Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pharmacist x Writer = ??

Posted by Shelley Ling at Sunday, March 20, 2011

In February, I had my 5-week rotation at Arbor Communications located charmingly in Ann Arbor's Kerrytown. Arbor Communications is part of JK Associates, which is based in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. The rotation is focused on medical writing, and it counts towards my drug information rotation. My preceptor, Dr. Dana Randall, is both a pharmacist and a dietician, who discovered her passion for medical writing during one of her P4 rotations!

What kind of qualities does a successful medical writer need to have?

Contrary to what some may think, medical writers don't have to be a Hemingway or a Dickens. They need to be able to interpret a large amount of scientific materal and to present it at an appropriate level for the targeted audience. Pharmacists who also love to write would be perfect for this job, because the pharmacy training provides medical/clinical knowledge as well as experience in interpreting scientific literature.

What do medical writers do?

Medical writers work with or within pharmaceutical companies to do a number of different things:

- Build PowerPoint slide decks for various purposes
- Edit abstracts to meet the requirements of a particular journal
- Build posters for conferences
- Write internal newsletters for clients
- Prepare regulatory documents to submit to the Food and Drug Administration
- Etc.

What did I do in this rotation?

I did product overviews for the companies Cephalon and Daiichi Sankyo. Instead of the usual journal club, I did a presentation on U-M medical library references. I reviewed ten references that I think would be useful to medical writers, and organized all the information in a chart form that would communicate the information effectively. I also did a 40-minute presentation to the entire company on risk evaluation and mitigation strategies (REMS). Not having known too much about the topic myself, I learned a lot from researching for the presentation.

An unexpected gain

I thought I was a decent writer until I got my work back with tracked changes from the copy editor, who was like a walking AMA Style Manual. This rotation served as a great refresher course on basic grammar.