Newsletter – February 2019

Greetings, North Central Members!

Welcome to the February 2019 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:





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).

Book Club: Monday, April 29, 2019, at 11 a.m.

Mirror of Korea, 761 Snelling Ave., St. Paul, MN

Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce by Douglas Starr


Our next Book Club meeting is on April 29, 2019, at 11 am at the Mirror of Korea, 761 Snelling Ave, St Paul, in the Midway neighborhood near Hamline University. The book we’ll discuss is Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce by Douglas Starr. Bring your suggestions to help us select books to read for 2020!

SE Minnesota Writers and Editors Discussion Group

May 10,  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!


Volunteer View

Lisa Poppenberg, AMWA North Central President

My name is Lisa Poppenberg and I am the current president of AMWA’s North Central Chapter. I am a regulatory writer working remotely out of Minnesota for a pharmaceutical company based in Massachusetts, so I enjoy volunteering with my local chapter to connect with other medical writers in the area.

As current president, I have several monthly responsibilities, including hosting the monthly Executive Committee meetings, attending other ad hoc meetings, and recruiting new officers and members. I am also responsible for other tasks during my term as president, including planning and hosting the chapter dinner at AMWA’s National Conference, making sure the Chapter’s incorporation status is up to date with the State of Minnesota, and working on the semi-annual reports required by AMWA National. This year, all local AMWA chapters have also been tasked with updating Chapter Bylaws to comply with the new AMWA National standard, so I have been working on this project as well. The amount of time I spend volunteering for the chapter varies every month, from a few hours on a slower month to a few hours a week during busier months.

I find volunteering with the North Central Chapter to be very rewarding. I am especially thankful for the leadership experience I am gaining, the experience working on a non-profit in Minnesota, and all the wonderful volunteers (past and present) in our chapter who help with any questions I have! If you have any questions about volunteering with the chapter, please don’t hesitate to reach out at president (at)

Take an Active Role — Volunteer!

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.

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!

Call for Proposals — by February 28

Share your expertise on a timely topic related to medical communications! AMWA’s national office is now accepting proposals for sessions to be held at the 2019 Medical Writing and Communication Conference. The conference occurs on November 6–9 in San Diego, California.

Sessions involve one or multiple presenters and run from 10 to 90 minutes depending on format. The formats include roundtable discussions, poster presentations, topic sessions, MedWrite Talks (AMWA’s take on TEDx Talks), and panel presentations. In addition to indicating your preferred session format, you will need to provide the topic, title, description, and learning objectives.

Submit your session proposal online before February 28.

You’ll find a planning document, more information, and the online submission here:


Book Club Notes: The Written World by Martin Puchner

by Paul W. Mamula, PhD

Our Book Club meeting on January 28, 2019, opened with Mary Knatterud, longtime coordinator, exclaiming, “There were five of us coming today until this morning, when two of them emailed me that the weather had changed their plans, understandably. But thank heaven, I have never yet been the sole attendee!” We discussed The Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization by Martin Puchner, as well as the cold day that proved to be the leading edge of temperatures we hadn’t experienced since 1996.

The Book

The Written World is 412 pages, but only 338 make up the text; the remaining pages are chapter notes and an index. The book contains 16 chapters that present the evolution of writing in cultures around the world. It has 16 pages of beautiful color photographs and reproductions of various types of writing, paintings, and other artwork. Most chapters also contain numerous photographs and illustrations. The paperback edition includes an interview with the author. While the theme is global, The Written World is leavened with enough to offer something for everyone.

Knatterud loved The Written World, immediately drawn in from its first page on: “The whole narrative is framed by the Apollo 8 astronauts’ reading of Genesis at Christmastime 1968; the Introduction features their famous photo of earthrise, a color enlargement of which graced the program cover for AMWA’s 1992 conference in Houston.” She admired the book’s “epic sweep and engaging style.” As she elaborated, “I found it a quick and fun overview, through the ages and around the globe, of the development and impact of writing — with the author’s nuanced comments connecting all the milestones.”

Those milestones, she later summarized, embodied “what Puchner terms ‘foundational texts,’ for example, by students of Buddha, Confucius, Socrates, Jesus, and Muhammad; by Martin Luther in the wake of Gutenberg’s mass printing of forms for indulgences; by the first novelists, Lady Murasaki in Japan and Cervantes in Spain; and by such thought leaders as Engels and Marx, Goethe, and Anna Akhmatova.”

Knatterud pointed out, “Puchner also focuses on various writing systems, from cuneiform to hieroglyphics to early alphabets, as well as on various materials that have brought texts to readers: clay tablets in Sumer, a region of ancient Mesopotamia; papyrus scrolls in Egypt; sheepskin parchment in Turkey; palm leaves in India; and paper from mulberry tree fibers in China, from recycled rags in Europe, and from bark soaked in lime in the Mayan Yucatán.”

One of Knatterud’s favorite passages pertains to the pitfalls plaguing every writer and editor: pre-Gutenberg texts were “often grotesquely distorted, due to the mistakes copyists had introduced, which were then copied and multiplied by a new generation of scribes…. True, printers might introduce errors as well, but these errors could be corrected more easily…. It wasn’t quite foolproof. In England, a printer produced a Bible that encouraged its readers to commit adultery, having accidentally omitted the ‘not’” (pp. 160–161).

With an undergraduate liberal arts background and a master’s degree in physical anthropology, I found the book a fun romp through the development of writing and its effects. I especially enjoyed the chapter on the Mayan writing system, most examples of which were unfortunately burned by the Spanish. The book’s structure reminded me of some of Sam Kean’s works (think The Violinist’s Thumb), but with considerably more breadth.

Up Next

Our next Book Club meeting is on April 29, 2019, at 11 a.m. at the Mirror of Korea, 761 Snelling Ave, St Paul, in the Midway neighborhood near Hamline University. This meeting is the first of 2 Book Club meetings at more centrally located places. We will discuss Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce by Douglas Starr. Even if you haven’t read the book, the meeting offers a chance to sample some of our local restaurant fare and meet AMWA members. We will also select the books for 2020, so bring your suggestions. Come join us!

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 jennerb (at) gmail (dot) com.

AMWA North Central Chapter Officers

President: Lisa Poppenberg, MPH, ELS, president (at) amwanorthcentral (dot) org

President-Elect: Jillienne Touchette

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

AMWA North Central Committee Chairs

Finance Committee: Co-Treasurer Ellen O’Malley, MS

Membership Committee: Lynelle Martinez, MBA

Program Committee: Messac Che Neba

Publications Committee: Jennifer Burton

Chapter Representative to AMWA National: Mary Knatterud, PhD

Chapter Advisory Council (CAC) Representative to AMWA National:

Mary Knatterud, PhD [Nov. 2017 through June 2019];

Paul Mamula, PhD [July 2019 through June 2020]

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