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  • Writer's picturePaul Kelly

Medical Illustration Podcast - Season 2

Welcome back to the Medical Illustration Podcast! It’s been awhile since I last put out an episode so I thought I’d get back into the game with a short one-off episode to get back into the podcast headspace. By the way, this is Paul Kelly, I make surgical teaching videos at the Toronto Video Atlas of Surgery, or TVASurg, I am also a Certified Medical Illustrator or CMI, and I am an active member of the Association of Medical Illustrators, or AMI. How many more acronyms can I fit into this episode? Let’s find out as I happily announce, Season 2 , of the Medical Illustration Podcast.

AMI conference

Let’s kick things off with a summary of what’s been happening this past year in the field. I wasn’t able to make the annual AMI conference that took place last July outside of Las Vegas, in Henderson Nevada, but as usual I was awed and inspired by all of the artwork in the Salon hosted on the conference website, so if you, dear listener, and running across this episode casually and are wondering “What the heck is this guy talking about?” I’ll put a big link front and center in the show notes so you can go check out the AMI annual conference Salon gallery, in its digital format on the conference website, and you will see exactly, what the field of medical illustration is all about, what kind of work we do, and, you might learn a thing or two about medicine, health conditions, surgery, microbiology, and lots more. 

Salon entry

If you go and check out the animation entries in particular, you’re going to see a few entries in there from where I work here in Toronto, Canada, TVASurg, and that will include a Scapula Flap Harvest surgical animation, that’s a video where I started delving into some new software. Before I get off on a tangent about that, let me first just explain the topic of that animation a little bit more, this was a scapula flap harvest procedure, which is a surgical technique they use in ENT, or Ear, Nose and Throat surgery. It turns out that there is a specific version of this surgical procedure that a surgeon at my hospital does, Dr. Ralph Gilbert specifically, and I got to animate it. I’m really happy with the final result, I think it tells the story clearly, and the aesthetic is representative of the vibe I’ve been going towards in my work. So check it out and let me know what you think!

TVASurg release

I’ve also just completed a separate animation using many of the same techniques, this was the January 2024 monthly release on TVASurg, a segment 1-6-7 ex vivo  liver resection for caval sarcoma. That video is currently live on TVASurg and YouTube, so you can check it out at any of the links I put in the show notes. I had a few other projects between these two videos but I wanted to mention and refer to both of them because they are both examples of what can be achieved using a new animation workflow I’ve been developing, and will be sharing soon publicly! 

AMI webinar

I’ve got a webinar coming up soon with the Association of Medical Illustrators, showcasing the node-based compositing techniques I’ve been learning with the Fusion component of the freeware DaVinci Resolve, by Blakcmagic. I would say that the vast majority of the medical animation field uses Adobe After Effects, or AE, for animation compositing. I certainly have used After Effects for many years, and no disrespect to AE or Adobe, I just like exploring different software tools. 

When I was in school it felt like I was learning a new piece of software every month, it was intense, but after having done that for 2 years, it kind of became a habit I guess, so here we are, what? 13 years later? It’s a different world now, but the habit stuck. I don’t want to get too deep into the techy nerd talk on this episode, I’m going to save that for the webinar, so as soon as we get all the logistics figured out for when that’s going to be, I’ll get it posted on my social media feeds, so keep an eye out.

AAA conference

Around the same time, some of my coworkers will be presenting here in Toronto at the annual American Association of Anatomists, or AAA, talking about what we do on our team, our goals and workflows, how we work with surgeons, it’s going to be super cool. There’s going to be a lot of folks from the AMI and from the Biomedical Communications program, or BMC, that’s the graduate program at the University of Toronto–Mississauga, or UTM, at the event. Also the keynote speaker is none other than Drew Berry! Drew is quite famous in the world of medical animation, he’s done some awesome work and even had a TED talk awhile back, so that’s going to be exciting to hear about what he’s been up to. I want to give a shout out to Jill Gregory who is the most recent previous AMI president. Jill had been doing a lot of outreach to other organizations during her term as president which included the AAA, so now we’ll get to enjoy the results of those efforts. I’m looking forward to this event. It's going to be an enriching experience for sure.


There’s been a healthy amount of activity on several discords related to my field, I think there’s like 4 or 5 discords at this point. I may have mentioned these before, but at any rate, yea I’ve been on these discords for Medical Illustration, Scientific Illustration Cafe, Medical Animation, Natural Science Illustration, and, Visual Communication in Science and Medicine, and they’ve been great! It’s a really positive atmosphere just people who are into the same stuff sharing things they know or asking questions, getting answers. It's great. If you’re interested in joining any of those conversations, just hit me up and I’ll shoot you an invite link. But you gotta be cool. I mean of course. Seriously though, these are great little communities and I’ve been really enjoying being a part of them–sharing knowledge and learning from some really amazing folks. 


Let’s see, what the heck else has been going on? Well, it’s almost a year since I last put on an episode, which I think was on AI tools, including Stable Diffusion and MidJourney, and Chat-GPT, and…we’re still here! Whew. No it’s weird, it's kind of calmed down, but at the same time still feels like it’s moving really fast, I don’t know, maybe we’ve all gotten adjusted to the pace, I’m not sure? Most recently OpenAI released a video generation tool, Sora. I haven’t used it yet but the example clips I’ve seen were impressive. 

The AI components on production tools like the Adobe suite, Blender, DaVinci Resolve, they’re finding their way into everything it’s wild. I caught a video recently on a 3D modelling generation tool. I'm sure that technology is going to continue to improve. I will very likely have to do another episode on AI coming up soon but for now I’ll just say, this is definitely something I’m seeing more people in the field of medical illustration experiment with, it’s also something I know is being utilized in healthcare. 

I’m hearing about new AI tools being used in medical research all the time. It’s been popping up in a lot of the Rounds I attend at the hospital where I work. I’ll definitely be bringing on a guest in the near future to talk more about AI in the medical illustration field. One of my very first guests Dr Gael McGill is teaming up with Shay Saharan at U of T and BMC alum Roxy Ziman who is now in Norway I believe–they are running a research study on how AI is being used, and should be used, by the medical and scientific visualization community. So I’ll be reaching out to them to get to know more about that and some insights as well. 

J&J Diversity Initiative

I do remember having mentioned the Diversity illustration initiative from Johnson & Johnson on a previous podcast, well, the work is out! I’ve been seeing lots of beautiful pieces from the participants on social media, and I think they’ll continue to be churning those out. It’s going to be really cool to catch up with some of these artists after the program wraps up, and hear about their experiences. 

This project aims to create a new online database  of illustrations to increase diversity in medical illustration work, which is vital for fostering inclusive representation across healthcare globally. Increasing the prevalence of people of color depicted in medical illustrations–and I think this is speaking specifically to patient education materials–can help to ensure that a wide variety of patients feel seen and understood in visual medical materials, which will ultimately contribute to better health outcomes. 

From my own experience and observations I think this is a goal and activity that extends well beyond the J&J project–I think this is pretty standard now for students enrolled in academic programs to include diverse figures in their work, and they’re doing a great job of beginning to address this established lack in our field. I would by no means make a claim that anything has been fixed or solved, but scrolling through my social media feeds I see a pronounced difference from what I saw only a few years ago, so there is definitely progress and I think that’s something to celebrate. I mention the Johnson & Johnson initiative specifically because these are the types of paid opportunities we want to see more of. We want to see more diversity in medical illustrations, we want to see recent grads be given opportunities to jump-start their careers, we want to see projects where the artist as well as the art be given a spotlight, and we want people to see and respect the value in what trained medical illustrators can do. So I’ll keep an eye out for similar opportunities in the future and try my best to keep my audience informed.

Shout-out to former guests!

OK, and one last random tidbit to share with everyone before I go. In preparation for this episode I skimmed through a lot of recent SM posts and holy crap man, so many of my past guests have been CRUSHING it out there, just posting all the time and posting super high quality work, it’s incredible to witness. I’m looking forward to bringing on a whole new series of guests this coming year. Together we’ll be helping to illuminate more about what medical illustrators are doing these days, what kinds of projects we take on, what kinds of projects they’ve done in the past and what the future may bring for all of us that make and/or enjoy medical and scientific visual content.

I’m going to cap it off here. I hope you are doing well, and I hope you will join me as we embark on Season 2, of the Medical Illustration Podcast. 

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