Kevin Millar pictured with AMI gavel.
Kevin Millar pictured with AMI gavel.

In recognition of the incredible growth of digital technology and its transformation of the scientific communication space, we celebrate a long-standing innovator in the visual communication of medical science, Kevin Millar, Senior Vice President of Creative and Medical Science at INVIVO Communications. Kevin’s depth of experience was recently recognized with his appointment as Chair of the Board for the Association of Medical Illustrators (AMI). Here, Kevin Millar gives us his views on his field and its future, in a conversation with INVIVO’s Meryam Al-waadh.


The foundation for Kevin’s career path was established when he received his Master’s degree from the Biomedical Communications (BMC) program at the University of Toronto. As one of only four accredited programs of its kind in North America, its graduates train in both the foundations of medical science and the principles of science communication, then test the practical application of their learning through the creation of interactive applications, animations and illustrations. Kevin notedThe BMC program does a great job preparing its students to become leaders in medical and scientific communication. The training students receive ensures that they have the right skills for a variety of specialized roles within this field.”


Early in his career, Kevin joined INVIVO, and became a core member of the team over the next two decades. “I’ve occupied quite a few positions at INVIVO, starting off as a Medical Illustrator, to a Medical Animator and Writer, to an Art Director and now a part of the senior leadership team” he noted. “And having occupied this full range of roles has allowed me to learn the importance of communication and collaboration.”

As SVP of Creative and Medical Science, Kevin leads the team in delivering innovative digital solutions that bring our clients science to life. His multi-faceted role requires the ability to understand both the medical science underlying pharmaceutical and medical device products and how to best articulate their key messages, using the most appropriate innovative technology that results in a meaningful experience for the user.


At the recent AMI conference in Austin, Texas, Kevin Millar was appointed as Chair of the Board for a one-year term.  “The AMI is truly a multi-disciplinary group” Kevin explained. “We represent professionals from academia, hospitals and institutions including John Hopkins, the Mayo Clinic, and the Journal of the American Medical Association, as well as members from some of the top scientific communication agencies in the world.” Prior to being chosen for the role, Kevin had served as a Governor on the AMI Board. “During my time as Governor, we established a five-year mandate that I will now help oversee as the Chair. Our mandate will focus on increasing awareness of this industry, strengthening our external alliances, increasing our membership, increasing volunteer engagement within our organization, and creating and maintaining a repository for continuing education materials for our members.”

The AMI, first established in 1945, has an 800-strong membership across four continents, encompassing professionals working in the field of medical and life science visual communications. Speaking about his appointment, Kevin observed, “becoming the Chair is a huge honor for me. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the talent that exists within our organization. Each person brings with them a unique perspective based on their experiences—whether it be as a freelancer, working at an educational institution, a hospital, or at a science-focused agency like INVIVO.” With advanced digital technology infiltrating all aspects of our lives, communicators will need to learn new skills. And this is something that Kevin foresees as an opportunity to both broaden and strengthen the AMI community.

“When considering the medical illustration community, it’s rooted in the traditional sense of a pen and paper, but technology has eclipsed all our expectations. This has impacted the role of a medical illustrator. For example, at INVIVO we have a User Experience team developing algorithmic apps for physicians to better track a patient’s activity. We have game developers who are creating medical games that teach and entertain; we have animators, medical writers, and other related roles. So, the challenge at the AMI is making sure that we are doing a good job representing all the different members with different backgrounds in a way that allows everyone to have a voice at the table.”


So, if we are living in an age of exponential technological growth, can the creatives keep up?

“I think the reason behind INVIVO’s longevity has always been our inherent love of and desire to embrace new technologies and further these offerings to our clients,” Kevin replied. “Our clients often ask us to develop innovative ideas centered around these new technologies. There’s quite a bit of interest in the field of installation technology and an ability to combine sound and visuals in ways not seen before. We don’t always know what’s coming in the future, but we’re always researching to stay ahead of the curve so we’re ready to jump in when it does.”


Kevin is deeply committed to fostering the next generation of medical communication experts. Both in his mentorship of new team members at INVIVO and in his years of service with the AMI, he has helped advance the career of many in his field.

“I remember my first project out of school was for a physician developing a new approach for heart surgery. As a freelancer, I was working on my own and beyond excited for the project, so naturally I went full-steam ahead. But one of the things you learn is that it’s better to look before you dive. I mean, the project turned out to be fantastic, but there wasn’t a project plan to guide me. These early experiences have shaped how I work now. I’ve learned that it’s important to ask questions, setting a plan to meet those final goals, making sure you have the right team in place. I’ve also learned the importance of knowing your limitations and that it’s okay to ask for help from somebody who knows that space or task. You’ve got to trust your team, trust their expertise, and trust in the collaboration.”

“Find the thing that you are most passionate about, that feeds the soul, and figure out what you can do around that passion—ultimately you can build a career out of it. For me, I was in awe of the advances in 3D animation and computer technology when I first graduated.  Pixar had released Toy Story and reset the bar as to what was possible. So, I taught myself to code, I learned and practiced 3D modeling, I built interactive programs. I stayed engaged and it paid off. And I’m happy that it did.”