For those of you thinking of, or trying to break into the medical writing world, you might be interested in a new series of interviews that Medical Writing Network will be sharing with experienced medical writers.


First up this week was Dr Emma Hitt, a seasoned medical writer in Georgia.

Stay tuned on their site for future interviews!



Most of last week, and this week, I’m busy traveling. Combined ACVP annual conference in Nashville, and Exam Committee duties too. I decided to take some extra time before and after so I could actually drive there and back. A long hike from Boston to Nashville, but it’s been worth it so far – I’ve been able to see some lovely regions for the first time. Always good!

In the meantime…..

Last week I introduced the concept of white papers as a good market for you as a medical writer to think about tapping into, if you haven’t already done so.

My favorite business writer, Cathy Miller, writes a lot of white papers, so while she was away in San Diego last week on her 8th, 60 mile walk for breast cancer, she kindly allowed me to write a guest post on writing medical white papers.



Feel free to check it out if you’re new to the white papers scene and are looking for some pointers on writing white papers for the medical industry.



Image credit Photostock at Free Digital Photos

What Is A White Paper

Chances are you’ve probably heard this term, even if you’ve never paid too much attention to what it means. Basically, a “white paper” is just a specific type of report. Importantly though, it’s a report with a mission – to act as a powerful marketing tool. Typically they’ll be about 4-10 pages long, but can in fact range from something resembling a 2 page flyer, to as much as a 100 page book.

Check out this white paper on nanotechnology-enabled drug delivery systems to give you an idea of what they can look like.

Who Uses White Papers?

You’ll find them used by all kinds of business organizations, and the medical industry is no exception, and healthcare, biotechnology and pharmaceutical organizations in particular benefit from their use. They are are used as a marketing aid in many areas of these organizations, from financing to new drugs, or even new medical devices.

So How Do They Work?

White papers are often described as being a cross between a magazine article and a brochure:

  • The Magazine Article: Typically the report opens up with this portion, educating the reader about a problem that is affecting them, and suggesting potential solutions.
  • The Brochure: This portion closes out the report, and is where it switches to describe a product or service provided by the company – something that can provide a solution to one of the problems described earlier. It tends to support its message with well-researched facts and data.

The number one focus in medical marketing is to produce a well-constructed white paper that propels a product along a pathway to a final sale. It needs to convince the buyer that the product is of some benefit to them. There’s a fine line to walk, however, since the pitch needs to be “just right”.

Most importantly the white paper needs to be readable to allow the potential buyer to develop trust and confidence in the product or service on offer. It needs to engage the customer, providing evidence that it can serve a purpose for them.

In summary, white papers are used to educate their readers and hopefully help them to make an informed decision on why a company’s specific product or service should be used. If the paper is intended for the general public, it should not be too medical jargon-filled, and it certainly shouldn’t read as a report with an overwhelming sales pitch that drowns the reader.

Why Do Medical Writers Need To Know About Them?

If you’re a medical writer, it’s worth knowing about white papers because they represent a great source of business for you. You don’t even have to be a scientist or even a medical writer to write white papers for the medical industry – you just need to be able to write persuasive copy using a tone that is appropriate for the intended audience. But your scientific background can certainly come in useful.

So if you haven’t already done so, it’s certainly worth using your medical writing skills to tap into this market.

Image credit Photostock at Free Digital Photos

Wednesday turned out to be a big AMWA day for me – there were two meetings of our New England Chapter that day, and I managed to get to both!



The first was a lunch meeting in Cambridge. That was perfect for me since the meeting place was a Chinese restaurant just a couple of miles from where I work. It was a cosy gathering of about 11 of us, so we all managed to fit around one large, round table. I’d met a couple of the members before, and there were numerous new members in attendance too.

One of the highlights for me was hearing one member’s story. Larry Kerpelman is a health writer and author of Pieces Missing, a book that tells the story of his family’s perseverance following his wife’s traumatic brain injury. And the best part about it all was the fact that Larry’s wife thankfully eventually recovered.



As soon as lunch was over, I jumped in the car and headed down into Connecticut. The evening meeting was being held at an Italian restaurant in New Haven, so I had an almost two and a half hour journey to get there. It was a beautiful day here in New England though, so I really enjoyed the drive.

The evening meeting was a “speed mentoring” session. There were four speakers, all from slightly different medical communications backgrounds, and after they’d each shared their general stories, they each migrated to separate tables and small groups of us rotated around them to hear their stories and ideas in more detail.

Lots of ideas were shared by the speakers, as well as other members so another great networking session in general.

A few take-home points from the day:

  • Be sure to have business cards made
  • Have an elevator speech
  • If you’re just starting out (or even if you’re not), never give up – work through every “no”, and bust through any walls that you come across
  • Network as much as humanly possible
  • Have some kind of a presence – if not a blog, use LinkedIn
  • When sending in pitches to magazine editors, try sending them three or four ideas rather than just one – this helps them realize that you’re someone who isn’t just a one-hit wonder


It was a long day for me since I didn’t get home until about 11:30pm after my drive back to the Boston region at the end of the night. But it was a really fun day, I enjoyed it very much – two great meetings, getting to know lots of wonderful new colleagues, tasty food, fun conversation, and useful networking opportunities.


“Science Careers”, from the Journal Science published this great article today – it’s a content collection comprising links to their best resources on careers in science writing. They all make for interesting reads in general for anyone in the medical communications field, but they’re especially valuable for anyone thinking about transitioning into medical writing.




Image Credit  Digital Art @FreeDigitalPhotos

This year’s AMWA Annual Conference is almost upon us, so don’t forget to register if you’re fortunate enough to be able to make it this year.



AMWA have published this presentation on Getting The Most From The Conference when you attend. It contains lots of handy tips to consider if you’ve never attended either this conference in particular.


Inquill is currently hosting a Medical Writing Festival – you can check out the schedule and pricing for the seminars. I don’t know anything about the company, so can’t give any first-hand information about it, or about the festival for that matter. But they do have some very prominent names giving seminars, so even if just one of the talks appeals to you, you may find it worthwhile to register for it – you don’t have to sign up for the whole thing, you can opt to simply buy one seminar if you choose. And maybe you can even buy recordings of past seminars from the start of the festival if one of those catches your eye?

The main reason for me posting this, however, was to share a short video with you. One of the talks is by George Buckland, an experienced medical recruiter – click on this link and play the free 3 minute video clip that is about halfway down the page. He shares some important points about the need for medical writers to have an online presence, as well as sharing information about how he searches for writers.

LinkedIn is one great way to network with recruiters, so if you haven’t yet made yourself a profile there, now is the time to do it – you can use the search box to find recruiters looking for medical writers, as well as by joining medical writing groups where recruiters will often post job ads.


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

If you’re not already a member of AMWA, I’d highly recommend joining.

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”

Time for Step 7 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.


The current annual membership fee is $165 ($60 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!

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 thereAnd 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?