Thursday, August 27, 2009

Online Education & Medical Writing

From a NYT article:

A recent 93-page report on online education, conducted by SRI International for the Department of Education, has a starchy academic title, but a most intriguing conclusion: “On average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.”

I've always thought that online education has many benefits (accessibility and affordability), but wasn't sure about its effectiveness when compared to on-site training. This is reassuring, because we are trying to take medical writing education online.

What is your experience with online education? Do you think you learn more than in a classroom setting?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

CME Position for a Medical Writer in Dallas TX

The Medical Writer provides content for continuing medical education (CME) activities including, print, online and live meetings as well as non-CME publications such as peer-reviewed journals and direct-to-patient magazines. This is a unique opportunity to apply your years of science training to an alternative career. You will interface with key thought leaders in the oncology community and your work will make a direct impact in the dissemination of cutting-edge information.

Functions include:
Research and evaluate current medical and scientific literature.
Develop content to meet internal customer requirements and requests including but not limited to:

-Needs assessments for grant proposals;
-Educational objectives and agendas for CME meetings;
-Articles for newsletters and journals;
-Slide kits;
-CME documentation.

Work collaboratively with thought leaders, program chairs, consulting faculty and supporters as necessary for content development.
Attend company and other relevant scientific meetings.
Review articles and slide sets submitted by faculty for scientific accuracy.
Meet established production timelines regularly and consistently.
Provide data necessary for departmental reporting activities including regular status reports as established by Director.
Assist in training new Medical Writers as requested.

You are well qualified for this opportunity if you hold a Ph.D. in a scientific discipline and, ideally, have 2 years of medical or scientific writing experience.

If you are interested in pursuing this opportunity, please email to all of the following:

1. Resume in Word or Txt format
2. Salary requirement or history
3. Work authorization (H1B, green card holder, citizen, etc)
4. Relocation considerations, if applicable.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Medical Writing and Ghostwriting

I think this was going to happen sooner or later: the US Senate is moving to stop scientific ghostwriting.

In the past decade (probably more), pharmaceutical companies have been hiring writers to prepare positive journal articles about their products and then pay researchers to lay their names as authors. This ghostwriting practice has been abused to the extent that these papers try to minimize the risks of drugs that have been otherwise shown as high-risk in independent research.

What strikes me about this issue (and the info in this NYT article) is the involvement of a medical writing company:

The documents offer a look at the inner workings of DesignWrite, a medical writing company hired by Wyeth to prepare an estimated 60 articles favorable to its hormone drugs. In one publication plan, for example, DesignWrite wrote that the goal of the Wyeth articles was to de-emphasize the risk of breast cancer associated with hormone drugs, promote the drugs as beneficial and blunt competing drugs. The articles were published in medical journals between 1998 and 2005 — continuing even though a big federal study was suspended in 2002 after researchers found that menopausal women who took certain hormones had an increased risk of invasive breast cancer and heart disease.
Sometimes medical writers walk a thin line when working for the pharmaceutical industry, but this is a blatant sell-out that gives a bad name to our profession. It used to be that the ghostwriter's goal was to organize the researcher's notes and data into a cohesive and clear article. I don't see anything wrong with that. But to publish marketing material as research is simply unethical. Click here to read an old post about AMWA's position on ghostwriting.

I hope universities take a stand against this issue and enforce their regulations on pharma-sponsored faculty.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Become a CME Specialist

I've asked Johanna Lackner Marx to share some ideas about how medical writers can increase their marketability during this slow economy. As many of you know, Johanna is the Founder and President of InQuill Medical Communications, LLC. She has been a trainer and consultant in the CME industry for 15 years. She has created a comprehensive course on specifically geared toward medical writers interested in entering the CME industry, CME Training for Medical Writers.

In a series entitled "Succeed in a Down Economy - Put CME to Your Toolbox", Johanna will write about how medical writers can benefit from the recent changes in CME.

Part 1: Using the Slump to Get Over the Hump

Guest Blog by Johanna Lackner Marx, MPH, MSW
InQuill Medical Communications, LLC
CME Training for Medical Writers

There is no doubt that the recession is affecting a lot of freelance medical writers. A friend of mine, who writes consumer health and patient education articles, recently told me that her business has decreased forty percent. Like a lot of us, she chose the freelance/entrepreneurial route over steady employment in order to be her own boss and have more control over her time and the type of work she does. Now, she says, she’s lucky to get enough new work to cover her basic expenses. She spends her day combing the Internet, sending out her CV, reaching out to contacts, and making cold-calls to strangers. Sound familiar? Last week during a well-deserved rant of frustration, she told me, “Until things turn around, I might as well use this time to learn statistics so I can finally tell the difference between a risk ratio and an odds ration instead of faking it.”

Using the slow down in the market to learn another skill is a good idea and a lot of writers are doing it. This year AMWA is offering over 100 educational sessions during the 3-day annual conference in October so members can “…gain new areas of expertise that can enhance their skills in the many facets of medical communication.” In addition to AMWA’s workshops, Diego lists eleven medical writing programs in his e-book Becoming a Medical Writer. He recently shared with me that his website, has gotten a record number of hits in the past six months. The interest and demand is there.

When students fill out their enrollment form for CME Training for Medical Writers, they are asked to state why they decided to take my course. I’ve been surprised by the uniformity of responses. A few students have been successful regulatory or clinical trials writers, but want to work in a field where there is a more immediate sense of mission. Others are just starting out as medical writers and have decided they want to learn how to do CME. But the majority of students, like my friend, are accomplished medical writers who have taken a financial hit and want to add to their skill set so they can be more marketable.

In my next blog, I will tell you about some of the recent changes in the CME industry and how these changes have created a great opportunity for medical writers who know the regulations, the CME development process, and how to create effective content that physicians learn, retain, and use in the clinical setting.