How we teach medical writing and health communications

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

Contact Dr Dodgson: drdodgson@medicalwritinginstitute.us

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The Medical Writing Institute is a boutique school for training health and life science professionals in the art of medical writing and editing. The Institute invites professionals whose need help with their manuscripts, presentations and documents to hire our certified medical writers. The director, Dr Susanna J Dodgson, has been teaching medical writing since 2004, and life sciences since the 1970s, and really wants health science information to be properly presented. Because inaccurate health information kills.