Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Missed the keynote speech? Listen online

Missed the inspiring keynote speech from Karen Woolley at this year's AMWA conference? You can now hear it online. This is a resource available for AMWA members only. Follow the link from AMWA's home page.

Read our posts about the speech herehere, and here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

AMWA 2009

Success Stories in Health Literacy (Open Session 35)

Why do we have to struggle to further health literacy, when the future of health care seems such an important issue today? Why don’t people just embrace it? Those were the questions that panel member Delores Isham-Colvard, PhD, RN posed in the first presentation of this open session. Jane Krauhs, PhD, moderated the panel of three persons who shared their success stories; in them we find tools for improving our own efforts.

Isham-Colvard, manager of Patient Communication at Children’s Hospital, Dallas, noted that the costs of failing to promote health literacy are high, with communication failures at the root of so many problems, including legal liability, in health care. As far as getting others involved in health literacy, first, she says, “put your face out there.” Get on committees. Here, she told her own “Saga of Pee and Poop” and her experience with her hospital administration who strongly preferred using “urination” or “making water” in brochures. Using words that patients, and especially children, understand is not dumbing down. Writing at the literacy level of most Americans—the 5th or 6th grade level—only makes sense. We should write for our audience.

Shirin Pestonjee, MS, RN, reinforced Isham-Colvard's point. Pestonjee is a patient education specialist at Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas. Surveys taken in 1988 and 1998 attest to the success of the Parkland program, which begins with an orientation of new employees. She points out from the very beginning, employees are encouraged to use words that patients understand, like… “pee in the cup,” not “void in the cup.” Many health professionals want to talk at higher reading levels; they are either unaware and can’t grasp the scope of levels, or fear that patients will feel “talked down to.” She gave the example of a fancy packaged system of health information that the employees, after they came to an understanding of literacy levels, rejected—because the reading was at a 12th grade level.

Getting your manuscript published (Open Session 28)

This was a great panel discussion about the details that give your manuscripts an edge in the eyes of the reviewers or editors. Marianne Mallia served as moderator. Her panelists were an author’s editor and journal editor in-chief.

Christine Wogan, MS, ELS, the author’s editor, from the UT M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, phrased her take-home messages for other author’s editors clearly:
  • Pick your battles.
  • Hook 'em.
  • Give 'em what they want.
  • Make it easy on them.
She provided a variety of tips for assisting authors. Read the paper thoroughly for spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Make sure that the paper is written at the proper level of understanding. By targeting the paper to a specific journal and following the instructions to authors, the manuscript’s chances for acceptance improves. She emphasized that manuscripts must tell a story in a linear fashion. She suggested writing the abstract first – but editing it last.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Palliative Care: Collaborative Communication at the Edge of Life

This open session, moderated by Tamara Ball, MD, with panel members Lee Hancock of the Dallas Morning news and Robert L. Fine, MD, director of the Office of Clinical Ethics and Palliative Care at the Baylor Health Care System, Dallas, was one of the most moving and inspiring one and one-half hours I’ve ever spent, and that is no exaggeration. The mood was set by a video, made by Dallas Morning News photographer Sonya Hebert, of the last days of patients and their loved ones. The basis for the session was the history of collaboration between the reporter, the photographer, the palliative care physician, and the palliative care nurse Min Patel that became a Pulitzer-nominated 5-part series in the Morning News.

Dr. Fine set the history of his 2004 initiation of palliative care at Baylor in the broader context of the clinical ethics movement that came to the fore after the famous 1970s court battle over removing Karen Ann Quinlan from a respirator; by the early 1990s, he and his colleagues were doing over 100 ethics consults per year. Dr. Fine’s inspiration initially came from members of the clergy-in-training program at Baylor who spent time with the dying persons, helping them and their loved ones with the nonphysical pain that accompanies the end of life. Looking at the number of deaths in his hospital, Dr. Fine saw the need for healthcare workers to provide something beyond quick visits to lessen physical pain. He asked himself how his big-city hospital that has many patients awaiting organ transplants and serves a large indigent population could ever afford a palliative care program. The answer came in the way of an anonymous donor who wrote an $80,000 check to get the program started.

In 2007, Dr. Fine got a call from reporter Lee Hancock in which she proposed a story on the Baylor palliative care program. He described his reaction: “I don’t think so!” Turns out Lee had recently written a story that was less-than-favorable about Baylor. But then he realized that “getting the story out” might be a way to raise money for the program. His team also had some initial hesitancy but then agreed.

A meeting with Lee helped convince Dr. Fine to go forward. She had first-hand experience with the anguish that a family feels watching a loved one suffer: Her youngest brother had developed a mysterious fungal infection in his brain, and after 5 years in and out of the hospital, spent 8 months of his last year of life in the ICU. On her visits, she saw not only how her family struggled with what was happening, but also the nurses’ anguish over their inability to help. Back in Dallas, upon hearing her interest in improving the situation for end-of-life care, people kept pointing her to Dr. Fine.

Crowd source this blog, Part 2

The AMWA conference officially closed Saturday night, but we have a few remaining items that we will be posting this week. If you have any photos or comments that you would like us to consider for the blog, please e-mail me.

 --Victoria White

Monday, October 26, 2009

In Closing, I Would Like to Say...

At the closing reception, I asked 4 first-time attendees (identifiable by the red dots on their nametags) what they thought of the conference. Every one of them said something like this: "It was great! Everyone was so friendly and helpful. This is the only conference I˙ve been to where people were willing to freely share what they know."

You don't have to go it alone. If you're changing careers, if you˙ve lost your job or you're scared you might, if you want to start or build a freelance business, or if you want to feel more adept at the work you do, the AMWA national and chapter conferences are the places to learn what you need to know.

--Faith Reidenbach

Sunday, October 25, 2009

No Medical Degree? No Problem!

I admit it. This year I needed a pep talk. More and more, it seems, job ads for medical writers -- even ads seeking freelance help -- state that a science degree is required. Some even specify an MD or PharmD or PhD. I almost always have as much freelance work as I want, but still, I worry. Is this the way the medical writing world is going? I am only 49; even if I retire as scheduled, I have 21 years to go. Is the day coming when excellent writing skills won't be enough?

In his free open session on how nonscientists can succeed in medical writing, Scott Kober helped allay my fears. The session was geared toward people wanting to break into our field, but it reminded me of why we liberal arts majors are special. Scott discussed the advantages of a humanities background and explained what skills nonscientists can highlight to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. I especially enjoyed the "case studies" that showed how real people --journalists, technical writers, even a Russian studies major -- fell into medical writing. Scott also candidly described the limitations of a liberal arts background and the self-education that's needed to augment it.

Most useful to me was this quote from one of the women featured in a case study: "I don't bother responding to ads that say 'MD or PhD required.' That tells me that the hiring party doesn't really understand the skills that are necessary for medical writing." Oh, bless you, anonymous colleague! My attitude has been adjusted and I'm good for another year.

--Faith Reidenbach

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Art Gertel, Swanberg Award winner: Of pirates, ghosts, and the fool

The route to a medical writing and editing career so often is circuitous. For many, it is a career happened upon, when you're the scientist who seems to have a knack for language or the writer who isn't scared off by science.

Art Gertel described his own roundabout journey in a lively talk Friday night that touched on tarot card readings (a hobby), piracy (on stage and screen), soccer (a lifelong love), and ghosts (of the haunted house and scientific manuscript persuasion).

Gertel, who was president of AMWA in 1998 and remains a very active volunteer,  is this year's winner of AMWA's Harold Swanberg Distinguished Service Award for distinguished contributions to medical communication and the medical profession. He is currently vice president of  strategic regulatory, medical writing and quality assurance at Beardsworth Consulting Group.

The prize for winning the Swanberg Award? The opportunity to contribute more to the profession by giving a speech at the awards dinner. He titled his speech "Of Pirates, Ghosts, and the Fool -- Stumbling Toward a Unified Theory of Medical Writing."

At first in life, he said he wanted to be a cowboy, but that was back in pre-school. In junior high, the pirating life captured his imagination, but that too didn't seem the most viable career path. But his 8th grade class production of Pirates of Penzance did give him early exposure to multitasking. He played a policeman and a pirate, and was the chief lighting technician and first trumpet in the orchestra.

"That was a little challenging," he said. "But so is medical writing." Medical writers often have to play many roles -- scientists, data interpreters, editors, project managers, and diplomats, he noted. And though his pirating interest in itself hasn't paid the bills, it has united him in levity with other AMWA members who apparently also inhabit the organization's pirate subculture. AMWA is unusual as a professional association in fostering that lighter, more personal side. Here, he said, you can learn about each other as whole human beings.

His lifelong love of soccer also laid the foundation for his career. In soccer, he said, "you are trained to give away the chance of stardom...It benefits the whole team." So too with medical writing. "You are distributing the opportunities to your teammates," he said.

Bubble Boys (and Girls)

I am half of a 2-person company, so I work practically alone, and for me that's both the greatest and worst aspects of being an independent writer. I am far more productive than I could otherwise be, because I'm free from corporate meetings and colleagues' interruptions. But I don't have a boss or many colleagues, so hardly anyone ever challenges my decisions, and my ego isn't always right-sized. A related problem, and even more dangerous, is that my insular existence threatens to keep me from hearing the latest thinking in our industry.

Open Session 10, "Navigating Today's CME Landscape," was a good example to me of why I benefit from attending the AMWA national conference. I write a regular column on trends in medical communications ("Briefly Noted," published in the AMWA Journal), and I've followed the sea changes in CME closely -- or so I thought. But Mary King and Johanna Lackner-Marx had much to teach me about the newer CME accreditation process and how adult learning theory has influenced what accrediting bodies expect from CME providers. Tara Hun-Dorris wrapped up the session with exceedingly practical tips for writing CME materials (and for dealing with difficult faculty), and she gave me a kick in the pants about moving beyond print media.

One of the highlights for me of this year's conference was a workshop that went beyond the lecture/discussion format. I would urge more AMWA workshop leaders to create activities for attendees who are principally auditory or kinesthetic learners. Probably this is too easy for me to say, as I've never led a workshop, and honestly, I mean no disrespect to the VOLUNTEER leaders. In a workshop I attended yesterday, "Audience Analysis for Health Care Communication," led by Bob Bonk, the small-group exercise was very valuable. My team of 5 women, from very different backgrounds, had to outline 2 documents on the same topic for different audiences. There was initial tension and disagreement, and we never did reach true consensus or, perhaps, draft the best possible outlines. But by gum, we got the job done on deadline! The exercise reminded me that even when I'm snug at home, I am part of a team, and I forget that at my peril.

--Faith Reidenbach

The Freelance Biz

According to his disclosure statement, Brian Bass is not an attorney, accountant, or insurance professional. But Friday, he educated a lively audience about the many legal, financial, and insurance issues that affect freelancers during his open session, “Getting Down to Business: Nonwriting Issues for Freelances.”

By flagging the parts of contracts that freelancers should watch out for (i.e., non-compete agreements and transfers of liability), Bass provided his audience with some of the necessary tools to master contract negotiations. Rather than striking out part of a contract and initialing it, try calling the client to see why this particular clause was included in the first place, he suggested. Having a discussion about the contract may trigger your client to think twice about the reason for including such statements.

Creating a business structure is another important issue for freelancers to consider—particularly relatively new writers. Following a broad overview of the pros and cons of sole proprietorships, S-Corps, and LLCs, an impromptu, mid-session Q & A period took place. Bass (with the assistance of knowledgeable audience members) entertained questions about paying yourself on a consistent basis, separating your business and personal assets, and for those with S-Corps, paying bonuses on December 31st.

To wrap up the session, the nuances of health insurance, life insurance, long-term disability insurance, and errors & omissions insurance were discussed. Ultimately, obtaining these various insurance policies affords protection for you, your business, and your family, Bass emphasized.

This session will be covered in more detail in a forthcoming issue of the AMWA Journal

--Kelly L. McCoy

A certificate is not certification

Turns out that an AMWA Task Force has been looking into developing an AMWA certification program. It's still just a POSSIBILITY, and it would require years of careful study and preparation, but still, how exciting! Certification is different from earning a certificate; it's a more rigorous process, and the credential is thus (presumably) more meaningful to employers, clients, and other colleagues.

By definition, I have learned, certification involves a qualifying examination, and people can't take the exam unless they meet certain criteria. For example, ISMPP requires a bachelor's degree and ~2 years of relevant work experience, or a high school diploma and ~5 years of work experience. BELS has similar requirements and also requires letters of recommendation. The American College of Healthcare Executives has extensive requirements, including years of membership in that organization and years of service to the profession and the candidate's community. 

At Open Session 6, "Professional Certification for Communicators," Kim Pepitone, the member of ISMPP who championed her organization's certification program, explained that the first step in the process was to define the core competencies of medical publication planners. What are the core competencies of medical communicators? I wondered. Then lo, I walked into the exhibit area and spotted "Medical Writing Competency Model," a poster by David Clemow, PhD. It summarizes how the Drug Information Association has addressed this very question, and David also provided copies of a 22-page handout that explains the competencies in detail. David has invited interested parties to request a copy of the poster from him at

--Faith Reidenbach

A quick link

Today's luncheon speaker was David Dary, author of the book Frontier Medicine: From the Atlantic to the Pacific, 1492-1941. In introducing him, 2009 Annual Conference Administrator Douglas Haneline mentioned that he had fortuitously happened upon Dary's book by reading a review in the New York Times. Here's the link.

If you're not inspired to click yet, maybe a little snippet from the review's lede will do the trick:
Bear attacks. Syphilis. Bullet wounds. Malaria. Scalpings. Cholera. Arrows shot into the skull. Scurvy. Rabies. Ax mishaps. Crushings by moving wagon wheels. Outsize tumors. Snake bites. There were many ways to die in frontier America, plenty of them gruesome.
Are you clicking yet?

--Victoria White

Annual Business Meeting: Really, it's the place to be

If you're like a lot of members of AMWA -- or any membership organization, for that matter -- you have probably shied away from attending the annual business meeting. That's the time within a conference when an organization's leadership sums up the accomplishments of the past year, announces goals for the year ahead, and gives an accounting of group finances.

Sounds riveting, doesn't it?

But AMWA has a lot going on right now, and frankly, the annual business meeting is one of the best places to hear about that. You can hear snippets at other moments in the conference, but the information comes in its most concentrated form at the business meeting. At today's business meeting, for example, we heard that AMWA has been weathering the so-called Great Recession quite nicely (through a lot of effort by staff as well as foresight in the preceding years); that AMWA has ramped up its marketing efforts given both the economic challenges and the "ghostwriting" controversies discussed in the press; that AMWA's always-strong focus on ethics is growing stronger by the day; and that impressive efforts are under way to add new learning tools and new learning opportunities.

So the next time you see "annual business meeting" on a conference program, try to work it into your no-doubt busy schedule. It takes under an hour, and you may just like what you hear. And if you don't? Take the opportunity to influence the organization's direction.

 --Victoria White

Friday, October 23, 2009

AMWA Journal editor wins President's Award

2008-09 AMWA President Cindy Hamilton awarded a genuinely surprised Lori Alexander the President's Award at tonight's Sablack awards dinner. The President's Award is given to a person who has been a member of AMWA for at least 10 years, has made distinctive contributions to the association at either the chapter or national level, and has not served on the Executive Committee. In addition to being the editor of the AMWA Journal, Lori is a past president of the Florida Chapter, has planned numerous chapter conferences, served on a variety of committees, and taught workshops.

UPDATE: There were many other important awards given out at this conference. Hope to add more later. --Victoria White

And so it begins

Luncheon discussions at AMWA often fall into 1 of 3 categories: light conversation (work and AMWA-focused), polite or strained small talk, or subtle angling for job leads or freelance work. Things were different today at my table, because for part of the time, the discussion concerned yesterday's keynote. It wasn't a debate -- yet. A veteran member I admire expressed strong views, some of which I agree with and some of which I don't (so far). As an organization we need LOTS more talk about the points Karen Woolley raised, and (as Admired Woman pointed out) we can't concentrate just on ghostwriting.

--Faith Reidenbach

A visionary keynote address

Dr. Karen Woolley is the first AMWA keynote speaker in my experience who is one of us--a medical writer. And what a medical writer she is! In addition to running a large medical writing firm based in Australia, she is internationally engaged in advancing our profession through teaching, research, and advocacy for higher educational and ethical standards.

In her talk Thursday, Karen outlined 3 major problems facing medical writers, especially those of us who work on journal manuscripts:

• Lack of evidence that we add value to our projects and are ethical
• Lack of a truly international approach to training
• Isolation from other stakeholders, particularly journal editors

For each problem, she suggested actions that the profession can take and actions that individual members can take.

To address the first problem, Karen urged members to compete for the new award AMWA created for original research by AMWA members. The research must explore the value added by medical writers and editors and must be published in a peer-reviewed journal indexed by PubMed. The winner will receive a $2000 honorarium. (For more information, look under "What's New?" on the AMWA home page.) Aside from competing for that award and the new student research award, individuals can help by learning the rules of medical publishing, especially the AMWA Position Statement, Good Publication Practice for Pharmaceutical Companies (soon to be updated), and the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts.

Even more emphatically, Karen called on us to reject ghostwriting assignments, because short-term financial gain for individuals is creating long-term professional pain for everyone in the profession. “That has got to stop,” she said. She urged us to use the PLoS Medicine checklist to document the specifics of our collaborations with authors.

As part of formal research, Karen and colleagues have investigated manuscript retraction rates to identify contributing factors. They presented some of this research at last month’s 6th International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication. One critical issue, Karen believes, is lack of training in medical writing. Effective training needs to be available globally, given that clinical trials are booming in sites such as China and India.

Poster session

Jennifer Yee (left) and Katherine Karakasis (right) discuss their poster with Janet Miller (center).

The poster is titled "Effective Planning Strategies for Grant and Project Development." Karakasis and Yee work in Research Communications at the University Health Network in Toronto. The corresponding author on the poster is Shelley Brown.

AMWA after dark

People who know me won’t be surprised to read this blog post. But if you’re not heading down to the bar in the evening for a few minutes, you’re missing one of the best parts of the meeting.

If you’re into sports and testosterone (and you guys know who you are!) then by all means head to the sports bar in the lobby. But if you’re into a quieter, more elegant setting with seating just made for networking, head to the main lobby bar. Bring a book if you’re not into sitting in bars alone; I guarantee within a few minutes it will lie forgotten. If you don’t want to sit alone, sit at the bar—on the past two nights it was a line of ladies.

To get the conversation going just turn to the person next to you and ask if they are an AMWAnian (yes, a word I just coined). Last night the lady to my right was actually a literature professor from Wake Forest (in case you didn’t know there’s a Renaissance literature conference going here) and we had a fabulous conversation. Then I turned to the other side and spent half an hour talking with a fellow AMWAnian. Then I went over to the rowdy group in the seating area (Atlanta gals, you know who you are) and had a blast talking with the baby freelancers (seriously, they couldn’t have been more than 12 years old) who were just getting started in their careers.

So, bottom line? While the programs and workshops at AMWA are, of course, fabulous, the bar is where the fun continues.

See you there tonight!

--Debra Gordon

Confessions of an amateur photographer

I have tried to snap a few pictures around the AMWA conference to liven up the blog. The results have not been very satisfactory. I would say, I know better than to quit my day job, but that would be such a cliche that I couldn't possibly inflict such a thing on an audience of writers and editors.

I tried to grab a quick shot of the standing ovation that greeted Karen Woolley at the end of her keynote speech. Alas, the shutter finally closed just as everyone had taken their seats. And for the record, to the best of my knowledge, Karen Woolley (left) and Sue Hudson, AMWA's immediate past president, were not praying when this picture was taken at the end of Woolley's speech.

--Victoria White

Thursday, October 22, 2009

You need what? CME needs assessment at a breakfast roundtable (food included!)

A cheerful colleague at my Thursday breakfast roundtable, a newcomer to AMWA, admitted to having been unsure whether breakfast would be served. Surely there is no harder job in the world than communication, whether it's from scientist to the lay reader or from AMWA headquarters and volunteer leaders to the membership.

Each of AMWA's roundtables is a 75-minute session on a focused topic, which is generally business-oriented rather than the fun topics discussed at the Thursday night coffee and dessert klatches. For example, my table's leader, Deb Gordon, did a great job of talking about CME needs assessments. For the freelancers among us, she said right up front how many hours she usually spends and what she charges. She walked us through samples of two needs assessments she has written and even had the chutzpah to critique her own work. Deb also provided a list of good sources of information for needs assessments, plus a recent journal article that discusses how the approach to planning and assessing CME activities needs to change in light of the newer accreditation requirements.

The best thing to report is that the practical assistance and lively discussion I enjoyed is the rule, not the exception, at AMWA breakfast roundtables. They're a great way to start the day -- and there's no need to get coffee or food before you come.

--Faith Reidenbach

Fast place for fast food (and a trip around the rink)

For people who are onsite: The hotel has some nice casual restaurants, but they're not the only convenient places to eat. For Friday breakfast and Saturday lunch, check out the food court at the Plaza of the Americas building. You can get there via a skywalk, so you don't even have to grab your coat. To get there, consult the hotel map of the 2nd floor -- look at the very top of the right-side page. The food isn't notable, but the food court surrounds an ice rink, and it's relaxing to watch skaters glide by. (Did you know? Today's girls can wear black skates or tan skates, not just white.)

--Faith Reidenbach

What's going on right now

It is a bit daunting to even attempt to type this list, but at this moment at the AMWA conference, here are the official events going on:

Educational Workshops:
The IND in eCTD Format
Advanced Data Presentation: Tables, Graphs, and Charts
Risks and Ratios
Bibliographic Resources for Medical Communicators
Reporting Correlation and Regression Analyses
Sex and Beyond: Fertilization and and Early Development
Essentials of Copyediting
Effectively Searching Online Databases
Writing for the Medical Device Industry
Investigational New Drug Applications
Creative Proces in Pharmaceutical Advertising and Promotion
Introduction to the Cardiovascular System
Basic Immunology
Evidence-Based Medicine: Bringing Science to the Art of Medicine
From Bench Scientist to Medical Writer
Introduction to Cancer Pharmacology

Open Sessions
Scope of Medical Communication
Protecting Your Investment (or How Not to Lose Money When Everyone Else Is)
Professional Certification for Medical Communicators: Credentialing Models for Related Professions

Five more open sessions begin at 3:45 pm.

A wide variety of posters related to medical communication are on display in the exhibit hall.  A sampling of titles:

An Innovative Medical Communication Strategy to Improve Autism Therapy
Clinical Study Reports: Efficiencies and Impact on Timelines
Ensuring Document Quality Throughout the Life Cycle of Clinical Trial-Based Publication
Knowledge Transfer: Just a Fanc Name for Communications or Something More?
Getting Started as a reelance Medical writer: A Former Bench Scientist's Diary

Ethics, ethics, and more ethics

A major theme coursing through the sessions at this year's conference is the importance of ethics in medical communication. That's not a surprise, given that there has been considerable media attention in recent months to the issue of ghostwriting of biomedical research papers.

AMWA has long advocated that contributions of medical writers should be acknowledged in scientific publications. The organization is seeking to spread the word about best practices.

AMWA's position statement

The American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) recognizes the valuable contributions of medical communicators to the publication team. Medical communicators who contribute substantially to the writing or editing of a manuscript should be acknowledged with their permission and with disclosure of any pertinent professional or financial relationships. In all aspects of the publication process, medical communicators should adhere to the AMWA Code of Ethics.

More information is available at the AMWA web site. On the home page, follow the links under the Ethics and Medical Communication heading.

AMWA history project

Calling all history buffs! AMWA is embarking on an exciting new project that will help trace our history since the group started as the Mississippi Valley Medical Editors' Association in 1940. The idea? To chronicle the organization's evolution and the development of medical communication as a profession through the stories and experiences of AMWA members. How can you help? We want to hear your stories! At this year's annual conference in Dallas, we invite you to reflect on your experiences in AMWA and complete the flier found in your tote bag. If you're willing to be audiotaped at the conference or at a later date via the telephone, contact Melanie Fridl Ross at And if you are interested in volunteering to participate on AMWA's History Task Force in the future, let us know. This project isn't just for ourselves, but for future generations. Be a part of it!

--Melanie Fridl Ross


Karen Woolley delivered an impressive keynote speech titled "Getting Respect--Two Steps Forward and?" She addressed head-on the challenges of banishing the practice of ghostwriting in medical communication and the critical importance of ethics in medical writing and editing.

Woolley is the CEO of ProScribe Communications, and an adjunct associate professor at the University of Queensland, University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia.

The blog will have more on the speech later. Full coverage will be available in the AMWA Journal. The speech was audiotaped and will be posted at a later date in the members-only section of the AMWA web site.

Articles referenced by Woolley in her talk:

G√łtzsche, PC et al. What Should Be Done To Tackle Ghostwriting in the Medical Literature? [Authors include Karen Woolley and Cindy Hamilton, 2008-09 AMWA president.]

Woolley, KL. Goodbye Ghostwriters! How To Work Ethically and Efficiently With Professional Medical Writers.*

If her typos don't kill me...

AMWA poets, essayists, novelists, and musicians turned out for the Creative Readings segment of AMWA's annual conference. A particular highlight was Jude Richard singing a mournful song about an editor's woes.

"Everyone in this room," he said sadly, "has been in a bad relationship with a manuscript."

Below: Kathy Louden reads her humorous essay about her brush with looming incarceration at the hands of U.S. postal inspectors. In the background, session moderator Jim Hudson sat at the ready to employ a series of noisemakers should anyone read past the alloted time. No gongs were needed.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

By the numbers

In an orientation session for new members at this year's annual conference, members of the AMWA Executive Committee passed along the following stats:

* AMWA has more than 5,400 members throughout the world.
* AMWA has 17 local chapters in the United States, one chapter for Canada, and one chapter for international members.
* At this conference in Dallas, nearly 100 educational workshops are being offered through the organization's extensive curriculum in medical writing and editing.
* Nearly 850 people are registered for this year's conference.

Crowd source this blog

We have a great team of volunteers who are planning to post to this blog, but we do not have a monopoly on good ideas or interesting observations. Hear something worth repeating? Meet someone worth writing about? If you are attending this meeting or playing the home version and would like to submit ideas or questions, please contact the team at We cannot promise a response but greatly appreciate the feedback. Coverage ideas will also be shared with the editor of the AMWA Journal.

Comment on posts: Most posts have a comment link. We will review comments for good taste before posting. The blog team reserves the right to turn posting off for any reason, including lack of time for adequate review.

Now tweet this: If you have a Twitter account and want to tweet about the meeting, please use the hash tag #AMWA09 so that it will be easy to identify comments about the AMWA conference. Please follow the official AMWA conference Twitter team at:

AMWA goes viral: Each post has a share link to make it easy to spread the information to Facebook, Twitter,, or other sites, or to e-mail a friend.

AMWA Program for Wednesday, Oct. 21

The annual American Medical Writers Association conference gets under way in Dallas today with some preliminary activities. Registration and hospitality open at 11 a.m. The AMWA 2008-2009 Board of Directors meets at 1:00, and delegates of the AMWA chapters meet at 4:15.

For those new to AMWA or perhaps just new to the Annual Conference, two important events are on tap: the New Member Orientation at 4:15 and the Conference Coach Connection at 5:15.

The orientation is a good opportunity to hear from AMWA leaders about the structure of the organization, goals for the coming year, benefits of membership, and opportunities from become more involved at the chapter or national level. Traditionally, there also is an opportunity to ask questions about why things are as they are and offer suggestions.

At the Conference Coach Connection, first-time conference attendees are matched with veteran conference-goers. That way, newcomers will know at least someone from the outset. It also provides a good chance to ask questions about the organization or get some guidance about navigating the many activities of the conference ahead.

Also on Wednesday: A welcome reception, sponsored by RPS Inc., is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Entertainment will be provided, along with with complimentary hors d'ouevres and beverages.

Capping off the day at 8:15 pm.: AMWA Creative Readings. At this event, AMWA members prove annually that they are not just about the highest standards of medical communication, they can also tell half-decent jokes, sing songs, and write poems, plays and short stories. Or at least some of them can.

Friday, October 16, 2009

AMWA conference opening soon

The AMWA conference begins soon. Check back for updates Oct. 21.