Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Creative Readings Returns to the Annual Conference

AMWA members are far more than just skilled medical writers and editors. Many of them use their considerable talent in more creative writing endeavors. For a number of years, they had an opportunity during the Annual Conference to share their creative efforts with fellow AMWA members at a Creative Readings open session. But because of low turnout over the past couple of years, it was not offered at last year’s conference. Thanks to attendees who said they missed it, the Creative Readings is coming back—on a new day and time.

Traditionally, the Creative Readings session was held on the first night of the conference, following the Welcome Reception. The AC Committee wondered if perhaps this time slot for the event was a challenge, because members, tired from their travels, were anticipating an early morning wake-up call and the full day of workshops that lay ahead of them. So, the Committee decided to offer the Creative Readings session on Saturday afternoon (3:30 to 5:00 PM), as a perfect time for members to unwind after a busy 3 days of conference activities.

This open forum provides an opportunity for conference attendees who “dabble” in creative writing to share their works with their colleagues. Over the years, members have read short stories, science fiction, excerpts from novels and plays, and creative nonfiction, both serious and humorous. Song parodies have been another popular offering. Several years ago, a member lamented about the life of a bench scientist to a tune from “The Pirates of Penzance.” More recently, a member played his guitar and sang about the trials of being a copyeditor.

A past Creative Readings session also served as the impetus for gathering humorous observations about the lives of medical writers that were subsequently published in the book More Than 101 Ways to Know You’re a Medical Writer, which will be available for sale at the conference (at the Editorial Rx Press booth on the Exhibit Hall).

The purpose of the Creative Readings open session is to share and appreciate—not evaluate or criticize—in a comfortable nonthreatening environment. And the event is not just for those who want to share their creative work. It is also for those who like to listen and appreciate the creative endeavors of others—and perhaps get ideas and encouragement to stretch their wings and try writing their own poem, short story, or humorous essay, or starting that novel they’ve been thinking about writing.
No reservations are required to attend. However, we do ask those who want to present to please sign up ahead of time so that we can make sure everyone has an equal opportunity to share his or her work with an appreciative audience of peers.

If you would like to sign up to be a presenter, or would like more information about this special event, please send an e-mail to Creative Readings chair Donna Miceli at dmiceli@comcast.net.

—Donna Miceli, 2013 Annual Conference Committee

Monday, October 28, 2013

AMWA’s Giving Back Program

We are gathering in Columbus to serve each other as educators and colleagues, and it is therefore fitting that we take the opportunity to serve the host community. This year, we have arranged for conference attendees to give back by donating nonperishable food or monetary donations to the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.

The Mid-Ohio Foodbank has been serving central and eastern Ohio for more than 30 years and now distributes food to more than 550 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, after-school programs, and senior housing sites. The foodbank provides a vital resource to organizations that serve children, the elderly, the homeless, and the poor. It does so with a high level of accountability and at a low administration cost: it is a 4-star organization on Charity Navigator, with almost 95% of expenses going to programs, less than 4% to administration, and just over 1% to fundraising.

The AMWA conference site is not near grocery stores, so please find space in your suitcase for a nonperishable food item. If you don’t have space (or forget), consider a monetary donation (cash or check). Food and money are both helpful, especially as the busy holiday season approaches. Every $1 you donate can buy a needy family, child, or individual $11 worth of groceries.

Look for the Mid-Ohio Foodbank donation box in the AMWA registration area at the conference (Country Foyer) to leave your gift. And thank you for your help as we give back to the community that is so graciously hosting us!


—Tim Peoples, MA, ELS, CMPP

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Making Things Clear: Tips and Hints for Working with Non-Western Clients

Most Western readers think it is the writer’s responsibility to make things clear for the reader. However, some non-Western cultures assume that it is the reader’s responsibility to figure out what the writer meant. This assumption can add to the difficulties experienced by non-Western authors as they write for publication and international regulatory approval.

Given that considerably more than half of the world's research is done by researchers whose native language is not English, the demand is growing for people who can assist in writing clear, understandable English in an international context. Of particular note, this “clear understandable English” is not necessarily the same as idiomatic “native English-speaker” English.

You can learn about the challenges and opportunities of writing for this emerging market at the AMWA Annual conference session “The West and the Rest: Working with Non-Native English Authors and Readers in Asia and Eastern Europe.” Panelists Lee Seaman of the Northwest Chapter; Mary (Mimi) Wessling of the Northern California chapter; and Mieko Onuki, an AMWA member residing in Japan, will share their experiences.

Here is a sneak peak at some of what that these panelists will be talking about.
• The English that readers in Asia and Eastern Europe need.

• Principles for making your English easier to understand: The FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine has PLAIN language principles that can be applied to all types of writing. Japanese writers can also find advice for better English medical writing.

• When working through a writing/editing agency, which demands are reasonable and which not? How do you decide?

• How can you “upscale” your services to appeal to higher-end agencies and end-users?

Bookmark or schedule this session in the AMWA Annual Conference app and join us!

--Noelle Demas, 2013 AMWA Annual Conference Committee

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Think Outside the Pharmaceutical Industry Box at AMWA Annual Conference

Whether you’re a veteran medical writer with extensive pharmaceutical and biotechnology experience, or a newcomer to the medical writing profession, this year’s AMWA Annual Conference program offers a number of opportunities to broaden your professional horizons with sessions focused on the medical device industry.

Terminology, FDA structure, regulatory requirements, standards for clinical trial design and product promotion, and key professional qualifications for medical writers can differ significantly between the medical device and pharmaceutical industries. A basic understanding of these differences can give medical writers an entrée into a potential new market for their services.

For an overall introduction to the field, there’s “Scope of Medical Communication,” where Scott Thompson, a writer in the medical device field, will provide an overview of the medical device setting; discuss career opportunities in the field; talk about the knowledge, skills, and attributes that increase the likelihood of success; and tell you what you can expect to earn. Open sessions featuring content related to medical devices include “Current Regulatory Challenges for Reporting Drug Safety Information for Approved Drugs, Biologics, and Devices,” presented by Mary Whitman, and “FDA’s Other Box: Medical Device Regulation for Pharmaceutical Writers,” featuring a panel of device-industry veterans.

“The ‘FDA's Other Box’ panel discussion should appeal to medical writers working in the device or pharmaceutical industries,” says Cynthia Carr, PhD, a senior medical writer at Ventana Medical Systems Inc. and one of the panelists at the session. “Working for a device manufacturer, I've seen a huge increase in the number of collaborations with pharmaceutical partners in recent years. Our clinical study managers have expressed repeatedly how beneficial it is to the collaborative effort when our pharmaceutical partners have some basic understanding of device regulations.”

Medical devices is also a topic in this year’s Alvarez Award Address, titled “Medical Devices: Policy, and Politics. ” Gregory D. Curfman, MD, executive editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, and the 2013 Alvarez Award winner, will also discuss policy issues currently affecting the industry.

The growing number and popularity of device-focused sessions at AMWA conferences had its genesis after the 2011 annual conference in Jacksonville, when a small group of device writers noticed that the industry was underrepresented at the AMWA conference. Many had been flying under the radar for a few years and thought it was time they shared their knowledge to help enhance their fellow AMWA members’ knowledge and career prospects.

"I'm a medical device specialist, so I'm somewhat biased," says Christine Welniak, principal of Upside Communications and a long-time a champion for efforts to increase medical device educational content at the conference. "But I love that AMWA is expanding its educational offerings to include device-oriented sessions. In terms of unmet need, there's a dearth of people who specialize in devices. AMWA is a logical place for manufacturers and medical communication agencies to seek writers and editors. I hope attendees capitalize on the programming at this year's annual conference. They can quickly learn device nomenclature and unique considerations, such as patient selection or types of adverse events. That way, they'll be able to take advantage of the many and varied opportunities in the field."

Be sure to bookmark this session or add it to your schedule in the AMWA Annual Conference app.

--Jeanne McAdara-Berkowitz, PhD

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Are You Professionally Invisible?

Do you feel like you have control over your career? Does your boss recognize the value you offer? If you answered no to either of these questions, you’ll want to learn to create visibility in your career. Enhancing your visibility can help get you noticed for new opportunities and may even help reduce the risk of losing your position during a “reorganization.”

You can learn how to get noticed in your work by attending the Intensive Seminar “Create Visibility and Influence to Fast Track Your Career,” held at the AMWA Annual Conference on Wednesday, November 6.

You want your boss and other senior people to regularly think about how they could get you involved in new and interesting initiatives, says John West Hadley, Career Search Counselor, John Hadley Associates, LLC. “The key to making this happen is to consistently communicate value in everything you do, without appearing to brag. It’s about what you say (or write) and how you say (or write) it, and even about when you do it,” says Hadley.

“The vast majority of us fall down badly in this, assuming that our good work will speak for itself. It may, but only if it gets noticed, which often doesn’t go beyond your immediate superior.”

Hadley also notes that when we have a rare opportunity to have a conversation with a senior executive or other people in key positions in our companies, we don’t take advantage of the opportunity to make it an “influential conversation.” Medical writers have a natural mindset for providing information, he says. And the more we focus on pushing information on people, the less engagement and the lower the influence level of the conversation. In his seminar, he will describe the mindset necessary to consistently get into seriously influential conversations, and he will provide a “model” for how to conduct such a conversation successfully.

Hadley has given several popular seminars and talks, including one on networking at a 2012 AMWA Delaware Valley Chapter event. He also participated in a podcast on networking for the AMWA Journal. In addition to his Wednesday seminar at this year’s AMWA Annual Conference, he is also leading a session on networking on Thursday. Don’t miss either chance for a face-to-face experience in learning strategies for taking charge of your career and marketing yourself better.

You must register separately for “Create Visibility and Influence to Fast Track Your Career.” If you have already registered for the AMWA Annual Conference, send an e-mail to annual_conference@amwa.org to ask about adding the seminar to your registration. If you have not registered yet (why not???), you can register for both the conference and the session onsite.