Newsletter – August 2017

Greetings, North Central Members!

Welcome to the August 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:





SE MN Region meeting: August 18


The next local lunch meeting for the SE Minnesota region is on Friday, August 18 from 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.

Hope to see you there!


Networking happy hour

Wednesday, September 13, 5–7 p.m.

Join the North Central chapter for a friendly, informal networking event. Members and nonmembers with an interest in medical communications are welcome. Appetizers are on the chapter!

Details: The Exchange Food and Drink Restaurant at 500 5th Ave. NW, New Brighton, MN; Please RSVP to membership (at) amwanorthcentral (dot) org so we can get a ballpark number for the reservation (but last-minute walk-ins are welcome, too).


Chapter webinar: Word Masterclass, part 1

Wednesday, September 20, 12–1 p.m.

Cost: Free

Are you interested in learning more about Microsoft Word? Please join us for an educational webinar presented by PleaseTech and the North Central AMWA chapter. Use of styles and templates will be among the topics covered. If you are interested in attending, please email lisa(dot)poppenberg (at) takeda (dot) com and the webinar details will be forwarded to you.


Book Club—Fiction this time!

Interface by Neal Stephenson and J. Fredrick George (2005)

Monday, September 25, 6 p.m.

Interface is a novel of malevolent brain manipulation of a United States presidential candidate. Some earlier editions list George Jewsbury or Stephan Bury as an author. Intrigued? Join us for dinner and discussion. Even if you haven’t started or finished Interface by then, feel free to come and chime in anyway. Our small group varies: new and/or returning AMWA Book Club fans are always welcome.

Details: Boca Chica Restaurant (on the West Side of St. Paul, a few minutes south of downtown St. Paul: 11 César Chávez [Wabasha] St., just west of Robert St.); the parking lot is ample, as are the baskets of chips. If you plan to attend, please let Mary Knatterud know by 2 p.m. on September 25: knatt001 (at) umn (dot) edu or 651-645-3858.





Things You May Not Know about the Chapter’s Executive Committee

by Becky Dahlberg, MD

  1. Serving as a North Central chapter EC member takes only a few hours a month.
  2. You do not need to live in the Twin Cities to serve. All meetings are held remotely.
  3. Volunteering looks great on your CV or resume.
  4. Participating provides a great networking opportunity. You get to know other leaders well and have a chance to interact with other members.
  5. You help shape the organization at both the local and national levels.
  6. We need you! President-elect and co-secretary positions are open starting October 1.

As current president, I can say that I have learned so much about medical writing from other members. I had no idea that I would learn so much about running a non-profit organization and underestimated how much I would be able to develop my leadership skills.

Our current secretary, Lynelle Martinez, says, “The role of the chapter secretary has been an invaluable educational experience for me. As a newbie in the freelance world, it has given me many opportunities to learn and refine the technical tools I will use in my own business. I also very much enjoy collaborating with the Executive and Publication committees. Our monthly meetings are fun, engaging opportunities to provide input and help make decisions that subsequently shape and grow the North Central Chapter of AMWA. I really don’t want my term to end, but when the time comes, it will be an honor to pass the torch along to another deserving NCC member!”

Volunteers for president-elect and co-secretary will 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.

President-elect 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 AMWA national
  • prepares and submits the minutes from the Executive Committee monthly calls

Co-secretary 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

To explore these opportunities, please contact Chapter President Becky Dahlberg, at president (at) amwanorthcentral (dot) org.

Interested, but not ready to be president? Consider helping in these committee roles: Publications writers, programming (event) committee, website writer/editor.

For details, contact EC (at) amwanorthcentral (dot) com.



Medical Writing & Communication Conference

November 1–4, 2017

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel, Orlando, Florida

Registration is open for AMWA’s 2017 national conference. Visit the AMWA website to register, view the program, and plan your trip. Remember, earlier registration gets you into more of the workshops, roundtables, or other sessions you want to attend and gives you more time to complete the homework for any workshops that require it. For ideas on preparation before you go, revisit July’s article by Paul Mamula.


Psst! Got any tips for attending the conference?

Please share them with Paul Mamula at paulpat (at) pclink (dot) com, who will compile your ideas when he writes about how to navigate the conference. Look for his article in the September newsletter.


Dine with North Central chapter members!

November 2 at 6 p.m.

Il Mulino New York Trattoria Italian restaurant

at the Walt Disney World resort in Orlando

If you’re attending the 2017 Medical Writing & Communication Conference, plan to join the North Central chapter attendees for dinner on November 2. We have reserved a table at the Il Mulino New York Trattoria Italian restaurant located on the Walt Disney resort campus. Entrées range from $16 to $45; check out the full menu at Before the conference, RSVP to Kendra Hyland at president-elect (at) amwanorthcentral (dot) org.




Moira Urich

by Jean Cook, ELS

Moira Urich, a medical writing consultant with more than twenty years of experience, lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and joined our AMWA North Central chapter last spring. Before migrating eastward, Moira lived for five years in Saint Paul/Minneapolis, where she developed connections in Minnesota’s thriving medical device industry. Besides continuing to write for those clients, she also does work in the university setting and occasionally for policy makers.

“For a number of years I did medical writing while also working part-time jobs, such as marketing and communications director for a nonprofit whose work I greatly value,” she explains. “But a 25-hour-a-week job limited my ability to take on large medical projects, so for the last few years I’ve been focusing solely on medical writing.”

Moira earned a bachelor’s degree in English and took graduate classes in the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa. As much as she values those higher education opportunities, she points to earlier schooling in grammar and usage as providing her with a strong foundation for her writing skills. “Good proofing skills are essential too,” she says. “If you’re a one-person agency like I am, you need to provide accurate, clean, error-free material even on the first draft. And my clients seem to appreciate that thoroughness and attention to detail.”

She began writing solely for physicians, and through the years learned the skills to specialize in writing for patients and the general public. Moira says her more recent educational work, for instance, for the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, offers a chance to do a very different type of writing for the public.

“Educational pieces for patients or the general public are fulfilling for me to write,” she says. “I find I need to continually step back from ‘my understanding’ of a topic and imagine how—if I knew nothing about the subject matter—I would want the information presented to me. This allows me to create an educational pathway: providing necessary background, and moving into the details of a medical condition or procedure in a way that best guides the reader through the content.”

Another change she has experienced in her career is moving from print to digital-only content. “It is still sometimes challenging to craft the shorter pieces necessary for online content,” she admits, “yet I enjoy writing website copy, since it’s gratifying to work with clients to create a website format that includes all of the critical information their audience needs to know.”

Video scripts are among Moira’s favorite projects, because “they offer so much creativity in the way you craft the eventual final product. I appreciate the latitude my clients give me: relying on me to view the interviews and create a script that weaves together the best interview clips with the narration or visuals necessary to carry the viewer through the material.”

Reflecting on the role of independent contractor, she comments, “We’ve all had the occasional client who is not as much of a pleasure to work with, and my only advice is to accommodate as best you can to provide a good product, while knowing that you won’t say yes to a second project.

“I say that in light of what I feel most fortunate about—the ability to now work exclusively for clients I really enjoy, though I have met very few of them in person. My clients are responsive to my questions and input, and they’re thoughtful enough to know that adding more tasks to a project in progress usually equates to an extension on the deadline.”

Moira loves the flexibility of having her own business, even as she flexes to adjust to the client’s needs. “As many of you know all too well, that sometimes means a 20-hour workday, evening work, or weekend work. It makes me appreciate the occasional week off even more,” she says. “But during that week off I’m usually organizing e-files, creating checklists to help me the next time I work on a particular type of project, or updating the materials I use to market my work to new clients.”

Technical tips she has gained from AMWA resources have been especially helpful to her, and Moira says she is looking forward to taking advantage of the educational opportunities that AMWA offers. 




Read a Good Book?

The Arm by Jeff Passan

by Paul Mamula

My recommendation for late summer reading is The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports by Jeff Passan. The Arm describes ulnar collateral ligament replacement surgery—commonly referred to as “Tommy John” (TJ) surgery, named after the first major league baseball pitcher to undergo the procedure—and the recovery of 2 professional pitchers who undergo the surgery. It also presents a fascinating look into the current system of producing baseball pitchers and assesses reasons for the current epidemic of TJ surgeries among pitchers.

Passan writes about the recovery processes of Tim Hudson (who successfully returns to baseball) and Todd Coffey (who requires a second surgery and whose baseball future is in doubt) in addition to taking a critical look at the high school and college level baseball. Passan illustrates how participation in year-round baseball has contributed to the problems among young pitchers and poor coaching sets up potential problems and conflicts of interest. In contrast, Passan notes that professional baseball organizations are taking more proactive steps because they have millions of dollars invested in those pitchers’ arms.

As The Arm notes, the surgery is not complicated;1 however, recovery takes about 18 months. Only about 70 percent of pitchers return to their former performance level. Many never return to the professional ranks, and about 30 percent of pitchers undergo a second surgery within 3 years of the initial procedure. TJ surgery is being done at increasingly earlier ages, and analysis implicates year-round baseball participation as a contributing factor. TJ surgery among major league pitchers has had a pronounced upward trend (from 100 in 2000 to 172 in 2016).2

I enjoyed the book because of its skillful melding of a medical procedure with a sports topic. It is short, yet detailed enough to provide an informative tale without being overly technical or “sports-wonky.” The book has a few illustrations and pictures, but is not overly illustrated. If you are familiar with both orthopedics and baseball, the book is an even better read.

Additional Information for the Curious Reader:

  1. Khalfayan EE. UCL Reconstruction (Tommy John) of the elbow. [Video] Jun 18, 2012
  2. Conte S. Epidemiology of Tommy John Surgery. Presentation at the 2nd Annual Lewis A. Yocum, MD, PBATS Baseball Medicine Conference, Glendale, Arizona, Jan 12–14, 2017.

Have you read a good book? Whether you’ve read a professional/technical, biomedical/science nonfiction, or fiction book, share a short review with us. Write a paragraph or a few about what you enjoyed about the book, how it might be good for medical writers to read, or how it might fill a need. Send your submissions to jean (at) imagesmythe (dot) com.