Newsletter – October 2018

Greetings, North Central Members!

Welcome to the October 2018 chapter newsletter. Let us know what you think, and remember, you can also read it on the chapter website. You can find previous newsletters on the website as well. And we always welcome suggestions for newsletter topics.

In this issue:







AMWA North Central Fall Special Event

Thursday, November 15, 5:30 – 8 p.m.

Venue: Excelen Center for Bone & Joint Research and Education

700 10th Avenue South, Minneapolis,

Program: 5:30 – 6:30 p.m., networking, food and drinks,

and a tour of the Excelen facilities

Movie: 6:30 – 8:00 p.m., States of Grace viewing in the Excelen auditorium.

Join our chapter and our co-host Excelen for networking, a tour of its skills and biomechanics labs, and a movie! RSVP to Messac Che Neba, mcheneba (at) gmail (dot) com (walk-ins are welcome, too).

Excelen, a nonprofit research and education organization, assists orthopedic scientists, engineers, physicians, and students in their efforts to research and develop innovative surgical and rehabilitative techniques.

The Excelen tour will be followed by viewing States of Grace, a movie based on a true story that has garnered several awards and remarkable testimonials from viewers — especially within the medical community. The documentary shares the story of Dr. Grace Dammann, a renowned HIV/AIDS expert, who survived a head-on auto collision in 2008. Directed by a family friend, the movie involves Dr. Dammann’s partner and daughter, exploring the changes to all of their lives with an emphasis on their roles as caregivers and care receivers. You can find more information and see the trailer at

The Excelen auditorium will provide us with an exceptional and comfortable viewing experience. Come join us for this special fall event!

SE Minnesota Writers and Editors Discussion Group

November 30, 2018: 12 noon to 1 p.m.

Details: These quarterly gatherings are informal, and lunch is provided by the chapter. All AMWA members and guests are welcome. To ensure an accurate head count for the lunch order, RSVP one week before the meeting (email June Oshiro at oshiro (dot) june (at) mayo (dot) edu).

We have no formal discussion topic for this meeting — let’s talk about whatever’s on your mind! If it’s been a while since you’ve attended, come on back, don’t be shy! If you’ve never joined us before, please consider coming by and introducing yourself. Nonmembers are welcome, too.

Directions to our meeting are at Hope to see you there!

Networking Happy Hour

Grumpy’s, 2801 Snelling Avenue North, Roseville, MN

Thursday, February 21, 2019, 5:30 7 p.m.

Details: Join the North Central chapter for a friendly, informal networking event. Members and nonmembers with an interest in medical communications are welcome. Appetizers are on the chapter! RSVP to Messac Che Neba, mcheneba (at) gmail (dot) com so we can get a ballpark number for the reservation (walk-ins are welcome, too).

Book Club: Monday, January 28, 2019, at 11 a.m.

The Egg and I, 2550 University Ave., St. Paul, MN

The Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization

Details: For our winter meeting, we will be discussing The Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization by Martin Puchner. You are warmly invited to ask a colleague or a friend to come along with you. Your guest need not be an AMWA member (yet!), just someone who loves books and language-oriented, medically inflected discussions.

The Egg & I, at 2550 University Ave., is just west of Hwy. 280, near the Minneapolis-St. Paul border. If you (and a guest) plan to attend, please let Mary Knatterud know: knatt001 (at) umn (dot) edu or 651-645-3858.

Even if you haven’t started or finished the book by then, feel free to come and chime in anyway. Our small group varies: new and/or returning AMWA Book Club fans are always welcome.

For those of you who like to read ahead, we have chosen these books for later in 2019:

  • April 29, 2019: Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce by Douglas Starr
  • September 30, 2019: Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande

Read Another Good Book?

Whether you’ve read a professional/technical, biomedical/science nonfiction, or fiction book that you think other chapter members may enjoy, share a short review with us. Write a paragraph or a few about what you liked about the book, how it might be good for medical writers to read, or how it might fill a need. Send your submissions to jean (at) imagesmythe (dot) com.



Thanks to Our Volunteers!

Just as leaves change color this time of year, transitions occur in our chapter leadership this month: Lisa Poppenberg becomes president; Kendra Hyland, immediate past president; and Amelia Young, secretary; and past secretary Lynelle Martinez becomes membership chair. Thank you for volunteering your time and efforts to lead our chapter!

For all their work supporting the chapter, we offer a big thank-you to these outgoing volunteers: immediate past president Becky Dahlberg, membership chair Naomi Ruff, and publications chair Jean Cook!

Our thanks also to those continuing in their roles: Ellen O’Malley, treasurer; Messac Che Neba, program chair; June Oshiro, SE MN networking meeting coordinator; Mary Knatterud, Book Club coordinator and national Chapter Advisory Council representative; and Paul Mamula, “Book Club Notes” writer.

As you know, our North Central chapter is a volunteer-based organization. If members don’t take an active role, the chapter will cease to function, and members will lose access to programming, news, and networking opportunities.

Consider taking your turn to lead (or join) a committee or serve as a chapter officer. These positions are still open:

  • President-Elect: The president-elect participates in a 3-year term: learning the chapter’s processes as president-elect, then serving as president, and finally continuing on as immediate past president to ensure continuity.
  • Treasurer: The treasurer (3-year term) manages the chapter’s checking account, develops the annual budget in collaboration with the president and president-elect, contributes to semiannual reports, completes IRS filing, and when needed, helps other committees establish a budget for large events. The current treasurer’s term will overlap with the incoming treasurer’s term to teach you about the position.
  • Finance Committee Chair: This chair coordinates the annual audit of the chapter’s financial records at the close of the fiscal year (July) and reports the findings to the chapter treasurer.
  • Publications Committee Chair: This chair keeps chapter members informed by writing, and asking others to write articles for our monthly e-newsletter (e.g., profiles of members, “What We Do” articles, and news items).

Not ready or able to lead a committee? All of our committees welcome members to share ideas and keep the workload light.

In addition to keeping our group viable, volunteering with AMWA is a great way to network with your fellow members. It’s also a good way to fortify your C.V. with an extra line showing how you give back to your profession! If you can volunteer a few hours a month to help, contact our president, Lisa Poppenberg: president (at) Thank you!



Medical Writing & Communication Conference

October 31 preconference events

November 1-3 conference

November 1, 6:30 p.m. chapter dinner

Renaissance Washington DC Downtown Hotel

Registration is open for AMWA’s 2018 national conference. Visit the AMWA website to register and plan your trip. Remember, registering now gets you into more of the workshops, roundtables, and other sessions you want to attend and gives you more time to complete the homework for any workshops that require it. A schedule and listings of workshops, education sessions, and discussion roundtables are posted online.

Please join your fellow AMWA North Central chapter leaders and members on Thursday, November 1, at 6:30 p.m. during the chapter and regional networking dinners. Contact Lisa Poppenberg with any questions at president (at)



Fall Program Wrap-Up

Genome Exhibit Tour and SE MN Networking Lunch

By Jean Cook, ELS

On Friday, September 21, more than a dozen AMWA North Central chapter members from the Twin Cities and Rochester met at the Rochester Art Center to see the exhibit “Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code.” The exhibit was developed and produced by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Science North.

Sheila Dickinson, curator of art and public programs at the Rochester Art Center, gave our group a guided tour of the exhibit. She told us that “Genome” typically went to science museums, which was apparent in its hands-on interactive features. The Rochester Art Center was the first art museum to host it, and as she explained, the staff expanded the exhibit’s scope with several complementary touring art exhibits to “add heart into the science.”

The cluster of related fine art installations included “Myriphon,” “Positive Exposure,” “Beyond the Diagnosis,” “Intimate Gravity,” “First Person Plural,” and other features. Here’s a sampling of what we experienced:

“Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code” filled the main gallery, with interactive displays devoted to 3 areas: what a genome is, how it relates to medicine and health, and how it connects humans to all life on Earth. Dickinson left us on our own for a time, so we could explore those 3 areas — pressing buttons to hear how genetic differences are expressed in birdsong, sliding bars with overlapping sequences of gene fragments (model of “shotgun sequencing”), and performing other activities.

“I liked the interactivity” said Kendra Hyland, who was sporting a “genetic” bracelet she’d made in the “Genome Zone” crafts area from a pipe cleaner and beads, with each bead’s color representing a trait like eye or hair color.

June Oshiro noted that the exhibit made the complex subject “very easy to understand.” And Roberta Connelly exclaimed, “I’m still wondering why amoebas have more genes than we humans do!”

In the “Myriphon” interactive fine art piece, participants pushed buttons to note several physical traits and held their hands over an infrared sensor on the device. The result was an individualized soundscape of chimes. Dickinson referred to it as a “genomic dance party.”

To convey the beauty of all people, “Positive Exposure” showcased photographs of those who have genetic conditions, such as albinism, trisomy 18 and 13, ichthyosis, fragile X syndrome, and muscular dystrophy. Dickinson said the photographer, who left a career in fashion photography to do this work, “treats each person as he would any fashion model and brings out their character.” The photo descriptions mentioned the genetic condition but focused on each person’s hobbies, families, preferences, and personalities. The images’ reflective surfaces, Dickinson suggested, make viewers “think about your own beauty” and allowed us to see ourselves in the people who were pictured.

Another fine art piece, “Intimate Gravity,” came from local artist Shah Noor Shafqat. North Central chapter members gathered for a photo before her art, which incorporates abstract painting and silk embroidery in needlepoint hoops that suggest petri dishes. Through the art, she explored her feelings about being a potential carrier of genes that predisposed her daughter to severe atopic eczema. Imagery in these mixed-media circles reflect the roughness, itchiness, and discomfort of inflamed skin and allude to the stress, sensitivity, and focused caregiving involved.

“Beyond the Diagnosis” comprised nearly 50 commissioned watercolor, oil, acrylic, pastel, and mixed-media paintings of children living with rare genetic diseases. Artists allied with the Rare Disease United Foundation founded by Patricia Weltin worked from photographs to paint these portraits of the children, who often are unable to travel or to sit for an artist’s rendering. Dickinson explained that 4 of the children pictured are Mayo Clinic patients who attended the opening reception at the Rochester Art Center, where a new painting, “Paige,” was unveiled. “I go to a lot of art openings,” Dickinson said, pausing for a moment, “but yeah, there were a lot of tears in the room.” Recognizing one smiling child in a portrait as a Mayo Clinic patient tested in the lab where she works, Stacy League acknowledged, “We usually only see them when they’re very ill, so it’s nice to see them this way.”

Liz Davies, managing editor of, commented, “I saw these illustrations and they were pretty amazing to me.” Patient photos can be difficult to obtain because of the rarity of some conditions and the need to obtain photo releases from pediatric patients and their parents. Looking at the paintings gave Davies a broader idea of how she might creatively use illustrations on the website she writes for, rather than photos of staff members or disease symptoms. “These kids are so real,” she said. “These pictures suggest a rich and positive experience and are so much more meaningful.”

Several members of our group stood before “First Person Plural,” a commissioned piece by Rochester artist Eric Anderson that uses facial-recognition technology to add participants’ features to a composite image made from a database of 10,000 faces from around the world. The shifting data-driven image that we saw on the screen often appeared to be gender-neutral, and according to the program, “invites viewers to consider how genomic data collection affects individual sense of identity.”

The Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine was a presenting sponsor for the combined exhibits. The Center contributed a wall display highlighting the need for workers in genomics, because of the growth in that field. A wall of recordings entitled “Genomic Careers: What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?” introduced 8 Mayo Clinic employees in various roles who described their path to a science career and what their work entails.

After our tour, our group shared a catered lunch and lively conversation. Thanks to Messac Che Neba and June Oshiro and our chapter’s SE Minnesota Writers and Editors Discussion Group for organizing the event. It gave us a chance to connect with members we may not see regularly and to enjoy some art and science.