Newsletter – June 2018

Greetings, North Central Members!


Welcome to the June 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:








Summer is coming, and to give us all some time off, we have nothing formal planned until September. However, we encourage informal gatherings and may schedule a happy hour during the coming months. Watch coming newsletter issues for more information.

SE Minnesota Writers and Editors Discussion Group

September 21, noon to 1 p.m.

Details: These quarterly gatherings are informal, and lunch is provided by the chapter. All AMWA members and guests are welcome. To have an accurate head count for the lunch order, RSVP one week before the meeting (email June Oshiro at oshiro (dot) 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 at Hope to see you there!

Book Club: Monday, September 24, 2018, at 6 p.m.

A World without “Whom”: The Essential Guide to Language in the Buzzfeed Age

Details: This fall, we’ll discuss A World without “Whom”: The Essential Guide to Language in the Buzzfeed Age by Emmy J. Favilla. We’ll meet at 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 Street. 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 24: knatt001 (at) umn (dot) edu or 651-645-3858.

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.

For those of you who like to read ahead, we have chosen our books for 2019:

  • January 28, 2019: The Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization by Martin Puchner
  • April 29, 2019: Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce by Douglas Starr
  • September 30, 2019: Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande



Volunteers Are Still Needed

AMWA North Central is a volunteer-based organization. If members don’t take an active role, the chapter will cease to function, and members will lose access to programming, news, and networking opportunities. Consider taking your turn to lead (or join) a committee. These committee chair positions are open:

Membership Committee Chair: AMWA is only as strong as its members, and our chapter is in need of a Membership Committee Chair to be a point of contact for our current members, keep our email lists up to date, and facilitate outreach to potential, new, and former members.

Finance Committee Chair: The Finance Committee Chair coordinates the annual audit of the chapter’s financial records at the close of the fiscal year (July) and reports the findings to the Chapter Treasurer.

Publications Committee Chair: As our Publications Committee Chair, you can use your editorial and organizational skills to keep chapter members informed by writing and asking others to write for our monthly e-newsletter (e.g., profiles of members, “What We Do” articles, and news items).

Not ready or able to serve as a Committee Chair? All our committees welcome members to share ideas and keep the workload light.

In addition to keeping our group viable, volunteering with AMWA is a great way to network with your fellow members. It’s also a good way to fortify your C.V. with an extra line showing how you give back to your profession! If you can volunteer a few hours a month to help, contact our Executive Committee: EC (at) amwanorthcentral (dot) com. Thank you!


AMWA National Conference

Medical Writing & Communication Conference

Early Bird Rates End June 15!

November 1–3, 2018 (with preconference events on October 31)

Renaissance Washington DC Downtown Hotel

Registration is now open for AMWA’s 2018 national conference, with early bird rates in effect through June 15.

Visit the AMWA website to register and plan your trip. Remember, earlier registration gets you into more of the workshops, roundtables, and other sessions you want to attend and gives you more time to complete the homework for any workshops that require it. A preliminary schedule and listings of workshops, education sessions, and discussion roundtables are posted online.




Attendees enjoyed good food and drink and a lively Q and A during our spring event.

Successful Spring Event

by Messac Che Neba

Our AMWA North Central Chapter spring program on May 16 focused on the timely topic of the new European Union Medical Device Regulations (EU MDRs) and the impact on clinical evaluation reports (CERs).

A sign of spring in Minnesota—traffic delayed some people in getting to the event location that evening, but a networking hour before the main event gave the 15 attendees time to settle in. Kendra Hyland, our chapter president, and Eric Burggraff of Aerotek, the evening’s sponsor, welcomed attendees, offered them drink tickets, and invited them to chat with colleagues. The centrally located Fulton Brewery in Minneapolis was an excellent place for the event, with great space, food, and a variety of craft beer selections.

Speaker Karen Bannick, MA, RAC, FRAPS, gave a well-received presentation. Attendees’enthusiasm for the topic was reflected by the number of follow-up questions coming from all angles across the room, which made the session more lively and interactive. Karen’s talk emphasized the urgency of the topic and provided guidance on how to transition the new EU MDRs into effective CERs. We especially thank Karen for speaking on this important topic and Kendra and Eric for organizing the event.



Book Club Notes:

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales

by Paul W. Mamula, PhD

Our Book Club met at the Caribou Coffee shop just north of Lake Nokomis in south Minneapolis on April 30 to discuss The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks—his third book.

About the Author

Oliver Sacks was a neurologist, a bestselling author, and an avid swimmer. He wrote articles that appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, and many other medical, scientific, and general publications. Sacks earned his medical degree from Oxford University (Queen’s College) in 1958 and did internships in Middlesex Hospital’s medical and neurological units, before embarking on peripatetic travel to Canada and the United States. He completed a residency in neurology at Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco (now a part of the University of California, San Francisco, and the same institution where I did my postdoctoral fellowship!) and fellowships in neurology and psychiatry at UCLA before settling in New York City.1,2

He began writing in 1967, and his first book, Migraine, was published in 1970. His book Awakenings became the first documentary made for the British television program Discovery in 1974; that book was the first to win widespread attention and was made into a movie in 1990 starring Robert DeNiro. His 14th and last book, Gratitude, was published posthumously. Shortly before his death in 2015, Sacks wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times in which he reflected on his life in medicine and on his impending death from ocular melanoma.3

The Book

We selected The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat as a representative work of Sacks’ wonderful writing. The book is a collection of fascinating stories of individuals with various neurological disorders, including Tourette syndrome, Parkinson disease, and several others. Many of the stories were collected from previously published works, and others were more recent additions. Divided into four sections, the book is only 242 pages and easy to browse. Most of the stories are relatively short; one is only 3 pages long. In spite of the complex neurological disorders he describes, the stories illustrate the doctor-patient interactions well. I read a later paperback version, which had additional notes added as postscripts.

Each story in the book has short accounts of the condition described, references to texts and articles, and commentary for those who want to learn more about a topic, although for some disorders much has changed since the book was published. It takes its title from a case in which a music teacher became increasingly unable to recognize familiar faces (visual agnosia) and also lost the ability to identify common objects. Otherwise, he was able to function normally, but he eventually sought treatment. Although Sacks was unable to discover exactly what was wrong, he offered a neurological explanation and found a similar case in the old medical literature. Some of the patient’s problems were likely due to a large brain tumor that eventually caused his death.

Favorite Parts

Mary Knatterud praised “Sacks’ sensitivity about the dignity and worth of patients.” She explained, “I appreciated his emphasis on what he calls a ‘patient’s essential being’ (p. viii); his foregrounding of patients and physicians as ‘coequals, on the same level, each learning from and helping the other and between them arriving at new insights and treatment’ (p. 75); and his disdain for the ‘odious’ practice of calling patients ‘clients’ (p. 183) or ‘subjects’ (p. 196).”

“My favorite passages in the entire book,” Knatterud said, “are in the disturbing subsection about a pair of identical twins who were whizzes with prime numbers, but then were tragically separated by the well-meaning yet blind medical system, relegated to halfway houses and menial jobs that destroyed their connection to each other as well as their mathematical prowess. In those long-institutionalized twin men, Sacks had observed ‘something exceedingly mysterious at work, powers and depths of a perhaps fundamental sort…a singular self-sufficiency and serenity to their lives’ that ‘the urge to limit and test’ (pp. 196, 209) simply—to everyone’s diminishment—could not discern.”

My favorite story in the book is “Witty Ticcy Ray,” which features a patient who had Tourette syndrome. The patient had experienced multiple violent tics since age 4, but he was able to partially overcome them and to graduate from high school and college. His postcollege career, however, was fraught with multiple firings because of the tics. The disease also affected his marriage and other relationships, given his frequent involuntary cries of “Fuck!” and “Shit!” He survived most of this turmoil by performing as a weekend jazz drummer, work that kept him emotionally and financially stable. When Sacks saw him for treatment, he prescribed Haldol, a common choice then, but the drug affected the patient’s drumming and his interactions with others. I liked this story the most, perhaps because it is one of the longer ones and has similarities to another of our Book Club selections, Ticked.

Up Next

Our next Book Club gathering will be our annual dinner meeting at Boca Chica Restaurant in St. Paul on September 24, 2018. We will discuss A World without “Whom”: The Essential Guide to Language in the Buzzfeed Age by Emmy J. Favilla. We hope to see you there.


  1. Oliver Sacks, M.D. https://www.oliversackscom [Accessed May 18, 2017].
  2. Cowles G. Oliver Sacks, Neurologist Who Wrote about the Brain’s Quirks, Dies at 82. The New York Times, August 30, 2015.
  3. Sacks O. My Own Life. The New York Times, February 19, 2015.

Read a Good Book?

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.