recorder2In my last post, I discussed a few options for recording presentations if you’re a medical writer who’s decided to start reporting medical conferences – or maybe you just need to record interviews with experts or key opinion leaders for articles you are writing.
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First-Time Use

Once you decide on your device, I can’t stress enough how critical it is to get familiar with it before the meeting. I realize this may seem natural to most folk, but I’ve seen enough writers at meetings, frazzled because they’ve had some kind of issue with a new recording device – they hadn’t checked it out in advance because it had seemed like it would be so intuitive to use.
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I’m not at all a tech-geek, so I’m definitely someone who tests out new tech devices before I REALLY need them – more times than I probably need to, just to appease my anxiety level! You may not need to be quite as Type A about it as I am, but I definitely advise playing around with your new device until you feel comfortable using it. Whatever device you’ve decided on, don’t let the conference be the first time you use it!
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If you get the chance, test it out at some kind of presentation in a big hall, similar to what you’ll experience at a conference. Maybe your local university or community college hosts some public lectures – attend one and give your recorder a test drive. This will allow you to see how the audio holds out in a large auditorium.
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A Couple of Tips

  • Use earphones: Your audio quality will vary depending on the speaker, acoustics in the room, your location, etc. – a lot of things you have no control over. When you’re listening to the recordings as you write articles, if you’re struggling with the audio just using your computer’s speakers, plug your earphones into the computer and see if that helps. It often helps me a lot. In all the years I’ve been using mine at conferences, I’ve never had an issue where I’ve not been able to understanding the audio from a lecture, and I’ve had a lot of “poor” audio issues (often when you’re attending a lecture, you just know it’ll be rough listening to the audio because it’s difficult enough hearing it adequately in person – maybe the acoustics are producing lots of reverberations in the room).

  • For one-on-one conversations, let the speaker know you’re recording their comments: If you’re chatting individually with a speaker at a conference, or even with an expert over the phone, be sure to ask their permission first. It’s the polite, professional thing to do. I’ve never had anybody refuse to be recorded – I think most professionals kind of expect to be recorded during interviews, but it’s still polite to ask. And explain why you’re recording the conversation – it’ll put them at ease, and help them figure out how best to answer your questions. If the purpose is to obtain a direct quote, they may prefer to take a couple of moments to think about how they phrase something, so that it flows better in your article. If it’s just so you have their information for paraphrasing in the article, they may not feel the need to be as succinct, because they know you can select the information that you feel is most pertinent.
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Hopefully this will help with your preparation for the conference!

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screenshot_127The Scientist is hosting a virtual career expo about alternative careers for scientists, outside of academia. One of the panels on their agenda will explore the field of scientific communication.
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It’s taking place on Wednesday June 10th, 2015, at 11:30 am EDT.
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And the best part? It’s free to register

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So don’t delay – sign up now to secure your spot!

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recorderIn past decades, the warmer weather used to signify the height of conference season – although these days it seems to pretty much run all year round – especially with many organizations holding their annual meetings in the winter in a warm and inviting location. And some just choosing to host them in the winter in a not-so-warm location (my specialty college has decided on Minneapolis for our typical winter meeting this year! Although they’ve at least brought it forward to October, instead of the usual December!)
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Anyway, if you’re a medical writer and are considering conference reporting for the first time, you’ll need to take some kind of recording device with you.
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What Choices Do I Have?

Digital Voice Recorder: The good news is that, nowadays, you have heaps of choices when it comes to a recording device. Everyone is different when it comes to recording devices and what they prefer to use. Digital recorders also come in all shapes and sizes – from pocket-sized ones like mine, to huge things with their own cages and wheels! I like using my Olympus recorder (that’s mine in the photo), it’s small and light, simple, reliable, and works well for me – plus, I’m a creature of habit, and it’s what I’ve always used! But, what works great for me may not suit you. But if you’re thinking of an actual device and don’t know where to start, you may be interested in this this Top 10 Review that I came across recently.
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Unless you have specific additional needs for your recorder, you don’t need to spend a whole load of money on it – I’ve had mine for many years, and I think it cost me around $90 – it runs at about $120 these days. A few things to consider when deciding on one:

  • The USB connection (mine has a USB port that folds out of the device – no need for a USB cord)

  • Size (you’re going to be using it like an extra appendage at the conference – you’ll like it better if it’s small and light, and easy to kick into action if you’re late running into a presentation)

  • Storage

  • Battery life

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Smartpens: I’ve heard a lot of good stuff about these Livescribe Pulse Smartpens. Personally, I’ve never even tried using one, but they seem intriguing and I’ve come across a lot of folk who love theirs. Unless you’re someone who likes risking buying gadgets anyway, it might be worth doing some detective work yourself before investing in one of these. See if any of your medical writer friends have one you could try – if you have a AMWA local chapter (or other networking) meeting coming up, ask if someone might bring their pen with them so you can test it out during the evening.

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Smartphones & Tablets: At the very least, there’s a high chance you own some kind of smart phone or tablet, allowing you access to either a built-in recorder and/or the use of some kind of downloadable app for recording purposes. Your laptop may also serve a similar purpose with its built-in recorder. So they’ll also be options you can consider, although they likely won’t be as good as an actual digital recorder – but some folk use them as their primary recording source, so you may find this a great option for you.

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AIf you’re an aspiring medical writer – or even a seasoned one – and are looking for some inspiration, motivation, or additional tips about medical writing, Dr. Emma Hitt Nichols has compiled an awesome series of podcasts that should fit the bill nicely.

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Check out Medical Writers Speak for a great listening selection (or get them directly from iTunes). In addition to hearing some cool stories about a variety of medical writers from different backgrounds, you’ll get to hear how they got into medical writing, as well as the snippets of advice they have to offer.

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colon1Colorectal cancer (CRC) patients seem to have a better chance of survival if they have already been living a healthy lifestyle before their diagnosis, research shows.
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The American Cancer Society estimates that, in 2015, over 130,000 people in the US will be diagnosed with CRC, and more than 49,000 of them will die as a result of their disease. This is the 3rd most common type of cancer in this country, and the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Over the past 20 years, however, the death rate from CRC has been declining, largely due to increasing use of established diagnostic screening techniques, as well as other factors. Treatment for CRC has also improved in recent years, and as a result, there are more than 1 million survivors of this disease in the US.
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The recent European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort study aimed to determine whether the same healthy lifestyle choices that help prevent CRC could also boost the survival rates of patients diagnosed with the disease. The study evaluated data from over 500,000 men and women from 10 countries. Participants completed questionnaires to provide information about their medical history, diet, and lifestyle at the beginning of the study, and height and weight measurements were also taken. During the 6-year study period, nearly 3,300 of them were diagnosed with CRC. 
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The researchers used a scoring system, based on recommendations in the guidelines about body weight, activity level, and intake of: food and drinks that promote weight gain, plant foods, meat-based food, and alcohol. Women were also scored on whether or not they had breastfed. Overall, higher scores correlated with more healthy behaviors. 
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According to the results of the study, published in BMC Medicine, the higher the score, the lower the risk of death after a diagnosis of CRC. A healthy weight and high consumption of plant foods had the strongest associations with survival. The study also showed that women who had breast-fed had a better chance of surviving CRC than those who did not breast-feed – a link that has already been found in breast cancer, but never before in CRC. 
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The researchers noted that following a healthy lifestyle according to guideline recommendations doesn’t just help prevent CRC, but also improves survival rate in those who do develop it. However, further research is necessary to determine whether adopting healthy lifestyle habits after CRC diagnosis can increase the odds of survival, they concluded.

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AMWA members – have 1you registered yet for the upcoming webinar on Web-Based Software for Literature Reviews (May 28th, 1pm EST)?

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It’s free for AMWA members to attend, so if you haven’t already done so, go ahead and register asap! And if you’re a medical writer but not yet a member of AMWA, I highly recommend joining – particularly if you’re just transitioning into the field. The benefits of joining AMWA are many and varied, and you’ll get to meet the nicest people – that’s certainly been my experience over the years, especially at local chapter meetings.

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Last week I attended our fall AMWA-NE Chapter dinner meeting, which turned out to be another fun evening.

We met at Mick Morgan’s Irish Pub & Restaurant in Newton, MA. It was a fun venue, although our private room turned out to be not-so-private! It was a side room that was continuous with the main part of the bar, and had no door. So we could still hear the music and antics in the bar, as well as the “Open Mic” event that started up shortly after ours did! But regardless, it was fun, and we all coped admirably with the side noise!

Our speaker for the evening was our very own AMWA fellow and former New England Chapter president, Jill Shuman. A certified Editor in the Life Sciences (ELS) and a Certified CME professional (CCMEP), Jill discussed various routes for a medical communicator to take in order to bridge gaps in expertise. A selection of those that she reviewed, included:

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Certification/credentialling programs

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Certificate programs

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University degrees

Although some colleges offer programs that require classroom presence, some now offer programs for medical writers that are completely online. These include:

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Although AMWA currently offers a variety of certificates for members to undertake, it will soon also offer a certification program – the first examination is set to be held in 2015, and the program will be open to all medical writers, not just AMWA members. And just in case you need a refresher, this link explains the difference between certification and a certificate.

If you haven’t already done so, don’t forget to join AMWA and check out your local chapter meetings.

And if you’re local to the New England region, please come and join us.

 

 

A couple of weekends ago I was in Chicago for the ADA Annual Meeting. I was covering the conference for a client – it was actually the first time I’ve ever attended an ADA meeting, and I have to say, it was great.

Even though the McCormick Place conference center was teeming with attendees, it never felt overcrowded – it’s a huge venue, so there was plenty of room for everyone, and there were so many concurrent sessions that the rooms didn’t seem overcrowded either.

My client had arranged a room for me at the Hilton in the city, and it was the first time I’ve ever been booked into an executive suite – so my room was enormous too.

And one amusing aside – usually these medical conferences are filled with edible goodies. The press room is typically brimming with chocolates and other carbohydrate-loaded treats, as is the exhibitor’s hall. But it didn’t go unnoticed by me that these things were absent all around at the American Diabetes Association meeting! Clearly they were practising what they preach.

If you’re new to covering conferences, it’s always worth taking an organized approach to them, and even doing some advanced planning. Every little helps when it comes to these busy meetings.

 

 

A few weeks ago I attended our final AMWA-NE Chapter meeting for the year, and I have to say, it was a great evening.

We met for good food and wine at an Italian restaurant, in Wellesley, MA, and were fortunate enough to have a guest speaker for the evening – Dr Julian Seifter, a nephrologist at Harvard Medical School.

In addition to being a leading nephrologist here in the US, Dr Seifter has experienced the “other side” of the doctor-patient relationship. During his talk he recalled memorable stories of working with patients, and his story as a patient dealing with his own chronic illnesses. And he talked of how dealing with his own conditions has helped his approach to his patients.

You can also check out this link to a conversation he had with The New York Times in 2010.

If you ever get the chance to hear him speak, I’d thoroughly recommend it – he was extremely engaging, and I could have listened to him all night.

With the help of his wife, Dr Seifter has written a book about his experiences – this is the image of the book from his website – it’s a wonderful read, and again, one I didn’t want to finish.

If you haven’t already done so, don’t forget to join AMWA and check out your local chapter meetings.

And if you’re local to the New England region, please come and join us.

 

 

On Saturday, April 6th, I attended the AMWA-New England Chapter’s 10th Biennial Conference at the Sturbridge Host Hotel and Conference Center, Sturbridge, MA. 

The “menu” on offer for the day was wonderful – great sessions to choose from. I attended the “Freelance Forum” in the morning, and “Transitioning to Medical Writing from Allied Fields” in the afternoon, and both were highly enjoyable and informative.

As always, it was so nice to meet new fellow writers at the conference, as well as catching up with some old friends, and I think everyone left feeling encouraged and motivated.

Are you new to medical writing? If so, I highly recommend joining AMWA and attending your local chapter meetings.

You’ll meet lots of fabulous, friendly writers, and your money will be very well-spent.