vesalius presentations I actually departed on a unique opportunity not scheduled by the AMI.  The previous night, my classmate Kylie Bergman, who also studies anaplastology with me, introduced me to Fred Harwin.  We knew about Fred Harwin, because Bob Brown in the clinic at UIC had told us about him when we were learning to make acrylic eyes.  Fred Harwin is a well known ocularist and medical artist who resides and works in Portland.  He is particularly well known for his prints of irises with surprise pictures inside, and also for making ocular pieces with hidden images or logos just to the edge, something personal that the patient requests.  This practice speaks to some of my own thoughts and ideas about anaplastology in a very fundamental way.  From the moment I first learned about the field, I was interested in customizable pieces for patients, not just in the way they match the patient’s own anatomy, but also how they might reflect the patient’s personality, even if it means diverging from realism to do so.  This isn’t something that I’ve spoken much about here, in part because I have wondered if the idea’s lack of existing popularity is a product of more knowledgeable anaplastologists knowing better already.  So you can imagine that it was exciting to see someone so well established in the field practicing similar ideas already in his own way and with great success and appreciation amongst his patients.

Anyway, that afternoon, Fred Harwin offered Kylie and me a tour of his own clinic in Portland.  Naturally we both accepted.  I believe this now makes five clinics I have visited, though this was my first to visit that specializes in ocular pieces.  And every time I visit one I get a little better sense of just what all one really needs to do this kind of work, and why people are making the kinds of choices that they are when setting them up.   It was a great little outing, and Fred was so encouraging of the new energy that he saw in both Kylie and myself to the field.  In fact we had such a good time that we wound up stealing him away to the UIC alumni dinner that night.  And let me just say what a pleasure it was to meet so many UIC alumni faces, previously unknown, and in particular I’d like to just mention quickly Julia Klien who may just be a kindred spirit in her own right, and Alice Katz, who really founded the anaplastology program which I now attend.

After dinner, my classmates along with a few of the more recent grads decided to go for a drink or two at a nearby bar.  Indecisiveness on the choice of bar wound up leading to me marching the lot of us into the next inviting bar I saw, which turned out to be a gay bar, and apparently I was the last to notice this.  We had fun, though I did feel a little concern over the comfort level of one or two members of our party, particularly when a few performers from the drag show down the street stopped by with more than a few words to say to our party’s gentlemen.  Tasty beer in bell jars, good company, and an easy table for us all to talk was pure win though.

Friday morning I missed the first lecture, but made it over in time to catch Dave Mazierski on Modeling Mitochondria.  Some of you reading may already know that one of my best friends is a little obsessed with mitochondria. And while it is true that they are not ultimately part of our DNA and even have their own DNA to speak of, I’m not sure that I quite agree with my friend’s take on them as alien and threatening (though it is a fabulous conspiracy theory).  They are something that has been a part of us throughout the entirety of human existence, and may even be the key that made our complex life form possible in the first place.  And while they do call a lot of shots inside of our own body, including that of when a cell dies, I don’t so much worry that they are up to something.  Rather I find myself wondering if these little guys might not be the key to curing cancer.  Perhaps if we managed to communicate somehow and send them to killing off cancer cells specifically, we could finally rid ourselves of the chemotherapy and radiation treatments used today which our good healthy cells only barely manage to survive.  But that is another tangent for another day.  Suffice it to say that it was a real treat getting to hear Dave Mazierski’s take on these fascinating tiny creatures.  In his talk, he went into the discovery of mitochondria, the history of how they were studied, and ultimately what do they really look like.  We have all seen the same jelly bean with squiggly lines inside image of mitochondria before, but Dave has been working to discover their true form.  And by true form, I mean the multitudes of variations on form that we find in mitochondria, and which are present where.  So yes, this was a very cool talk.

And in the interest of getting my semester’s end schoolwork done on time (I have now long since put my trey table back up and returned my seat to it’s upright position for landing), and in giving you all reading a break, I will postpone the continuation of this recap for a later date.  In other words…

… to be continued!

Written by Sara

August 2nd, 2010 at 9:32 pm

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