Newsletter – July 2017

Greetings, North Central Members!

Welcome to the July 2017 chapter newsletter. Let us know what you think, and remember, you can always read it on the chapter website. You can find previous newsletters on the website as well. And we always welcome suggestions for newsletter topics.


In this issue:


AMWA live webinar: July 19

“Working with Authors Who Are Non-native English Speakers”

Wednesday, July 19, from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. (CDT)

This AMWA live webinar will be presented by Katharine O’Moore-Klopf. Katharine is owner of KOK Edit, a board-certified editor in the life sciences, and a consulting medical editor specializing in editing manuscripts by non-native English speakers. Her editing has helped researchers in more than 20 nations get their reports published in more than 50 different medical journals.

The webinar is aimed at intermediate-level medical writers. The $55 AMWA member registration fee ($95 for nonmembers) includes access to the recorded webinar after the event. Visit under Events or Education to learn more and register.

SE MN Region Meeting: August 18

The next local lunch meeting for the SE Minnesota region is on Friday, August 18, 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Feel free to drop in and head out as it suits your schedule. If you plan to attend, please let June Oshiro know: oshiro.june (at) mayo (dot) edu.

We have no formal discussion topic for this meeting—let’s talk about whatever’s on your mind! If it’s been a while since you’ve attended, come on back; don’t be shy! If you’ve never joined us before, please consider coming by and introducing yourself. Nonmembers are welcome, too.

Directions to our meeting are on the chapter website:

Hope to see you there!

North Central Book Club

Our next book club will be on September 25 at 6 p.m. at Boca Chica Restaurant in St. Paul. We will discuss a work of fiction, Interface by George Jewsbury and Neal Stephenson (a novel first published under the pseudonym Stephen Bury). It is a novel of malevolent brain manipulation of a United States presidential candidate. We hope to see you there.

Read a Good Book?

Have you read a good book recently and want to share it with other members who might enjoy it? Books of interest might fall into Professional/Technical, Biomedical/Science Nonfiction, or even Fiction categories. Write a paragraph or a few about what you enjoyed about a given book, how it might be good for medical writers to read, or how it might fill a need. Send your Good Book submissions to jean (at) imagesmythe (dot) com.

Watch for our first installment in our August newsletter, when Paul Mamula describes a New York Times best seller: The Arm : Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports by Jeff Passan. The book looks at major league baseball pitching, the vulnerability of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) to injury, “Tommy John” surgery, and efforts to prevent and treat pitchers’ potentially career-ending arm injuries. The publisher calls it “equal parts medical thriller and cautionary tale” — we’re looking forward to learning what Paul thinks of it.

Shape Chapter Activities and Expand Your Network!

by Becky Dahlberg, MD

Your AMWA North Central chapter needs you! We are looking for volunteers to serve as president and co-secretary starting October 1, 2017. You would serve one three-year term. President-elect involves one year as president-elect, one year as president, and one year as past president. Co-secretary involves one year in a shared co-secretary position, one year as secretary, and a third year sharing the position with a new co-secretary. In this way, each officer has ample time to learn the ropes and become comfortable in the role.

The president-elect has the following duties:

  • assists the president and is ready to serve as president, if the need arises
  • serves on the chapter’s program committee
  • prepares chapter reports, with the oversight of the executive committee, twice a year to be submitted to national AMWA
  • prepares and submits the minutes from the executive committee monthly calls

The co-secretary has the following duties:

  • prepares and sends communications to the membership that informs members of the current chapter offices and chapter activities
  • assists with preparing and distributing the monthly newsletter
  • maintains the chapter website and chapter document archives

Contact Chapter President Becky Dahlberg, at president (at) amwanorthcentral (dot) org to get involved.

Consider other committee opportunities:

Are you interested in participating, but not ready to become chapter president? Start by volunteering with North Central committees. You can meet and get to know some members, share your skills or gain new ones, and keep our chapter thriving. Consider helping in these roles:

Programming committee: Join the programming committee to brainstorm ideas for programs and organize events. Also welcome: Any of you who would like to present a topic to our chapter.

Website writer/editor: Help maintain our chapter’s website. Contribute to updating the site to provide the most current information to all of our members.

Publications writer: Share your ideas and write an occasional member profile or “What We Do” article for the chapter monthly newsletter.

Interested? Contact EC (at) amwanorthcentral (dot) com.

The 2017 AMWA Medical Writing & Communication Conference

by Paul W. Mamula, PhD

Registration is open:

Medical Writing & Communication Conference

November 1–4, 2017

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin near Orlando, Florida

To register, view the program, and plan your trip, visit the AMWA website:

What to Expect?

The conference consists of open sessions, workshops, lunch roundtables, award dinners and lunches, and a variety of networking events. The central exhibit halls and open areas usually have exhibits, posters, and presentations. Activities run from morning to early evening.

Some of the workshops that are offered fulfill the AMWA Essential Skills certificate program requirements. Exams for AMWA’s Medical Writing Certification (MWC) and for the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences (BELS) certification are also held in conjunction with the conference. Many people plan their conference experience around these exams or the workshops they need to complete a certificate, and coordinating other sessions around these can be daunting. With a little preparation, though, it can be an enriching experience.

Note that the awards functions and many networking events, some of which are included in the cost of registration, are not scheduled opposite other sessions, so it is possible to participate in many different activities even if you have a full slate of workshops.

Deciding to Go

Make your decision to attend early. In recent years, AMWA has offered a $100 discount off the full registration price when you register by June 30. By planning ahead, you are more likely to get into the workshops, roundtables, or other sessions desired. The earlier you make your reservations, the more likely you will be able to get lower hotel rates, possibly at the conference rate, and to book cheaper airfare. Earlier registration also gives you more time to complete the homework for any workshops you have signed up for (see Earning a Certificate/Certification below).

If you haven’t been to an AMWA Conference before or have only been to a scientific one, you might find the experience different and even a little intimidating. To help you prepare, there are several conference planning tools available on the AMWA website. To orient you when you arrive, a session on the first day of the conference is specifically aimed at first-time attendees, titled “New to AMWA and Medical Communication Session.” Here we offer a few suggestions that we hope will be helpful as you consider whether to attend the conference.

Attending Workshops

Workshops are scheduled in morning and afternoon sessions and are generally of high quality and well taught. All workshops taken for credit require completion of a homework assignment and attendance at the workshop to earn credit. Punctuality is critical. Arriving more than 10 minutes late to a workshop will cause you to be denied entrance and denied credit. Remember you are paying for these! Even if you do not take a workshop for credit, it is recommended that you complete the homework so that you and your fellow students will get the most out of the session. If you sign up for an advanced workshop, you must complete the homework in order to attend.

If you want to be certain of getting into a particular workshop, register early! Some workshops are offered more than once during a given conference, so one trick to get a spot in a desired one is register for the workshop(s) offered on Friday or Saturday. These workshops fill up more slowly than the early workshops.

Within the brochure, some workshops identify the intended audience (new to the field, mid-career, advanced, or all levels) and offer learning objectives. This year’s workshops are organized into these categories:

  • Staying Current (Professional Development Topics)
  • Essential Medical Communication Skills (Writing and Editing)
  • The Evolving Regulatory Landscape
  • New Media Channels, Writing, Technology, and Software
  • The Business of Freelance
  • Grant And Proposal Writing and Editing
  • The Future of Continuing Medical Education

Joining Roundtables

Don’t overlook the lunch roundtables. They offer a small lunch group with a moderator for a given topic. For those interested in taking the BELS exam, the roundtable “So You’re Going to Take the BELS Exam…” moderated by Leslie Neistadt, ELS, Managing Editor, St Louis University, or “Certification of Editors in the Life Sciences,” moderated by Tom Gegeny, MWC, Evision Pharma Group, might be ones to consider. Other topics include writing for the pharmaceutical industry, covering scientific conferences, and many more, including open-discussion roundtables. Since these meet concurrently, you have to select only one; however, these do provide an opportunity to explore a topic in a small, friendly group.

Earning a Certificate/Certification

Requirements for the Essential Skills certificate are listed on the AMWA website, but one has to complete them within a certain time period. AMWA will track your progress toward a certificate, but it will be your responsibility to fulfill the requirements on time. AMWA does offer modules that can be done offsite, but others will require attending local chapter meetings or the national conference.

The Medical Writing Certification Exam can be taken on Wednesday, November 1, the first day of the conference, for an additional fee (visit to learn more). The same is true of the BELS certification exam (

Attending Open and Award Sessions

These sessions cover a variety of topics and often revolve around a panel of speakers with a question-and-answer session that follows. They provide good opportunities to get introduced to new areas. One potential problem with attending open sessions is that they overlap with the workshops, so you will need to schedule your workshops carefully if you are interested in a particular open session. However, with all of the interesting topics that are offered, sometimes conflicts are unavoidable.

The awards dinners, which include talks by the winners of the major awards, do not conflict with workshops or other sessions, and you will have plenty of time to get to all of your scheduled events if you attend them.

The awards dinners are very worthwhile, so don’t overlook them. The talks are always interesting, and one can always use the dinner portion to network and meet potential clients, too. This year’s McGovern Award winners are Lisa Schwartz, MD, MS, and Steven Woloshin, MD, MS, two health researchers who have done risk analyses and presentation of health statistics. They are two of the authors of Know Your Chances: Understanding Health Statistics. The book is a good one and provides a short, easy explanation of health risks and how to critically analyze health statistics.

Take a Break!

Be sure to take a break from the meetings. Attending three days worth of seminars and workshops from 9 am to 5 pm can be exhausting. One way to take a break is to spend some time viewing the exhibits. Book publishers often provide discounts on books ordered on site or within a few weeks of the conference, and there is always fun swag to collect. At times, the exhibits are lightly attended, so walking through and talking with some of the exhibitors can be a low-stress experience. AMWA also offers chances to win cool prizes for those who attend, but you have to be there to win.

AMWA conference attendees can also pre-purchase Walt Disney World® Resort theme park tickets at discounted rates, including specially priced twilight admission. Resort guests enjoy complimentary scheduled transportation throughout the entire Walt Disney World® Resort. As you might expect, many dining and entertainment options exist in the Orlando area.

A Final Thought

The AMWA conference offers a one-stop shop for networking, professional development, and fun that is well worth the investment. (In fact, your employer may consider paying for you to attend the conference—it’s worth asking.) We hope that reading this article will encourage you to attend!

Wanted: Conference Tips from Recent Attendees

Have you attended AMWA’s national Medical Writing & Communication Conference? The conference has been undergoing changes in recent years, and we’d like to keep this feature up-to date. If you can offer a tip or two to those considering going, please share your suggestions with Paul Mamula, paulpat (at) pclink (dot) com. Paul will compile your tips in an upcoming newsletter article.


Dine with North Central Chapter Members

As in past years, during the 2017 Medical Writing & Communication Conference, individual AMWA chapters meet for dinner one night during the conference. If you’re attending the conference, plan to join the North Central chapter attendees on November 2 at 6 p.m. for dinner at a nearby Orlando, Florida, restaurant. Look for details in the August newsletter.