Newsletter – January 2018

Greetings, North Central Members!

Welcome to the January 2018 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:




New Year, Coming Events

Do your new year’s resolutions include learning new skills or expanding your network? Get full value from your AMWA North Central membership: Resolve to attend a chapter event—or several! Watch future newsletters for dates and other details as plans develop. For now, here’s general information about opportunities the year will bring:

  • SE Minnesota Writers and Editors Discussion Group meets at noon on four Fridays each year in the Plummer Building on the Mayo Clinic Campus in Rochester. Bring your own lunch and join the informal discussion. For more information, email June Oshiro, oshiro.june (at) mayo (dot) edu, or check the web page.
  • The AMWA Book Club, founded in January 2007, meets 3 times every year (on the last Monday of January, April, and September) at the same 3 rotating central locations (the Egg and I near the Minneapolis-St. Paul border, the Caribou north of Lake Nokomis, and Boca Chica Restaurant south of downtown St. Paul). The January and April meetings are both at 11 a.m.; the September meeting is at 6 p.m. Find more information online.
  • Networking happy hours take place several times a year at various locations in the Twin Cities. Enjoy appetizers courtesy of the chapter and interesting conversations with fellow medical writers.
  • In addition to AMWA’s national opportunities, local chapter educational programs occur online and in person several times during the year. Watch for info in upcoming newsletters—or better yet, consider what you’d like to learn and help plan an event. If it interests you, other North Central members will likely be interested too.


Volunteers Needed

The North Central chapter currently needs a Programming Chair. If you would like to lead the programming committee in brainstorming and planning programs and events, have suggestions on topics, or would like to present to the chapter, we’d welcome your help.

Our chapter is also in need of a Membership Chair and would like to add a Happy Hour Coordinator. If you can volunteer a few hours a month to help, contact EC (at) amwanorthcentral (dot) com. Thanks!  Volunteering with AMWA is a great way to network with your fellow members!


Book Club
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
January 29, 2018, 11 a.m.
Back in January 2007, the first-ever selection for our Book Club was the first-ever of Dr. Gawande’s bestselling and award-winning nonfiction books, Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science. Please join us over brunch or lunch to discuss his poignant and powerful fourth book, Being Mortal, published in 2014. Even if you haven’t started or finished the book 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: The Egg & I is on University Avenue near the Minneapolis–St. Paul border, with ample free parking. If you plan to attend, please let Mary Knatterud know by 9 a.m. on January 29: knatt001 (at) umn (dot) edu or 651-645-3858.



Member Profile: Melissa Lamb
by Jean M. Cook, ELS

As Melissa Lamb describes her work and life, a musical duet comes to mind, each part lending its own voice, taking a turn at a verse, somehow the two offering contrast yet intertwined in the chorus.

“I never set out to be a writer, although I have always enjoyed writing. I have a bachelor of arts degree in music, attended two years of medical school, and have a master of science degree in medical and translational research,” Melissa explains. “My medical editing business was an unexpected opportunity.”

Ten years ago, Melissa was completing that master’s degree at the University of Florida and working as a research coordinator of basic science, translational research, and clinical research. Her master’s program included courses in medical writing, and she often assisted medical fellows in writing protocols and manuscripts as part of her job. “One fellow’s mentor noticed my work and began employing me to edit his manuscripts. My business has grown gradually via personal reference.”

In 2011, Melissa and her family returned to Minnesota. She opted to stay home with her three children and describes her primary job as homeschooling the children. She also works as freelance medical editor. And she and her husband, a biostatistician, run a medical research consulting business that employs two additional biostatisticians.

“My work enables me to stay home with my children and meet their academic needs while maintaining my place in the job market,” Melissa says. Primarily, she edits manuscripts for submission to medical journals and NIH grants. She also writes regulatory protocols and IRB (institutional review board) submissions. Her writing targets physicians and basic science researchers, and she works for a wide variety of clinicians including physicians, veterinarians, sociologists, and researchers.

“My family is not financially dependent upon my editing work,” Melissa says, “but I continue medical editing because I love reading about medical research, and I find the work mentally stimulating.” As an example, she mentions, “I am fascinated by neurological research and enjoy reading studies about how writing styles alter neurological signals and reading comprehension.”

All of her work is done in the evenings after her children go to bed and on weekends. Most of it is done sitting on her couch, in a coffee shop, or at the local public library. “I like the intermittent nature of my work, particularly while raising children,” Melissa says. “Some seasons are busier than others. Sometimes I have several manuscripts that I am working with, and other times I do not have any.” She appreciates the slow steady growth of her client base.

“Most evenings I am working on my laptop on one end of the couch, and my husband is working on his laptop on the other end of the couch. One of us will receive a phone call from a prospective client and end up passing the phone across the couch to the other person. Our work complements each other’s very well, and we often end up working on the same study together. We never set out to go into business together. It just sort of happened.”

One challenge within their consulting business is that researchers who see the value in good statistical analyses are not willing to pay for medical editing until after their manuscript has been rejected. “The presentation of data is just as important as the analysis of the data,” Melissa says. When researchers understand that concept, she explains, they are more likely to include editing and statistical work in their grant applications, which helps guarantee their future success as researchers.

In addition to medical editing, Melissa teaches brain-building classes to gifted children. Such children often have remarkable long-term memories but deficiencies in executive functioning skills and sensory processing, she explains. “The neuroplasticity of the human brain is amazing, and I do not think enough neurological research is being done in the field of education.”

When she decided to focus on medical editing, Melissa found AMWA through an internet search. “I have enjoyed participating in the book club,” she says. “Because my children are young, I am not able to participate in events very often.” She is working toward an AMWA certificate.

“My first passion has always been music. I enjoy playing the piano and participating in music groups as time allows,” she says. “My right brain often fights with my left brain for a balance between my interests in music and science!”


Read a Good Book?
Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free by Cory Doctorow
by Paul W. Mamula, PhD

I purchased Cory Doctorow’s new book, Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free, at the 2017 Twin Cities Book Fair. The book’s title is a spoof of the internet phrase “Information wants to be free.” It caught my attention, because that phrase pushes one of my hot buttons when I hear people talking about open access and blogging.

Doctorow is a science fiction writer who also writes about technical issues. You may have seen some of his articles in Wired. The rhetorical question for businesses and authors is this: How can one possibly make a living in a creative (or professional) field if one gives creative works away? The author succinctly but thoroughly answers that question and addresses other problems not yet solved.

Despite being only 171 pages, the book is packed with information. It covers the current state of copyright laws for creative works in the United States and worldwide. Doctorow also reviews censorship, payment, net policy, and other issues. The longest chapter is only 6 pages, but don’t let the short length be mistaken for lack of depth.

The book has a pleasing layout, and many of the chapters contain sidebars with additional information. I found it easy to read and fascinating. While it is not a true medical writing book, it does touch on many issues of interest to writers.

Whether you’ve read a professional/technical, biomedical/science nonfiction, or fiction book that you think other chapter members may enjoy, share a short review with us. Write a paragraph or a few about what you liked 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.