Archive for December, 2016

How we teach medical writing and health communications

December 28th, 2016 Comments off

I have been working as a medical writer and teaching medical writing for close to two decades after I had left the University of Pennsylvania after 18 wonderful years. My lab work from when I started my honors year in Biochemistry (my degree says “honours”) was looking at how proteins in our bodies enable us to handle gases: both the nutrient gas oxygen and the waste gas carbon dioxide. This work took me from Australia to North America, Europe, the Caribbean and back to the UK, which I had left on a boat for New Zealand when I was 6, in 1957.

I was not trained in how to write scientific papers; I was expected to acquire the skill by osmosis, and I am now amazed any of my manuscripts were published. I would have published many more manuscripts and organized my experiments better, if I had been taught what I now know.

How did I learn? I increased my fiction output and created a publishing company, Emerald Pademelon Press, with the goal of publishing the fiction I started writing when I was 26, when I finished my PhD. I enrolled in art classes, so I could learn to see, I spent 3 years reading every grammar book I could find, and reading well-known authors whose books were in their 15th or 50th, reprinting, and started an online journal. This was 20 years ago, and its focus was carbon dioxide.

Yes, that is me on PubMed, SJ Dodgson or S Dodgson, except for one paper, the first published on topiramate, when the first author made my name erroneously SP Dodgson.

The most important thing I have learned from all my training is that I must never stop reading, never stop learning, never stop listening. Every day I read publications from the medical literature, watch videos made by physicians and health professionals about diseases and therapies, biochemistry, physiology. Teaching is dynamic, if I am not constantly learning, and excited about learning, how can I expect you to be?

I knew that any data must not be fabricated, that any data I publish must be reproducible because if they are interesting or important, other labs will try to reproduce them and lifestyle choices, therapies, drugs could be based on my data. That did happen with my data on topiramate, which went on to become the number 2 drug of the pharmaceutical manufacturer Johnson&Johnson. Wow.

The Medical Writing Institute is offering courses on medical writing to teach anyone interested how to handle health data. Where to find it, how to interpret it, how to report it for each targeted audience. This could lead to jobs in health industries or in health communication; part of these courses included helping find career paths that fit with skills, aptitude, and interest.

The Medical Writing Institute offers an online intensive course. The online course includes weekly, or daily (your choice) seminars and chats about your portfolio, your resume, what jobs and contracts you are applying for, setting up your business, databases, statistical analysis, document architecture, online presence.

When you contact the director and have an initial free chat, you will have the option of enrolling in the Medical Writing Institute seminar on medical writing, which is a one-hour chat discussing career options, goals and education opportunities. If you later enroll in the Medical Writing Institute, your course fee is reduced by the cost of the seminar and you will have access to all training materials, to seminars and when all requirements are completed, a beautiful certificate of medical writing.

How we teach medical writing. SJ Dodgson MJoTA 2016 v10n2p1228

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Are you prepared for a career as a professional medical writer?

December 28th, 2016 Comments off

Online seminar, first Monday of every month.
Starting again January 02, 2017
Times: contact Dr Dodgson for a time that works for you
Cost: USD50

Seminar objectives:
1. Identify types of careers in professional medical writing
2. Decide whether any medical writing careers fit with skills, expectations, location, lifestyle
3. Decide whether an alternative career in the health industry would be better
4. Determine what is needed to fit with employers’ and clients’ expectations
5. Identify courses of action

Who should take the course:
Professionals wanting to transition into health industry jobs

Want to join us? Send email:
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Writing that wants to be read

December 19th, 2016 Comments off

Are you writing stories that want to be read? Who do you want to read it? Why do you want them to read it? Do you want to read it?

To write a good story for a health industry client, good tools are essential. A functional computer, high speed internet, a masterful grasp of sentence structure, spelling, grammar and page layout, and most important, an understanding of subject matter and context.

All good writing bears witness to time and place in the same manner as a good photograph. A description of a disease or therapy informs and educates only if we know what is going on beyond the narrow focus of symptoms suffered and relieved.

A good story, told well, includes the same elements as a good photograph. A good photographer, a great photographer, is nimble because light on this planet earth changes completely every 24 hours. Light must either be awaited, or supplied, in the way that health writing can be free form or made to rigidly follow company or regulatory agency templates.

I see a picture on Facebook, blurry, bad lighting. Just a man, no background, not even his whole face. Perhaps a half smile. Where is the story? Is the man alone? Where is he?

Is he standing between 2 guards with his hands shackled? Perhaps he is not smiling, perhaps his look is of defiance. If the photographer had taken a wider shot, perhaps we would see trees not found in North America, perhaps a grove of olive trees, suggesting that recently, perhaps now, farmers worked in peace. On a wider shot, perhaps we would see trucks unmistakably US military, perhaps stolen by the decidedly not US soldiers pointing machine guns and Kalashnikovs at the man in chains and the two dozen humans already on the truck? Perhaps the photographer was in danger taking the picture and that everything that is to be said is in the half smile.

Or perhaps a wider shot would have shown us the man was standing in front of a red brick house, that he had perhaps helped build with his hands that were resting on the shoulders of a young girl, who was probably his daughter. Perhaps this photograph was taken on his birthday, a day he had not expected to see, and next to him stands his wife, grinning at them both.

When you write a story, you must decide which angle, how much background, how much light will fall on your subject that will illuminate, not flood out the subject. I have recently been writing about the mysterious death of a great uncle, a very strange death at the beginning of the 20th Century. How can I make anyone care that he lived, that he died, or how he died? You can judge when the story is finished.

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