Learn about careers in Medical Writing

Versatile PhD: Careers in Medical Writing

Next week, I will be a panelist on the Versatile PhD forum for a discussion on “PhD Careers in Medical Writing”.

The discussion is free and open to all. I, and 3 other panelists, will answer any question about a career in medical writing.

The discussion will take place all week, between October 17 and 21, and anyone can drop by and participate during that time.

Find more information and join the discussion at Versatile PhD.

Please join us and ask away. I’m looking forward to the conversation.

Why publication guidelines were made

Sugar versus butter

Ah, times have changed. An article in JAMA Internal Medicine reveals the practices that led to the 1967 publication of a 2-part literature review on “Dietary Fats, Carbohydrates and Atherosclerotic Disease.”

In short, the review articles were written with heavy involvement from the Sugar Research Foundation, which has since become the Sugar Association with a mission to “promote the consumption of sugar through sound scientific principles while maintaining an understanding of the benefits that sugar contributes to the quality of wholesome foods and beverages.”

From a the perspective of a medical writer acquainted with publication guidelines, the current article lays out a troubling path to publication for the 2-part review. Continue reading Why publication guidelines were made

Do you use these 50 terms in psychology writing?

illustration of brain regions studied in mental illness ACC, amygdala, hippocampus, prefrontal cortex

Psychology and psychiatry often study phenomena that are “open concepts,” which necessitates precision in the language used to describe the phenomena. This is the argument posed by the authors of a recent paper that describes 50 terms that are commonly used in psychological and psychiatric scientific literature and that the authors believe are incorrectly used.

The 50 terms are broken down into 5 broad categories. Some of these terms apply to scientific literature in general and are not specific to psychology and psychiatry.
Continue reading Do you use these 50 terms in psychology writing?

GPP3: New guidelines for publishing company-sponsored medical research

Pellet of Lymphocyte Cells Created in the Centrifuge

Companies that sponsor medical research should pay attention to an updated guideline that was recently released. The document, Good Publication Practice for Communicating Company-Sponsored Medical Research“, more commonly known as GPP3, is the third iteration of the guideline, which goes back to 2003.

The guideline covers all types of documents published in peer-reviewed journals (original research articles, short reports, reviews, letters to the editor) and presentations at scientific congresses and meetings (oral presentations, posters, abstracts).
Continue reading GPP3: New guidelines for publishing company-sponsored medical research

The CMPP credential

You may be wondering what the CMPP designation means in my professional title. It stands for “Certified Medical Publication Professional” and is implemented by the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP).

After hours of studying and a lengthy test covering topics such as gap analysis, authorship, publication misconduct, journal selection, and reporting guidelines, I was pleased to learn that I passed the exam. From ISMPP:

The CMPP credential certifies the following:
  • Expertise as a medical publication professional
  • Commitment to ethical and transparent data dissemination standards
  • Leadership in upholding and fostering integrity and excellence in medical publication
  • Proficiency in good publication practices

What does that mean for me and my clients? Well, I am regularly looking for ways to continue and expand my education and the CMPP certification helped push me toward that goal. My clients have another concrete measure by which they can evaluate my experience and an assurance that my work meets best-practice standards.

Two big changes at the NIH will affect your research

It has been a busy spring at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Two major changes were made to NIH policies that affect research funding. Here’s an overview of the changes and how to respond to them. Continue reading Two big changes at the NIH will affect your research

“Science is Awesome.” Dr. Rabiah Mayas is our Scientist of the Month.

Panoramic view of Mars from NASA's Pathfinder rover.

Dr. Rabiah Mayas was honored as April’s Scientist of the Month by the Chicago chapter of the Association for Women in Science. I had the pleasure of interviewing her. We met in her office at the Museum of Science and Industry, high above the exhibits of tornadoes, chick hatcheries, and a German U-boat, to discuss her career and her love of science.

Multicolored 3D renderings of participants heads.
The Fab Lab can scan and produce 3D models of participants heads. Courtesy of the Museum of Science and Industry.

I couldn’t fit everything into the profile article; here are some more interesting nuggets that I learned along the way:

  • A Post-It-filled “Crazy Idea List” hangs on the wall outside her office, the result of a brainstorming session with her team at MSI.
  • The Fab Lab has a laser cutter where participants can make their own jewelry and holiday ornaments.
  • Rabiah manages an NSF-funded project, “The Art of Science Learning,” in which participants attend workshops on sculpture, jazz improvisation, and juggling. The goal of the project is to see if arts-based training increases scientific creativity.
  • MSI doesn’t house an active science research program on site, unlike other Chicago museums such as the Adler Planetarium and the Field Museum.
  • The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft recently awoke after a 31 month hibernation on its way out to analyze a comet.

Is there somebody who you think deserves to be nominated for a Scientist of the Month award by AWIS-Chicago? Please let me know about a deserving individual who “promotes the advancement of women in the fields of science, technology and engineering (STEM).”

How drug and device companies should distribute scientific literature about unapproved uses

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides guidance to pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers about distributing information on unapproved uses of their products. In 2009, the FDA released what is commonly referred to as “Good Reprint Practices.“* The FDA recognized that off-label or unapproved uses could be important to the standard of clinical care and to health care providers knowledge.

The guidelines were meant to outline how this information should be disseminated, through what types of publications, and how the information should be qualified. The ultimate goal was to allow companies to share scientific research about unapproved uses without promoting these uses. Continue reading How drug and device companies should distribute scientific literature about unapproved uses

Traumatic Brain Injury: A serious and underdiagnosed condition

I’m awoken in the middle of the night to my husband mumbling gibberish. During the day, he can’t recall words, such as magazine, in normal conversation. He has difficulty concentrating when reading dialogue. He loses his balance on a casual walk around our block.

You may be thinking that my husband is elderly or afflicted with dementia, but you’d be wrong. He’s a healthy guy in his late 20s. His symptoms are the result of a severe brain injury he sustained. For several months after his injury in 2009, I witnessed the life-altering effects that a brain injury can have and the frustration that my husband experienced dealing with his new condition.

In honor of Brain Injury Awareness Month, I wanted to provide information about monitoring and diagnosing brain injury because the outcome of a person who has sustained a brain injury depends on a quick and accurate diagnosis. Continue reading Traumatic Brain Injury: A serious and underdiagnosed condition

Why hire a medical writer?

Professional medical communicators (writers, editors, or developers) are skilled at clearly communicating science. Since they are intimately familiar with style guides, reporting requirements, and proper English usage, professional writers can efficiently process your scientific data into a coherent document.

This still life depicts a white ceramic coffee cup in the background, which was placed next to a stack of books. The uppermost book in this stack was opened to the last page read, bookmarking the reader’s place in this text. In the foreground was a computer keyboard atop which a pair of reading glasses had been placed.
Image taken by Amanda Mills, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To someone outside the field of medical communications, the value of a medical writer is not always obvious. You might ask yourself “Why should I work with a medical writer when I can write up my data?”

A good medical writer will add these qualities to your project:

  1. Efficiency – The writer specializes in creating documents that are logically organized, readable, and scientifically thorough. A professional medical writer can complete the job in a shorter amount of time than someone who does not write for a living.
  2. Eye for detail – The writer will take care of endless details that most authors are unaware of but publishers and regulatory bodies take seriously.
  3. Adherence to guidelines and requirements – The writer will seamlessly implement any formatting or content requirements in your document, which will go a long way to facilitate the publication or approval process.

 

Want data to back up these claims?

A survey of journal editors showed that “poorly written, excessive jargon” topped the list of problems seen in manuscripts, with most editors reporting that it happens “frequently.” This was followed closely by “inadequate or inappropriate presentation” as the second most common problem.
From Byrne DW. Publishing Your Medical Research Papers. 1998.

A recent study showed that authors and editors are not adhering to reporting guidelines in manuscripts that present data from animal studies. “As many as 55% (95% CI 46.7%–62.3%) of studies, however, included analyses based on what we consider to be inappropriate statistical tests.”
From Baker D, et al. “Two Years Later: Journals Are Not Yet Enforcing the ARRIVE Guidelines on Reporting Standards for Pre-Clinical Animal Studies.PLoS Bio, 2014)

“When professional medical writers help authors prepare manuscripts, these manuscripts are less likely to be retracted for misconduct, are more compliant with best-practice reporting guidelines, and are accepted more quickly for publication.
From Wolley KL, et al. “Poor compliance with reporting research results.” Curr Med Res Opin, 2012.

 

Top 10 attributes of a good Medical Writer, courtesy of SIRO Clinpharm