Monday, November 22, 2010

Good Publications Practice 2 and You (Open Session 36)

by Heather Haley

Navigating the current medical publishing environment is challenging, whether it’s figuring out which of the many CONSORT statement extensions applies to your project or collecting all the conflict of interest disclosures from ten authors in four countries. However, success starts with knowing Good Publication Practice 2. Published in October 2009 in the British Medical Journal, Good Publication Practice 2 (GPP2) captures the best current standards for communicating medical research sponsored by companies.  (For a copy of GPP2, visit the Web site, where you can also watch a webcast about it.)

Covered in the AMWA 2010 conference open session, Navigating the Current Medical Publications Environment, key GPP2 recommendations include:
  • Written agreements between the company and academic-physician authors.
    • These author agreements can address a host of issues from access to data, author obligations to disclose conflicts of interest, author responsibilities for timely publications. The GPP2 paper has a great checklist of what to include in an author’s agreement.
  • Contributorship model for the acknowledgements section for people who do not meet the ICJME authorship criteria as well as the role of the sponsoring company in funding and executing of research.
    • Suggested language for contributorship is: “The authors would like to thank D, YZ Pharmaceuticals, for overall management of the trial and E, WX Medical Writing, for drafting the manuscript.”
    • The role of the sponsor in the medical research needs to be detailed. Suggested template language that can be adapted to each situation is: “In collaboration with A and B, YZ Pharmaceuticals, designed the study, analysed, and interpreted the data, and edited the report. Data were recorded at participating clinical centres and maintained by YZ Pharmaceuticals. All authors had full access to the data." If journal submission requirements do not accommodate this information, then put it in the cover letter accompanying the submission.
  • Creating publication steering committees to identify and oversee the communication of research results in presentations and journal publications.
    • Visit the GPP2 website for ideas on who belongs on publication steering committees.
The key theme for GPP2 is transparency. In this current environment of controversy, more disclosure is the rule of thumb when in doubt. The GPP2 authors recommend going above and beyond disclosing conflicts of interest and medical writing support on posters as well as publications. Since no one becomes a Wall Street Journal story for disclosing conflicts of interest.

A highlight for GPP2 is that the update was a more collaborative process seeking input from all the key stakeholders. 116 individuals representing academic centers, journal editors and publishers, medical communication agencies, freelance medical writers, pharmaceutical, medical device, biotechnology, and professional organizations provided comment on the first draft of GPP2.

The Navigating Medical Publications talk was attended by about 30 people, and honestly I was surprised by the number of people who didn’t know the GPP2 update had come out. New publishing or research reporting guidelines can be found at the Equator network. Read Good Publications Practice 2, for yourself. It’s definitely a must if you are taking the Certified Medical Publication Professional exam (CMPP). But also, pass along some of the useful checklists or template language to your colleagues or clients to help make navigating the current medical publishing environment a little easier for everyone.

Friday, November 19, 2010

AMWA 2011 Annual Conference Committee

by Steve Palmer

As the coordinator of next year’s AMWA annual conference in Jacksonville, Florida, (Oct. 20 - 22, 2011) I would like to announce the members of the 2011 Annual Conference Committee.
Special interest sessions coordinator—Kathy Spiegel
General interest sessions coordinator—Marianne Mallia
Short sessions coordinator—Scott Thompson
Poster presentations coordinator—Anne Marie Weber-Main
Roundtable breakfast coordinators—Yeshi Mikyas and Michelle Zakson
Coordinator for coffee/dessert klatches—Jude Richard
Creative readings chair—Jim Hudson
Local host committee chairs—Lori Alexander and Deb Whippen
These volunteers have committed their time and energy to making our next conference as valuable and enlightening as any of its predecessors. If you have an idea for a topic, a potential speaker, or anything else that could enhance next year’s annual conference, or if you would otherwise like to help one of these committee members with their portion of the planning, please get in touch with them.

[Contact information is available in the members-only section of the AMWA Web site.]

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Conference Never Ends

by Lori Alexander
AMWA Journal Editor

The session rooms are shut down and the hallways of the Milwaukee Hilton are no longer full of AMWA members. Although the networking conversations and the sessions are but memories, the conference experience is not over. Not by a long shot.

I think that all of us attendees agree that the conference was a wonderful learning opportunity, and on some days, during some time slots, we wished we could have cloned ourselves so that we could take advantage of more than one session. Because cloning has not been perfected yet, the AMWA Journal is once again bringing coverage of conference sessions to all AMWA members. This year, the Journal is going one step forward to ensure that the conference never ends for us.

In keeping with tradition, the December issue will contain brief reports on several conference sessions, and they will be featured as part of an online-exclusive section of the Journal. Be sure to watch for that section to go live on the AMWA Web site in early December. Never before has news from the conference been made available in the Journal so quickly after the conference! The section will also include the inaugural address by our new President, Melanie Fridl Ross, MSJ, ELS, an introduction to the members of the new Executive Committee, and details about the many awards given out at the Sablack Awards Dinner on Friday night.

The March 2011 will feature more brief reports of sessions, as well as an enhanced version of Marianne Mallia’s Swanberg Address: “Demons and Idols…and a Blue Corvette.” If you were at the dinner, I’m sure you agree that Marianne’s speech chronicled an amazing career, with inspiration and applicability to us all. I’m so happy we can share her speech with the entire membership through the Journal. The March issue will also feature some accounts from first-time attendees. It’s always good to see the conference experience through their eyes. And I hope that the articles prompt other members to say, “Hey, I think I’ll go to the conference next year!”

What’s new this year about conference coverage in the Journal? Thanks to the tremendous generosity of many open session moderators, full-length feature articles on select sessions will be included in future issues of the Journal. I thank the many moderators who, in addition to assembling a panel and developing a successful session, also agreed to work with their speakers to write a manuscript and submit it to the Journal. As a result, all AMWA members, whether they came to Milwaukee or not, will be able to benefit from the expertise of these panelists. A manuscript based on the AMWA-CMR survey has already been submitted, and several more are in process.

Thanks to the AMWA Conference Blog, you don’t have to wait patiently for reports. The blog is a great way to get highlights from sessions while waiting for Journal coverage. And though the blog entries will be winding down soon, the educational value of the conference is never-ending.

Related links:
AMWA Journal Blog
About the AMWA Journal

Defining and Refining Medical Communication: Competencies, Research, and Theories (Open Session 16)

by Mary Wessling

At Open Session 16 of the annual conference, panel members approached the issue of how to discover the appropriate measurements, and how to construct a program using AMWA resources, that enhance the competency of our members as medical communicators.

David Chernow, a scientific communications consultant for Eli Lilly and Company, described the Medical Writer Competency Model developed by the core team members of the Drug Information Association Medical Writing Special Interest Area Community. This model (I'll call it the DIA model for convenience) was developed by a team of experts from around the world who employ medical writers or who use medical writers as part of their jobs. Overall, the model looked at the knowledge, skills, and behavior that are intrinsic to success as a medical writer, and then in particular, what different categories of jobs in medical writing would demand. The core competency, they agreed, is the ability to tell a scientific story. The model could be used by an individual to assess his or her abilities to enter the field, and also by employers to judge the suitability of applicants for a job they need to fill. It can also be used to train present employees for transitions to other jobs within the organization. David stressed that the model has its limitations, and among them, that it does not prioritize the skills in assessing competency.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Time Travel at the AMWA Conference

by Deb Whippen

AMWA attendees like their history; that’s my takeaway from watching them linger in front of the poster about the association’s 70-year history at this year’s annual conference. Each attendee who stands, absorbing the AMWA’s historical timeline and seminal moments, is an advertisement about the association’s accomplishments. And they make the poster look appealing. During a quiet moment, I walk over from my exhibit booth and browse. There’s the first meeting I attended, in 1989, in my then-hometown of Boston. That first year for me I was lucky enough to choose to attend Edie Schwager’s English Usage and Abusage workshop. I remember being impressed by her, a small, chirpy woman who showed us funny grammar errors made indelible in plastic-covered newspaper pages. She impressed upon us that we were word warriors who could do better! And that AMWA would teach us how.

AMWA was already almost 50 years old when I joined. By joining, I became part of an organization that had an established mission of providing education for medical communicators. That’s the same reality for those who join AMWA today. My career in medical publications has taken me many places and this year I find myself at the meeting as a first-time exhibitor, promoting my own publishing company and a newly published book for medical writers. I have learned a lot from the many conversations I’ve had with attendees while they stand on the other side of my exhibitor table, talking over the books and materials published since starting my business five years ago.

But maybe my biggest takeaway from this year’s conference is that AMWA is malleable in meeting its members needs. Its resources are indeed its members and the actualization of the association’s commitment to education. AMWA is also a successful trade organization in that it represents the professional collective voice about the reality and interests of medical writers.

My ability to participate this year as an exhibitor, a chapter president, a breakfast roundtable leader, and an attendee who reads posters reaffirms to me that no matter where I am in my work life, AMWA is a resource for me and my career.

Bravo, AMWA!

Related post:
AMWA: Celebrating 70 Years of Medical Communication Excellence

AMWA: Celebrating 70 Years of Medical Communication Excellence

At the poster session in Milwaukee, Scott C. Thompson discusses "Seminal Moments in AMWA History: 70 Years of Medical Communication Excellence." Scott developed the poster with Melanie Fridl Ross.

AMWA history poster

Related post:
Time Travel at the AMWA Conference

Monday, November 15, 2010

Marketing Your Career by Being Proactive (Open Session 26)

by Sarah Thornburg

You probably know that reaching out to your network in times of need can lead to enormous support. But you may not always remember that if you do not take the time to build your network when times are good, you may be missing out on many opportunities.

In today’s job market, you can never predict what is around the corner. And, in a field that is constantly evolving, you are responsible for identifying your skill sets and matching them to the projects that are the best fit for you. In this open session, moderator Noelle H. Demas and panelists Lisa Balbes and Alison Greenwood provided useful strategies for increasing your visibility and maximizing job searches.

Evaluate your skills and identify your short-term and long-term goals. You might find that you aren’t pursuing the type of work you most enjoy. Also, consider whether what you do today is your ideal job or a position that will help you to transition into your ideal job.

Networking helps you to let people in your life know the type of work you do, and is one way to expand the circle of people who know it. You can network by attending professional meetings, volunteering, or using social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Even if your goal is not to make a change or to gain information, sharing your wealth of experience will help strengthen the medical writing community. And, who knows, it might present you with an opportunity you didn’t even know you wanted!

You can simplify how you manage your career development by making a list of the types of projects you’ve worked on and keeping an active experience summary. This list will help you see where you are in your career and think about where you want to go next. You can also create a concrete growth plan to track goals in categories like “increase skills and knowledge,” “gain credentials,” and “increase your value.”

Electronic resources can help you create a list of interesting companies during a job search or goal setting. Resources like BioSpace, Monster, and Indeed, and databases like ReferenceUSA, Sorkins, and Standard & Poor’s can connect you with information about employers, where they are located, and who their competitors are.

Keep your ear to the ground about the trends in the market by looking for keywords in job ads, reading the publications your customers read, talking to people in your industry, and tracking your company, industry, and market. Just by skimming job ads, and reading headlines in magazines and journals, you’ll gain insight into opportunities that others might not notice.

The bottom line of this presentation was that by evaluating your skills and goals, being aware of trends in your field, and maintaining a vibrant professional network, you can maximize your relationships and leverage your skills so you can recognize and respond to exciting opportunities.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Of Sin, Salvation, and the Relationship Between Physicians and Industry

by Faith Reidenbach

I sent Dr. Thomas Stossel, winner of this year’s McGovern Award, a telepathic message before his speech. “Talk about ACRE, talk about ACRE,” I chanted mentally. He didn’t disappoint—in fact, as it turns out, his entire speech concerned ACRE’s research and advocacy work.

Thomas P. Stossel, MD, is a co-founder of ACRE, the Association of Clinical Researchers and Educators, which is “dedicated to the advancement of patient care through productive collaboration with industry and its counterparts,” according to its Web site. “ACRE seeks to define and promote balanced policies at academic medical centers and within government that will enhance rather than interfere with our highly valued collaboration.”

One might say that the group is making waves by swimming against the incredibly strong current of disapproval for “conflicts of interest” (COI) in the pharmaceutical industry. That very term has become code for “corruption,” Dr. Stossel said. All commercial research and promotion is now suspected of being corrupt, investigators’ relationships with industry are considered to bias their research, other physicians’ relationships with industry are thought to cause them to become “hooked” and prescribe the company’s drugs more often, and all gifts and payments to physicians are considered fundamentally unethical.

In a luncheon speech provocatively entitled “Commercialism in Health Care--Sin or Salvation?” Dr. Stossel argued that these allegations are weak in substance or even false. He asserted that no relevant, valid evidence exists for commercial bias in continuing medical education (CME). In addition, he claimed, “Most citizens think physicians and industry should work together.”

The “toxic” policies on COI have costs, Dr. Stossel emphasized. Pharmaceutical companies that lose a lawsuit about off-label marketing, for instance, can be debarred—banned from doing business with Medicare and Medicaid. Rather than risk that devastating outcome, the companies pay huge sums to settle lawsuits, which diverts resources from research and development of new drugs. Other costs of COI policies include inhibition of collaboration between physicians and industry, elimination of physician training opportunities (due to elimination of unrestricted company grants for fellowships), compromised innovation, and decreased funding for CME.

Dr. Stossel’s speech was rapid-fire and contained some inflammatory words, such as his “demonization list” of practices that he said “confuse evidence with arbitrary preferences.” One item on that list was ghostwriting. “True ghostwriting doesn’t happen very often,” Dr. Stossel charged, faulting the “ghost police” for blurring the definitions of ghostwriting, enforcing overly rigid definitions of authorship, and adopting a romanticized concept of scientific publication as the sharing of new truths, neglecting more pragmatic motivations such as the need to get a job promotion or “get a signal out over the noise.”

Dr. Stossel is a distinguished hematologist who has served as president of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, editor in chief of Journal of Clinical Investigation, president of the American Society of Hematology. He is now editor-in-chief of Current Opinion in Hematology. Tom Gegeny, last year’s AMWA president, confirmed with me that Dr. Stossel received the McGovern Award for these contributions as well as for his work with ACRE. That award is presented in recognition of preeminent contributions to any of the various modes of medical communication.

Dr Stossel is founding scientist and a director of Critical Biologics Corporation, which is developing what may be a life-saving treatment for severe infections based on his patented discoveries. He is also a director of Velico (formerly Zymequest) Corporation, which is developing another of his research projects into an improved method for storing blood platelets for transfusion. He previously served on scientific advisory boards of the Biogen and Dyax Corporations.

Related links

Stossel TP. Has the hunt for conflicts of interest gone too far? Yes
BMJ 2008;336:476.

Lee K. Has the hunt for conflicts of interest gone too far? No. BMJ  2008;336:477.

Adult Learning Styles (Open Session 28)

by Kelly L. McCoy

Chances are that if you are a medical writer, educating adults is something you do, or try to do, fairly regularly. Think about it: Whether you are writing a CME program for a physician audience or a sales training module for a pharmaceutical company, your writing serves as an educational tool for the audience you are targeting.

Speaking about this topic—adult learning—at the national conference were two Northwestern Mutual employees, Paula Brzezinski, MEd and Peter Dickert, who were led by an AMWA-member moderator and former colleague of theirs, Lisa Wytrykus Kleppek.  The speakers admitted that it is not always possible to incorporate every learning style (e.g., auditory, visual, and tactile) in every type of training. What you can do is make the best use of the style that you are using. In doing so, they suggest that you take 7 important principles into consideration when developing educational content:
Relevance: Why are you educating the adult about this topic?
• Responsibility: The adult learners should be responsible for their own learning decisions.
• Life experiences: Build on what learners know and give them credit for what they know.
• Timeliness: Provide training at a time that is relevant to the learner.
• Engaging/applicability: Make learning relevant and allow for learner participation.
• Respectful environment: Encouragement, positivity, and being patient may go a long way in gaining an adult learner’s interest.
• Motivation: Understand what will motivate a learner to learn.
With these principles in mind, you will come to understand the rationale behind the training pieces you write, the goals of the program, and importantly, your audience, which will provide context for your content, which may be an important component of adult learning.

Key Findings From the AMWA-CMR Research Project (Open Session 11 and Poster)

by Sue Hudson

How are medical communication departments organized in major pharmaceutical companies? How is the productivity of writers and editors measured? What impact does outsourcing have on document quality or on productivity?  In an open session and poster presentation at this year's conference, results of a landmark 2009 survey conducted by AMWA and CMR International were reviewed.

Key findings:
1. Regulatory departments in most companies who responded to the survey outsource many document types, but not Phase 1, 2, and 3 clinical study reports.
2. The fact that 100% of respondents’ companies outsource the development of protocols for clinical studies was a surprise to the audience in the AMWA open session; discussion centered around the critical nature of these publications to any clinical study. (Maybe future research could find out why they’re outsourced.)
3. About half of manuscript writing is outsourced by big pharmaceutical and biotech companies that responded to the survey (good news for freelances and agencies).
4. Only 2.5% of respondents used out-of-country vendors (defined as vendors outside the country of the company doing the work; for example, for a company in Germany, sending a project to the U.S. would be out-of-country).
5. Document quality and lack of face-to-face communication were cited as obstacles to out-of-country outsourcing.
6. Resource constraints are the most common reason for the outsourcing of documents. Good experience with vendors, specialized vendor expertise, and cost were also noted.
7.   Managers in 57% of companies said the quality of work done by in-house staff was better than that of vendors.
8. Managers in 62% of companies said there was no difference between the productivity of in-house staff and outside vendors; when a difference was seen, in-house staff was more productive…. BUT
9. Documents developed by outside vendors took longer to produce than those developed by in-house staff.

(And 10. Research is hard work and takes a long time.)

View from a first-time attendee

by Afsaneh Motamed-Khorasani

I have been an AMWA member for many years but due to a busy schedule I was unable to attend the annual conferences and I do regret it now. As a first-time conference attendee, I found it well-organized and worth attending. The number of attendees and the scope of their expertise and experience in different fields are amazing. I had a chance to take part in all parts of the event including the opening reception, exhibition, open sessions, workshops and networking events and it was a wonderful experience that provided me with the opportunity to meet highly respected individuals with a variable number of years of experience in the field of medical writing. I will definitely look forward to upcoming events and will follow the AMWA activities closely as I value the professional support this group provides.

Program in Brief for Saturday, Nov. 13, 2010

7:00 - 5:30 Registration and Hospitality
7:30 - 8:45 Breakfast Roundtables
7:45 - 3:30 Posters
9:00 - 12:00 Open Sessions/Workshops
9:00 - 1:00 Tour: Behind the Scenes at the Milwaukee County Zoo
9:00 - 1:00 Tour: Architectural Tour of Milwaukee

1:00 - 1:45 2010-2011 Board of Directors Meeting
2:00 - 5:00 2010-2011 Executive Committee Meeting
2:00 - 5:15 Open Sessions/Workshops

5:30 - 6:45 President's Reception/Jacksonville Kickoff

Friday, November 12, 2010

Milwaukee cafes

by Ed Possing

So you like coffee but are getting a little bored with Starbucks? As a Milwaukee resident and coffee drinker I think I can help you out. I’ve come up with a short list of close(ish) cafés that serve delicious food and hot drinks. You may have to travel a little bit, but all of these spots can be reached by bus.

My personal favorite is Sven’s European Café (2699 South Kinnickinnic Avenue). It’s about 4 miles away from the conference center in the neighborhood known as Bay View. They serve the best paninis I’ve ever had -- and I eat a lot of paninis. Try the Picasso. On display throughout the café is a variety of local artwork. Oh, and they have wireless if that’s your thing.

If you’re feeling dangerous, head over to the Fuel Café on 818 E. Center Street.  Milwaukee is all about motorcycles and the Fuel Café celebrates that. The coffee is strong and the people are friendly in this motorcycle-themed coffee shop.  It’s about 9 miles away so you might want to get there on your Harley.

Regulating Health and Medical Information on the Internet (Open Session 24)

by Alisa Bonsignore

As medical writers, we have a good idea of how to separate truth from fiction when it comes to health information on the Internet. Unfortunately, the average consumer does not.

An increasing number of unskilled caregivers – ordinary people caring for their sick spouses or elderly parents – are looking for information about medical conditions, treatments, side effects and alternative therapies. In many cases, the information that they’re finding is not coming from knowledgeable sources, but rather from blogs and Wikipedia articles. Efforts are needed to ensure quality and confidentiality while protecting against fraud and misleading advice.

Established in 1996, the Health on the Net Foundation (HON) is a not-for-profit organization that points health seekers in the right direction.
“HON guides Internet users by highlighting reliable, comprehensible, relevant and trustworthy sources of online health and medical information, tackling the major obstacles of the Web:
The overwhelming quantity of information
The uneven quality of health information online”

Health-related Web sites can request a free evaluation for certification and are inspected by the HONcode committee based on a set of 8 guiding principles. A web site must be evaluated annually and is granted the HONcode seal as a trusted information source.

To date, more than 10 million Web pages have been certified in 102 countries and 35 languages. HONcode certified sites are more consistently found to have better and more reliable information than you would find through a common Google search.

For more information about HON and its mission, visit
2009-10 AMWA President Thomas Gegeny with keynote speaker Dr. William Lanier and Dr. Thomas Stossel, McGovern Award recipient. (Photo by C. Jackson)

Changes in Store for AMWA Freelance Directory

by Faith Reidenbach

I am thrilled to announce that on Wednesday during the conference, the AMWA Board of Directors approved a budget variance that will allow some changes to the Freelance Directory. These will take effect sometime in 2011 --  we don't know when yet.

The most exciting change, to me, is that the directory will become open access. That means anyone will be able to search it for free, not just AMWA members. Also, for nonmembers there will be no more lag time while payments are processed. In order to support this change, there will be a modest increase in the fee charged freelancers for their ads.

The directory will be searchable in 7 new ways:  by number of years of freelance experience, by overall number of years of experience in medical communications, by level of experience with different types of documents/media, by level of experience with various services, by level of experience with various therapeutic areas, by availability to work on-site, and by country. Keyword searching will remain available.

Thus, clients will be able to refine their searches to a much greater degree than they can currently. For example, they will be able to indicate that they want someone who has at least 2 years of freelance experience, who has at least some experience with substantive editing, who is an expert or has extensive expertise with PowerPoint, and who is an expert or has extensive expertise in oncology. To refine the search even further, the client will retain the ability to type in "breast cancer." When the list of freelancers' names comes up (in RANDOM order, as they already do), the client will be able to see people's degrees and credentials.

We will have a trial period for the directory that will allow freelancers to make suggestions. I believe that when we're through, no directory in the world will match ours for the ability to precisely target a search for a freelance medical communicator.

BIG THANKS to the other members of the Freelance Directory Committee: Peter Aitken, Brian Bass, Kate Casano, Alison Greenwood, Mary King, Mary Royer, and Naomi Ruff.

Thomas P. Stossel, MD, McGovern Award Recipient

Dr. Thomas P. Stossel at AMWA conference Thursday. Dr. Stossel gave a provocative address titled "Product Money in Health Care: Sin or Salvation." (Photo by C. Jackson)

It's All About Style

by Sue Hudson, Open Session 4 Moderator

You know you’re a medical writer when. . .

. . .you were one of about 200 writers and editors who packed a meeting room at the Milwaukee Convention Center Thursday morning to hear Cheryl Iverson and Devora Krischer talk about the AMA and CSE Style guides. (The speaker for the APA style guide was unable to join us.)

In response to Cheryl’s question, almost everyone said they use the print version of the AMA Manual of  Style, and many use the online version. But only one person raised her hand when she asked who had used the latest feature of the online site, My Style, which allows a user to save up to 15 searches and bookmark or annotate specific items. Cheryl , who led team of writers and editors who created the AMA guide, highlighted other useful features of the online guide, including:

the ability to copy and paste passages into a document, so you can show your author why you dared to edit his or her perfect prose
an electronic SI unit converter
quizzes on matters of style, which can help to prepare for the BELS exam or be used (with permission) for your own training classes
editor’s tips such as cures for “link rot” or how to write good titles for an article

Devora noted that the CSE style guide (Scientific Style and Formatting, 7th edition) goes beyond the medical and biological sciences, providing resources for scientists from geology to astronomy. With the lines blurring between genetics, chemistry, and biology, this resource is important for editors who need a broad background. Devora noted that the CSE guide contains information for writers and editors working on pieces designed for publication in European journals, including tips for converting between English and American spelling and usage. Work is beginning on a new edition of the CSE guide.

Audience members peppered the panel with questions, including how to choose a style guide when the target journal is unknown. The answer? Comply with the uniform requirement of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE). After that, it’s easy to tweak a manuscript for a specific publication and its style requirements, Cheryl and Devora agreed.

Related Links
AMWA home page for link to AMWA members-only discounts for AMA Manual of Style (hard copy and online versions)
Council of Science Editors information page on CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers

Available spaces in workshops, tours, and Saturday breakfast roundtables

If you're in Milwaukee and still have some open spaces in your conference schedule, there are a select few spots available in workshops, tours, and breakfast roundtables. For roundtable and workshop tickets, see the AMWA registration desk.

Saturday Breakfast Roundtables
Very limited openings:

S-15: Studying for the New CCMEP Exam
S-26 :The Principles and Pitfalls of Printing

Program in Brief for Friday, Nov. 12, 2010

 7:00 - 5:30 Registration, Hospitality, and Posters
 7:45 - 8:45 Poster Presentations: Visit With the Presenters
 8:00 - 4:00 Exhibits
 9:00 - 12:00 Open Sessions/Workshops

12:15 - 1:30 Alvarez Luncheon
 2:00 - 5:15 Open Sessions/Workshops
 2:00 - 5:00 Tour: What's Brewing in Milwaukee

 5:30 - 6:30 Annual BUsiness Meeting
 7:00 - 9:00 Sablack Dinner

The Delicate Balance

by Faith Reidenbach

So many guidelines have been issued about best practices in publishing medical journal articles, “it seems like more people are talking than listening,” William L. Lanier, MD said in AMWA's keynote address Thursday. “We are exhausting our energy in areas that are not productive.”

Dr. Lanier is Professor of Anesthesiology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and has been editor-in-chief of Mayo Clinic Proceedings since 1999. He offered a journal editor’s perspective on “the delicate balance” of the various stakeholders in medical publishing: pharmaceutical and medical device companies, investigators/authors, medical writers and authors’ editors, and journal editors.

Likening the current situation to Cold War, when the United States and Soviet Union built ever-increasing stockpiles of submarines and nuclear weapons, Dr. Lanier called for détente--an easing of tensions — between these groups. “If we don’t fix our problems, other people will fix them for us,” he said, referring to the National Institutes of Health and several other federal agencies that have an interest in seeing that medical journals are of high integrity. What’s needed, he said, is “guidelines centralization, simplification, and compliance.” His list of organizations that have attempted to improve the indexed medical literature filled an entire slide: ACRE, AMWA, CSE, ICMJE, IOM, ISMPP, MPIP, NIH, PhRMA, PRC, and WAME.

Dr. Lanier listed what he sees as the potential strengths and weaknesses of each group of stakeholders. Medical communicators’ strengths, he said, are experience in formulating communications that are accurate, clear, and concise; familiarity with the rules of style and formatting at numerous journals; appreciation of the use of accurate, informative figures and tables; and ability to safeguard authors against committing errors of omission or commission.

Weaknesses of medical writers and authors’ editors, Dr. Lanier said, can include misinterpreting the roles of industry and investigators/authors, buying in to the myth that physicians and scientists are too busy to conduct their own work, being eager to initiate manuscripts on behalf of nominal “authors,” and engaging in ghostwriting and ghost authorship. The latter practices are “not acceptable,” he said flatly, and he rejects ghosted manuscripts whenever he can spot them. That’s not as hard as it might seem, he said, because “the medical community has a collective knowledge and memory that astounds me.” Within each specialty or subspecialty, physicians come to know the people who publish — how they write and even what they cite.

When an audience member protested that ghostwritten scientific literature is as innocuous as other types of ghostwritten material, such as political speeches, Dr. Lanier responded emphatically, “I could not disagree more.” A politician, he said, is surrounded by people who are thoroughly acquainted with his or her positions, which are stated in pretty much the same terms in dozens or hundreds of speeches. Moreover, speeches deal in broad strokes and the bottom line. In contrast, the importance of a scientific paper lies in “the fine print” — the nuance — and it is investigators who can understand and employ that nuance when communicating.

A more detailed report on the keynote speech will appear in the March issue of the AMWA Journal.

[Post corrected. Speech was not recorded.]

Related links
AMWA Code of Ethics
AMWA Position Statement on the Contribution of Medical Writers to Scientific Publications

Lanier WL. Bidirectional Conflicts of Interest Involving Industry and Medical Journals: Who Will Champion Integrity? Mayo Clin Proc. 2009 Sep;84(9):771-5

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Escaping the hotel, chapter by chapter

by Deb Whippen

The good news is that 14 Florida AMWA members are trailing me to the nearby Italian restaurant for our annual chapter dinner. The worrisome news to me, as the dinner organizer, is that the reservation is for 8 and at least 2 other chapters are descending upon the same restaurant at the same time as our group. But once inside seats are found for all of us at 2 then 3 tables, with some discussion of fire laws and the impossibility of giving us all separate checks.

The restaurant is, in effect, full of AMWA meeting attendees. We just moved the conference, it seems, to this small room fragrant with garlic and tomato sauce. But it’s a chance to catch up, reacquaint, and find out what each other does plus learn what our Florida stories are. It’s a big state and we are all in regional pockets. Most of us are immigrants from north of the border and most of us like living in the Sunshine State.

Our chapter is not a ”well-resourced” chapter (read: not highly revenue-generating), but we have our chapter identity nonetheless.  Like many AMWA members, some of us need to find work, some of us are too busy, and some of need a new medical writing challenge.

Milwaukee is a nice city, but the prize of the AMWA Conference is next year’s conference: it will be in Jacksonville, Florida, and we have a whole year to prepare.

Meeting the Needs of Tomorrow’s Medical Writers: AMWA’s Expanded Professional Education Program

by Victoria White

A shorthand way of describing members of AMWA is to say that we are either writers learning to become scientists or scientists learning to become writers. That is a great description, as far as it goes, but if you are involved in designing a professional education program to meet AMWA members needs, it doesn’t take long for things to become much more complicated.

Where are you in your career? Who is your audience? What is your therapeutic area (to use that two-word combo that seems so common at these meetings)? What skills are you lacking? Are you familiar with current ethical standards? And stats, what about stats?

AMWA’s workshop-based education program debuted in 1979. In the past year, AMWA has unveiled an updated program that is designed to offer a wide range of workshop options in key areas of interest to medical communicators. For existing members, there is a new lingo to learn. For new members, well, they also have a lingo to learn.

In Open Session 3, moderated by Douglas Haneline, panelists Lawrence Liberti, Susan Aiello, and Dane Russo explained the new system.

In a nutshell: Members who have been working on core, science fundamentals, and advanced certificates under the old system can generally continue to do so. New members should look to the updated curriculum.

In the new system, the Essential Skills curriculum will be the place to start. Essential Skills courses will provide a basic grounding in editing, writing, communication, and bibliographic skills. An ethics workshop, which is being taught for the first time at this year’s conference and will be available toward the end of 2011 in the distance-learning format, is required for earning a certificate.

You know you're a medical writer when...

At Wednesday night's Creative Readings session, Donna Miceli read from the new book she edited, More Than 101 Ways You Know You're a Medical Writer. The idea for the book grew from a discussion at an AMWA conference a couple of years ago and features contributions offered by AMWA members. The book is available for sale at this year's meeting.

The Fonz Welcomes AMWA to Milwaukee

by Ed Possing

So you’ve been in Milwaukee for the AMWA conference for almost a day and you still haven’t visited the Fonz? That’s a shame. Yes, Milwaukee has a wonderful public museum, an inspiring art museum, and a thriving theatre scene. These locations are certainly are worth visiting if you have the time. But really, shouldn’t having your picture taken with Arthur Fonzarelli be your top cultural priority while in Milwaukee?  A life-sized bronze statue of Fonzi is waiting for you right now at the Milwaukee River Walk just south of Wells Street (117 E. Wells St.). Take a trip to the River Walk--a trip back in time. 


Program in Brief for Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010

 7:00 - 5:30 Registration and Hospitality
 7:30 - 8:45 Breakfast Roundtables
 8:00 - 4:00 Exhibits
 9:00 - 10:30 Keynote Address
10:45 - 12:00 Open Sessions

12:15 - 1:30 McGovern Luncheon
 2:00 - 5:15 Open Sessions/Workshops

 5:30 - 6:15 Chapter Greet & Go
 8:15 - 9:15 Coffee and Dessert Klatches

Tips from a First-Time Conference Coach

by Sunil Patel

Four years ago, I wore a red dot on my badge, signifying that it was my first time attending the annual conference. I was assigned a conference coach, but I was unable to meet her because we both ended up having travel issues. Thus, my ability to coach someone on how to best take advantage of the annual conference comes completely from my own experience, one moment of genuine inspiration, and this guy named Patrick.

Embrace the Power of the Red Dot
Newbies, wear your red dot proudly! It marks you as a brave soul who has taken the plunge into AMWA conferencing, and it provides a perfect opening for people to talk to you. Attendees have been known to swarm Red Dots, asking them whether they're new to AMWA or just a first-time conference attendee, how they became interested in medical writing, or what workshops they're taking. Cover yourself in red dots if you think it will make you more visible, although it may just make people think you have a terrible rash.

Non-newbies, know that it is your duty to engage Red Dots in conversation! For, lo, you were once a Red Dot, and you were scared to talk to people because you thought maybe they thought you had a terrible rash.

Seek Out the Ribbons and Pins and Stickers
Everyone has a badge. These badges display one's name, affiliation, and location, but some badges are further adorned with ribbons and pins and stickers. If you see someone with a trail of ribbons under her badge, talk to her! People wearing ribbons are workshop leaders, Fellows, long-time members, panelists--in short, people active in AMWA. These people are excited enough about the organization that they're contributing to the conference, and that makes them great resources. They're going to love to talk to new people and get them just as excited as they are. If someone's wearing a pin, she's gone through the AMWA curriculum, so you can ask her about what workshops to take. The yellow heart denotes conference coaches, people who are already primed to help you make the best of your time here. It's hard to miss the pieces of flair, so keep an eye out for them and talk to the people they're attached to!

Talk to the Floaters

It's hard to talk to people. Especially at a reception when everyone gathers around little tables or clusters in the middle of the room. It can feel awkward to break into someone's conversation. Chances are, you're not the only one who feels like that. Chances are, someone else may just be standing around looking for someone to talk to, not knowing which direction to go. Go talk to him! Maybe you're the person he was wanting to talk to; he just didn't know it yet.

Network with a Rifle, Not a Shotgun
No, I am not advocating open season on conference attendees. The best thing about AMWA is its members, after all. And there are a lot. It can be overwhelming to try to meet everyone and have a meaningful discussion and exchange business cards. My advice is: Don't. Rather than try to meet everyone for a short time, focus on a few people for a longer time. If you connect with someone, you have many opportunities to strengthen that connection! Maybe you're in the same workshop. Maybe you're interested in the same open session. Sit at the same table at lunch or dinner. Go out to lunch on Saturday, when there's a two-hour block of unscheduled time. Maybe there's some local event happening Saturday night that you can attend. By the end of the conference, you'll have made not only a professional colleague who will remember you but also a new friend!

In the end, these tips are somewhat irrelevant because AMWA members are very friendly and they want to talk to you. The AMWA conference is a magical place full of wonderful people! But remember: Chuck Norris doesn't hand out a business card. He roundhouse kicks his contact information into your forehead.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A quick conference welcome message

A welcome message from this year's annual conference administrator, Barbara Snyder.

Tips for People at AMWA 2010 in Milwaukee

by Faith Reidenbach

I know all you writers are wondering, “How much is the WiFi?” From the sleeping rooms in the Hilton, it’s $9.95. You can enter a credit card (not recommended on an unsecured network), or call down to the front desk for a password and the fee will be charged to your room. WiFi is free in the lobby of the Hilton and in the Starbucks that’s inside that hotel.

Need some bottled water or Band-Aids and don't want to pay gift shop prices? There’s a Walgreens inside The Shops at Grand Avenue, a 3-level shopping mall that’s a short walk from the hotel. There’s also a large food court there. The main entrance to the mall is at Wisconsin and Third but you can enter through the Boston Store, a department store that’s visible from the street that runs between the Hilton and the convention center.

Don’t forget that AMWA has posted a Milwaukee Dining Guide at

Program in Brief for Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010

10:00 - 1:00 BELS Testing
11:30 - 7:00 Registration and Hospitality

1:00 - 4:00 2009-2010 Board of Directors Meeting
1:30 - 5:00 Tour: Milwaukee City Tour
4:15 - 5:00 Chapter Delegates Session
4:15 - 5:00 New Member Orientation

5:00 - 6:00 Conference Coach Connection
6:00 - 8:00 Welcome Reception sponsored by RPS; exhibits open
8:15 - 9:30 Creative Readings

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A call for bloggers and tweeters

Once again, a team of AMWA members will be blogging and tweeting about the annual conference. If you are interested in being part of the team, please send an e-mail to me at No blogging experience required. Scroll through the 2009 conference blog below to get an idea of what we have in mind. Audio, video, and photos would be a welcomed addition to the blog.

--Victoria White