Newsletter – December 2018

Greetings, North Central Members!

Welcome to the December 2018 chapter newsletter. Let us know what you think, and remember, you can also 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:

Book Club: January 28, 2019
SE Minnesota Discussion Group: February 8, 2019
Networking Happy Hour: February 21, 2019

New Year—New Volunteers Needed!

National Conference Recap
Strategic Connections via the CAC: From DC to CA
Freelance Medical Communicators Tools of the Trade Survey



Book Club: Monday, January 28, 2019, at 11 a.m.
The Egg and I, 2550 University Ave., St. Paul, MN
The Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization
Details: For our winter meeting, we will be discussing The Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization by Martin Puchner. You are warmly invited to ask a colleague or a friend to come along with you. Your guest need not be an AMWA member (yet!), just someone who loves books and language-oriented, medically inflected discussions.

The Egg & I, at 2550 University Ave., is just west of Hwy. 280, near the Minneapolis-St. Paul border. If you (and a guest) plan to attend, please let Mary Knatterud know: 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 these books for later in 2019:
• 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

Read Another 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.


SE Minnesota Writers and Editors Discussion Group
February 8, 2019: 12 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 ensure 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!


Networking Happy Hour
Grumpy’s, 2801 Snelling Avenue North, Roseville, MN
Thursday, February 21, 2019, 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Details: 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! RSVP to Messac Che Neba, mcheneba (at) gmail (dot) com so we can get a ballpark number for the reservation (walk-ins are welcome, too).



Volunteers Still Needed for the New Year!
Already several months into our new programming year, we still have some missing links in leadership and some gracious previous volunteers working beyond their term. As you know, our North Central chapter 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 or serve as a chapter officer. These positions are still open:
    • President-Elect: The president-elect participates in a 3-year term: learning the chapter’s processes as president-elect, then serving as president, and finally continuing on as immediate past president to ensure continuity.
    • Treasurer: The treasurer (3-year term) manages the chapter’s checking account, develops the annual budget in collaboration with the president and president-elect, contributes to semiannual reports, completes IRS filing, and when needed, helps other committees establish a budget for large events. The current treasurer’s term will overlap with the incoming treasurer’s term to teach you about the position.
    • Finance Committee Chair: This 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: This chair keeps chapter members informed by writing, and asking others to write articles for our monthly e-newsletter (e.g., profiles of members, “What We Do” articles, and news items).

Not ready or able to lead a committee? All of 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 president, Lisa Poppenberg: president (at) Thank you!



AMWA 2018 National Conference Recap
by Lisa Poppenberg, MPH, ELS

North Central chapter members (left to right) Naomi Ruff, Lisa Poppenberg, Maiya Grath, Michael Franklin, Colleen Sauber, Lynelle Martinez, and Mary Knatterud enjoyed the chapter dinner at the national conference.

AMWA’s national Medical Writing & Communication Conference was held in Washington DC, from November 1 to 4. The conference theme was “Link.Learn.Lead.” Hundreds of attendees from all over the country engaged in different formats for networking and learning. I attended education sessions, workshops, general sessions, roundtables, and networking events during the conference — here is a highlight from each to give you a sense of the scope of the conference and the benefits of attending.

  • General Session: The highlight of the general sessions for me was the McGovern Award Address, “The Heart and Science of Medical Writing,” by Stacy Robison, MPH, MCHES. Robison’s speech discussed the importance of building empathy in medical writing. She gave tips on how to do this and then answered questions from many interested and curious audience members.
  • Education Session: A wide variety of education sessions were offered this year, focusing on regulatory, science, freelance, Microsoft Word, management, and other concerns. A highlight for me was attending Elise Eller’s session, “What Should a Medical Writer Know About Gene Therapy and Gene Editing?” Dr. Eller gave a wonderful overview of gene therapy and gene editing, including the history, science, ethical issues, and future. I’m excited to see what is coming in this area!
  • Workshop: I am currently updating a style guide at work, so I attended the “Establishing Style: Exploring and Developing In-House Guides” workshop. Although I was worried this workshop might be a little dry, the time flew by and I got great tips and tricks for using the established style guides and creating my own style guide. Did you know you can tweet @AMAmanual when you have questions for the AMA Manual of Style?
  • Roundtable: On Saturday afternoon, I attended a roundtable titled “Epidemiology 101 for Medical Writers.” Molly Aldridge, MPH, led an interesting overview and discussion of epidemiology for various types of medical writers with different experience levels. The takeaways I learned from this discussion will be very useful in my daily writing.
  • Networking Event: During the conference, seven members of the AMWA North Central chapter enjoyed a fun chapter dinner together on November 1 at Matchbox Chinatown. The chapter treated to appetizers, and the chapter members had lively conversation about conference events, Washington DC, medical writing, our chapter, and more.

Throughout the conference, multiple first-time attendees mentioned how friendly everyone at AMWA was and how inviting the conference was. I’ll be in San Diego for next year’s conference, and I hope to see you there!


Strategic Connections via the CAC: From DC to CA
by Mary E. Knatterud, PhD
2017-18 and 2018-19 CAC representative for the North Central chapter

Etymologically obsessed, especially with medical terms, I find it ironic that the new AMWA body “CAC” is spelled the same as the Greek combining form “cac,” meaning bad or ill, as in “cachexia,” “cacodyl,” “cacosmia,” and “cacophony.” But those disturbing cac- words would be the last I’d summon in describing the CAC, which stands for the national Chapter Advisory Council. CAC in this context is neither a combining form nor an acronym, but rather an initialism, pronounced letter by letter: C, A, C.

Connecting at This Year’s Meeting
During the AMWA national conference, the inaugural in-person CAC meeting was held at lunchtime on November 2, in the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Washington DC. It was truly special, full of good and healthy comments (as well as good and healthy food, plus a much-appreciated bag of Halloween candy).

The meeting was led by CAC chair Katrina Burton, a senior communications specialist in public relations at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. After all the quarterly teleconferences, group and individual emails, and even one-on-one phone calls that Burton has orchestrated these past 12-plus months, it was gratifying to finally meet her—and a dozen or so of my fellow CAC members, whether outgoing or incoming—in person. Also in attendance were Shari Rager, AMWA’s deputy director; Sharon Ruckdeschel, AMWA’s director of membership and systems; and several members of the national Board of Directors.

My main takeaway from the meeting is that the CAC (formally launched in November 2017) is meant to be a strategic, big-picture sounding board, helping all chapters to thrive—and to connect not only with national AMWA officers but also with one another. Burton stressed that volunteer jobs “should be fun and rewarding.” She encouraged all of us to participate in the Engage platform (accessible at and in ongoing conversations, electronic or otherwise, with our chapter’s leaders and members.

A Face-to-Face Connection
On a pragmatic (and to me, personally inspiring) note, Burton reiterated her recommendation that each chapter should help its CAC rep to attend the in-person CAC meeting, ideally by offering financial support for related costs. I myself, after decades of enthusiastically teaching at and eagerly participating in AMWA conferences, would not have been able to go at all this year, given my workplace’s current travel funding restrictions, if it hadn’t been for my beloved chapter’s generosity in covering some of my expenses.

My understanding is that each CAC rep serves a 1- or 2-year term (renewable at the discretion of the chapter president), to align with AMWA’s governance year, which typically runs from November 1 through October 31. Our assembled group agreed that each chapter president should list the new (or continuing) CAC rep in the already required twice-yearly chapter reports, particularly the one due August 1. I expressed my concern over the following suggestion (which was written in the CAC meeting’s materials): “The CAC term begins after the annual conference and ends with the in-person meeting at the next year’s conference.” As I emphasized, it would make more sense, at least to me, for a new CAC rep to meet everyone before devoting a year-plus to teleconference discussions and email/website tasks, rather than being finished after finally meeting face-to-face. One of the Board members at the meeting kindly responded to me, “I really appreciate that you said that: a wonderful point.”

Preparing for a New Connection
Regardless of what is decided about the CAC term span, I feel strongly that our North Central chapter’s next CAC rep (and it cannot be me again, since I am already into my second year of my CAC term and do not plan to serve in this capacity for a third year) should be the lucky one to receive our chapter’s financial support for the Fall 2019 meeting. In my view, our next CAC rep must be on board well before next fall’s San Diego conference, in order to have time during the summer to register as early, and thus as inexpensively, as possible and to secure the best airfare. So, I am officially resigning from my CAC term on June 30, 2019 (rather than October 31, 2019). Our chapter president, Lisa Poppenberg, will be able to name the new CAC rep in her August 2019 report.

I have thoroughly enjoyed serving as the CAC rep for this past year-plus, and will continue to give it my all through the end of next June and then, informally, beyond. I will be happy to answer any questions that the new CAC rep might have, any month, any year.

To reprise Burton’s adjectives, I am immensely thankful for what has definitely been a “fun and rewarding” volunteer experience. Any of you still reading this article, please contact President Poppenberg (president (at) or me (knatt001 (at) umn (dot) edu) if you’re interested in becoming our 2019–20 CAC rep and relishing a headily full, yet virtually free, day with AMWA colleagues next November in sunny San Diego.

Freelance Medical Communicators Tools of the Trade Survey

Monica Nicosia is conducting a survey of the 2018 Freelance Medical Communicators Tools of the Trade Survey. The survey is available at:

The tentative closing date of the survey is 12/31/2018. The survey data will be analyzed via a journal article and conference presentations. The first version of this survey in was conducted in 2016 and the results are published in the AMWA J Fall 2017 issue.

Here are 3 reasons to participate:

  • Contribute valuable data regarding the software/apps and other tech tools we use in our work.
  • Help yourself and other freelancers expand and upgrade their digital toolbox.
  • Receive a copy of summary findings.

The survey is mobile friendly and takes less than 10 minutes to complete.

Connect with the Chapter

AMWA North Central Chapter Officers
President: Lisa Poppenberg, MPH, ELS, president (at) amwanorthcentral (dot) org
President-Elect: vacant
Past President: Kendra Hyland, PhD
Co-Treasurer: Ellen O’Malley, MS, treasurer (at) amwanorthcentral (dot) org
Co-Treasurer: vacant
Secretary: Amelia Young, BS, secretary (at) amwanorthcentral (dot) org
Past-Secretary: Lynelle Martinez, MBA

AMWA North Central Committee Chairs
Finance Committee: Co-Treasurer Ellen O’Malley, MS
Membership Committee: Naomi Ruff
LinkedIn Manager: Mary Van Beusekom
Program Committee: Messac Che Neba
Publications Committee: Jean Cook, ELS
Chapter Representative to AMWA National: Mary Knatterud, PhD

Questions? Ideas? Email the officers listed above or visit our website at