Blog Archives

AMWA’s 71st Annual Conference

Registration is open for AMWA’s 71st Annual Conference in Jacksonville, FL, October 20th-22nd this year.

If you’re wondering whether or not to attend, here are 10 Great Reasons Why You Should!

Cover One Of The Open Sessions

Additionally, you can make the most of your AMWA Annual Conference attendance – AMWA are looking for writers willing to cover one of the 37 open sessions for the AMWA Journal.

Dr. Kristina Wasson-Blader advises AMWA members: “Writing a summary for the Journal will give you a published piece and also bring the conference to those who can’t attend the conference or a particular session. If you are interested in writing for the Journal, send an email to the AMWA Journal Editor at amwajournaleditor@editorialrx.com.”

Step 7: Join AMWA

Time for Step 6 of the “Beginner’s Medical Writing” series – a step-by-step guide to getting yourself started in freelance medical writing – an extremely basic guide for making the first move into medical writing.

If you’re just arriving, feel free to check out the earlier steps:

The next best step, if you haven’t already jumped the gun and done so, is to join AMWA – the American Medical Writers Association.

Here are the Top 10 Reasons To Join AMWA!

The current annual membership fee is $155 ($55 if you’re a student). If you’re hesitant to spend this much money without really knowing what it’s about or what it might be able to do for you, I’d advise checking to see if there’s a local chapter anywhere near you. Local chapters hold meetings throughout the year, and you can still attend these without being a member – you just end up paying about $5 extra on the local meeting fee than members pay.

This way, you can attend a meeting and get to network with some friendly medical writers local to your area – this will certainly help you get a feel for the organization and how you can benefit from it.

So check out their website and at least consider attending a local meeting – I guarantee you’ll feel inspired afterwards!

Step 6: Launch Yourself On LinkedIn

Time for Step 6 of the “Beginner’s Medical Writing” series – a step-by-step guide to getting yourself started in freelance medical writing – an extremely basic guide for making the first move into medical writing.

If you’re just arriving, feel free to check out the earlier steps:

Back in Step 3 I urged you to consider using some form of social media for your work. This is especially useful for those of you working freelance, but is also helpful even if you’re getting into medical writing and intend to work as a full time employee somewhere.

If you only wanted to use one networking site, LinkedIn would be the one I’d advise. Launched in 2003, this is one of the oldest of the social networks, and is the one most used for business – and it recently stole the spot as 2nd largest social network from MySpace.

The principle behind LinkedIn kind of reminds me of online dating. You create a profile that describes you at your most stellar, and make connections with professionals in similar industries, or anyone who you think could potentially be a useful contact for you.

Advantages Of LinkedIn

  • It’s low-maintenance: With Twitter and Facebook, you need to maintain somewhat of a regular presence to get the best use out of them. With LinkedIn, however, the majority of your effort is required in just setting up your profile. Then it just requires occasional tweaks – inviting new networking connections, adding new employers to your resume, sharing occasional links to useful articles or sites. So it doesn’t require you to do much at all.
  • It’s an online business profile for you: Even if you don’t have a website or blog, you can certainly advertise yourself very effectively on LinkedIn.
  • Job searching:  Not only do many employers advertise vacancies on LinkedIn, but many also search the site for prospective candidates to see if they can cherry-pick someone appropriate for their needs. Another reason to make sure that your profile is as perfect as possible there!

 

Getting the most out of LinkedIn

  • Create a profile that’s as complete as possible: This is your online resume, so flaunt yourself! Adding as much detail as possible will increase the likelihood that your usefulness can be spotted. LinkedIn also has an option to enable you to upload a pdf version of your resume. Add a photo too – it makes you much more “real”! If you do have a website, blog or a Twitter profile, you can share these on your profile page too. And if you use Twitter, you can activate your settings so that your tweets show up on your profile page.
  • Ask for testimonials: If former colleagues or employers also use LinkedIn, ask them to give you a testimonial on the site. Every little helps.
  • Add connections: Chances are, you’ll already know someone to add to your LinkedIn connections list, so start there! Feel free to connect there with me too. My advice is to gradually add as many people as possible. You’ll find that random people will start sending you invites to connect – and you can do the same too, as you come across more people who you feel might be useful to network with.
  • Join groups: LinkedIn has a group networking facility too – various groups have been set up by other members or organizations, and you simply “request to join” any that take your fancy. For instance, I’ve joined the AMWA group, as well as my local AMWA New England Chapter group (although you have to actually be paid members of AMWA itself to join these on LinkedIn). But there are numerous others such as “Science Writers”. You simply search under “groups” in the search box to see what is available. And another good way to find new groups is to look at which ones your connections have joined – this is displayed on their profile.
  • Share: Once you’ve joined groups, you’ll be able to share links or even just comments for discussion, or questions on their page. If you don’t like the idea of doing this as soon as you join the site, start off by simply joining in on any discussions that pop up. That way you’ll be unofficially introducing yourself gradually, and soon you’ll feel better about sharing something with the group. Even something as simple as sharing a useful site or article that you come across can be helpful for others there.
  • Job search: The search box allows you to search for jobs too. Many companies are now advertising their vacancies on LinkedIn, so it’s a great place to network. Also, recruiters will often post jobs on the discussion board of some group pages, so that’s another good source of positions.

 

Some Useful LinkedIn Links!

Miriam Salpeter is one of my favorite online job coaches, and her blog contains a lot if useful material about social networking for business.

I also came across this free, downloadable chapter of her book: “Social Networking For Career Success” which has some useful information in it for using LinkedIn.

And hot off the press, I just discovered How To Get Around In LinkedIn (via Twitter!).

So go ahead, set up your profile on LinkedIn, and please feel free to join me there. And if it all seems like a lot of work to do at once, why not just devote 20 minutes each day to it until you’ve completed it?

 

Taste Buds #3

“Taste Buds” is my way of sharing recipes (that are at least vaguely healthy) with those of you who are:

  • Busy
  • Food lovers
  • Always looking for some new, easy, & (somewhat) nutritious recipe
Here are this week’s 3 options:
Join me on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn

Step 5: Try Twitter

Time for Step 4 of the “Beginner’s Medical Writing” series – a step-by-step guide to getting yourself started in freelance medical writing – an extremely basic guide for making the first move into medical writing.

If you’re just arriving, feel free to check out the earlier steps:

 

Back in Step 3 I mentioned the benefits of considering some aspect of social networking when you start up in medical writing – I think this is really useful whether you are considering freelance work, or if you are a full time employee somewhere.

I thought I’d give Twitter a plug today. I never thought I’d use Twitter – socially I’ve used Facebook for a couple of years, and whenever I’d hear people talk about Twitter, I just didn’t “get” it – I couldn’t wrap my head around how it operated, or what use it could possibly be.

 

 

A few friends who use it for business had told me I should definitely give it a go. I resisted the idea for a few months, but then decided to try it out – what harm could it do? If all else failed, surely I could abandon it, and at least know I’d tried?

So I joined a couple of months ago, and I love it!

 

How Does It Work?

Twitter is basically a service for sending and receiving status updates – so if you’ve used Facebook, you’ll be used to writing and reading these short communications. Twitter’s short communications, however, are capped at 140 characters (letters, periods, dashes, etc).

So it makes for a great way to get a short message out to people: “Free coffee at the cafeteria, 2-4pm”, or maybe a link to a cool photo. And for business purposes, people often use it to share links to web pages – whether something useful that they came across and want to share, or a link to their personal site to share an article, announcement, or product.

Due to the 140 character cap, you have to not only get creative in how you make your announcement sometimes, but you also need to shorten your weblink, otherwise this will quickly eat into your 140 characters. There are numerous applications that you can use to shorten your links (you can do a Google search to find one that you prefer), but I use bitly - it’s very simple to use:

  • Copy and paste your desired weblink into the search box
  • Hit the “shorten” button to the right of the box
  • A shortened link will magically appear
  • Copy & paste this into the Twitter text box
  • Add a short accompanying message before tweeting

 

Why Join?

I was skeptical, I just didn’t see how useful it would be – I thought it sounded quite bizarre, all these “status updates”! What use could that possibly be!? But I have been very pleasantly surprised. It’s been a wonderful way for me to meet up online with other medical and freelance writers, other medical professionals, blogs, and organizations that I feel are useful to follow.

So I’d urge you to give it a go – and like I decided for myself previously – if you don’t like it, you can abandon mission. Join up today – come up with a short Twitter handle (that’s basically your username – it’ll have a “@” preceding it) – mine is @BioScientific - don’t worry too much about choosing the perfect Twitter handle, you can always change it later if you feel like.

 

Some Useful Guides To Using Twitter

Rather than go on ad nauseum on how to use Twitter (and I’m still getting the hang of it myself!), here are some links to very useful articles that describe it much more concisely than I could!

 

The Beginner’s Guide To Twitter

The Writer’s Guide To Twitter

How To Use Hashtags

6 Tools To Grow Your Twitter Network

How To Get Noticed On Twitter

 

Hope to see you over at Twitter!

 

Join me on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

 

Fleas And Pets

Fleas are no longer a summertime problem – they can bother your pet all year round, thanks to our cosy, centrally-heated homes that allow flea eggs to incubate and hatch, even in the winter.

I’ve written some articles for the HappyTails Canine Spa, so if you want to control fleas, make it a two-sided attack on the animal as well as his environment.

 

 

There are many varieties of flea control products available for cats and dogs now – your veterinarian can advise you on which is best for your pet (especially if he has developed problems such as secondary pyoderma due to flea allergy dermatitis). But if you have a dog and love trying natural products, check out the online store while you’re over at HappyTails they have some wonderful products!

 

 

 

 

Medical Writers Speak Out

Thought I’d share some short YouTube videos for those of you who are thinking about branching into medical writing.

 

 

These medical writers provide some insight into their work, as well as some tips on which areas might suit you best:

 

The Art Of Medical Writing

How To Get Into Medical Writing

Starting A Career in Medical Writing

Freelance Medical Writing

A Few Words About Life In MedComms

 

Join me on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

 

Taste Buds #2

“Taste Buds” is my way of sharing recipes (that are at least vaguely healthy) with those of you who are:

  • Busy
  • Food lovers
  • Always looking for some new, easy, & (somewhat) nutritious recipes

Here are this week’s 3 options:

 

Join me on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn

Step 4: Using Your Blog

Time for Step 4 of the “Beginner’s Medical Writing” series – a step-by-step guide to getting yourself started in freelance medical writing – an extremely basic guide for making the first move into medical writing.

If you’re just arriving, feel free to check out the earlier steps:

Hopefully by now, you’ve set up a blog, and maybe even started out with some business-related social networking. On that note, I’ve been asked to discuss what purpose a blog can serve for a medical writer, so here goes!

WHY USE A BLOG?

To Advertise Your Business:

If we’re not out there, nobody will find us. Work is a little bit like dating (any kind of work, whether you want to be an employee or self-employed) – if you don’t put yourself out there, it’s difficult to be found.

Whether we like it or not, the world’s gone digital. The days of locating businesses purely through those huge, hard copies of your telephone book or Yellow Pages are history – the first port of call for most people looking for any kind of business service is now an online search. I don’t consider myself a very digital person, but I know this is the case for me. The instant gratification of finding what you want after hitting a few keys on your keyboard, is tough to beat – I can’t remember the last time I ever picked up a Yellow Pages, let alone owned one. So if we don’t take advantage of this venue, we are missing out on an important way to self-advertise.

 

To Showcase Your Potential:

Your blog can provide a perfect way for you to show off your work. This can be especially useful for non-scientists who want to break into medical writing, but have no prior work clips to share with potential clients. I don’t know about you, but although I love the ability to shop online, I tend not to order things that are “sight unseen”. Your blog helps your work to be seen.

 

It Makes You Real:

A blog can also allow readers and potential clients to get a sense of who you are. The digital arena has a real-time advantage over a listing in a telephone book – it allows you to engage with people as often as you choose to do so. Updating your blog regularly provides something that a telephone book listing cannot deliver – the ability to connect with others. Everything you share on your blog allows readers to get a glimpse of your personality and passion. These regular connections help to make you real – potential clients will see that you have a zest for writing, and also get a feel for your writing tone – these things definitely help when it comes to deciding who to choose for help with a writing project.

 

To Use As Your Portfolio:

You can also put your blog to good use as a showcase for your resume or portfolio. The ability to add different pages to your blog enables you to use it to almost any advantage. Some people add a resume page, or a portfolio page where readers can link up to clips of the writer’s work that may have been published online. Or you can even upload pdf versions of manuscripts for viewing.

 

To Keep You In The Loop:

A blog is such a great way to keep you from feeling as if you’re all alone in the writing world, and this is probably especially true if you are working 100% freelance. In an office environment, you have instant connection with workmates if you need to bounce ideas off someone, or get a second opinion on something. When running a solo business, you don’t have this luxury. Your blog, however, can serve as a medium for this. It provides you with an almost instant way to receive ideas, comments, feedback, opinions etc. And from all across the world too! The cyber-connectivity can keep you grounded in your business venture, allowing you to network with others who can help you out, even if just by way of moral support.

 

To Help Others:

Never underestimate what you might have to offer someone. Whether it’s an encouraging word, a snippet of information, or just simple enjoyment, I guarantee that your blog will provide something for someone at some point. Someone will leave you some positive feedback, or send you an email to thank you for something, or ask more questions. And you can guarantee that your blog will be useful for many who don’t let you know – think of all the material that you read online each day – do you leave comments each time you find something fun, interesting, useful etc? I know I don’t – but it’s certainly not for the lack of interest – we all read a lot, but simply don’t have the time to comment on everything we enjoy. So don’t forget, someone loves you! A little altruism never hurt anyone.

 

Having a blog isn’t going to make you successful overnight, and it won’t bring clients flocking within a month if you’re new to the business and still trying to get your foot in the door. It does, however, get you out there, and lets clients see that you are real and also serious about what you do. I feel that it keeps you accountable too - a huge help for someone starting out, especially a non-scientist without publications to use as a springboard – your blog can help you to “keep on keeping on”. Given that it’s easier to give up than keep fighting the fight, if you commit to writing a little something regularly – even once a week – you can maintain business motivation while trying to catch some initial projects, and also build up your online portfolio in the meantime.

So if you are new to your medical writing business, think of your blog as the first step in self-marketing. Maintaining it can be time-consuming, but nevertheless, very beneficial. Writing begets writing.

 

What’s your favorite use for your blog?

 

Join me on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

 

Cat Parasite Linked To Brain Cancer In People

A third of us are infected with Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that can be transmitted to us by animals. Cats represent a major source of this organism, and are therefore a common route of infection for us since they continually shed the parasite. Consequently we can become infected with Toxoplasma gondii if we come into contact with anything that is contaminated with the organism as a result of a cat’s shedding. Some ways include:

  • Contaminated soil  (when gardening in an area where cats have defecated)
  • Cleaning the cat litter box
  • Contaminated water
  • Undercooked meat (lamb, pork, and venison especially – these animals are infected by cats in the same way as we are)
  • Cooking utensils coming into contact with undercooked, infected meats

Although many people are infected with this parasite, most are unaffected by it, and show no clinical symptoms since the immune system effectively prevents it from causing disease; however, clinical toxoplasmosis can be a real problem for people with weakened immune systems, such as:

  • HIV infected patients
  • Chemotherapy patients
  • Organ-transplant recipients

Additionally, it poses a particular risk for unborn babies. A  woman who comes into contact with the organism for the first time during her pregnancy may transmit it to the fetus in utero, resulting in birth defects or even infant fatalities. Transmission of the parasite to an unborn baby, however, is less likely if the woman has previously come into contact with the organism at least six months or more, prior to becoming pregnant.

Links With Brain Cancer?

Interestingly, a recent study reports a correlation between rates of infection of Toxoplasma gondii, and the incidence of brain cancer. Global data on brain cancer in people from 37 countries was collected and compared with the prevalence of Toxoplasma gondii infection in those regions. The research group reported that brain cancer rates increased in countries where the parasite was more prevalent.

This ecological study, however, merely points to a correlation between the two events – it does not imply that the parasite actually causes brain cancer in people. And certainly the opposite could be true – it’s not impossible that brain cancer could be the driving factor behind Toxoplasma gondii infection.

So as it stands, this report does not prove cause and association, but is predominantly hypothesis-generating, and does provoke scientific curiosity. In the words of one of the authors:“These were the best data available and we felt they were sufficient to take the first step. Working with actual brain cancer patients is an obvious next step, but it would be an expensive proposition.  It is a lot easier to justify the second, expensive step when you have some evidence for the hypothesis. We are hoping that our results motivate others in the field to do further studies.”

Thomas, Lafferty, Brodeur, Elguero, Gauthier-Clerc & Misse. 2011. Incidence of adult brain cancers is higher in countries where the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii is common. Biology Letters

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