Newsletter – April 2019

Greetings, North Central Members!

Welcome to the April 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:

CHAPTER EVENTS

NEWS

Features

CHAPTER EVENTS

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

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

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

Details:

Our next Book Club meeting is on April 29, 2019, at 11 a.m. at the Mirror of Korea, 761 Snelling Avenue North, St. Paul, in the Midway neighborhood just southwest of 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! By 9 a.m. the morning of April 29, please email longtime Book Club coordinator Mary Knatterud to let her know you’re coming: knatt001 (at) umn (dot) edu

N.B.: This is our Book Club’s first time at this lovely restaurant, dubbed a “local jewel” by City Pages. You can order anything from the spiciest kimchi to the mildest fried rice; or, if you’re not hungry, simply savor a cup of hot tea or soup. The restaurant is about a mile and a half north of I-94, on the west side of Snelling Avenue at its intersection with Englewood Avenue (kitty-corner from Hamline University’s new student union). On-street parking is available on the nearby side streets, although you may need to walk a half-block or so — hopefully on ice-free sidewalks by then!

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 http://amwanorthcentral.org/chapter/?page_id=109. Hope to see you there!

Upcoming June Event

June 19th at the Urban Growler in St. Paul

Save the date for the next North Central Chapter event, and stay tuned for further details in the May newsletter!

NEWS

Volunteer View

My name is Ellen O’Malley. I am currently serving my 3rd year as treasurer of the AMWA North Central Chapter. I previously served as the Financial Committee Chairperson before becoming treasurer. I am employed as a clinical/regulatory writer and publications manager for a medical device company based in Plymouth, MN.

Responsibilities of the treasurer include managing the chapter’s finances. This involves writing checks or making credit card payments for expenses that the chapter incurs and depositing the checks that the National AMWA organization provides the chapter. I balance the checkbook monthly and provide financial summaries for semiannual chapter reports. Annually, I work with the Executive Committee to develop the annual budget and provide the financial records to the finance chairperson for an annual financial audit. Other responsibilities include attending the monthly Executive Committee meetings and filing the annual chapter federal tax statement. The total time commitment for these activities is typically a couple hours per month with a little more time spent during the budget preparation.

The North Central Chapter leadership includes a wonderful group of smart and dedicated people whom I have had the great pleasure to work with over a number of years. Participating in the chapter provides wonderful opportunities for networking and learning new skills. Participation of members is also critical to ensuring the chapter remains viable to support its members’ educational and networking needs. The chapter leadership is a friendly group that is always there to help other members. If you are interested in volunteering for the co-treasurer position, I will be there to help you learn the ropes. If you have any questions about volunteering with the chapter, please contact me at treasurer (at) amwanorthcentral.org.

Take an Active Role — Volunteer!

We still have some additional missing links in leadership and some gracious previous volunteers working beyond their term. As you know, our 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:

  • 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 (June) 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) amwanorthcentral.org. Thank you!

FEATURES

February Networking Event Photo


Enjoying appetizers and networking at Grumpy’s (left to right): Kendra Hyland, Nancy Fares-Federickson, Kim Fortier-Gruidl, Venu Thayanithy, and Messac Che Neba. Ellen O’Malley and Mary Knatterud were also present. Knatterud pointed out how “fun it was to (re)match faces with names and how much she “relished the chapter-reimbursed appetizers along with the free exchange of work-related knowledge.”

Read a Good Book?: Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

By Paul W. Mamula, PhD

John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup gets my vote for the best nonfiction work of 2018. The book is a real page-turner, providing a blow-by-blow account of one of the epic failures in corporate oversight. John Carreyrou first presented the story of Theranos, a diagnostic company, and its young charismatic founder, Elizabeth Holmes, in a Wall Street Journal article series that was critical of the company’s claim that their mini-lab analyzer could detect hundreds of blood biomarkers and diseases from a microtube sample. The book grew out of that work and provides a stark portrait of Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos, the analyzer, the executive board, and her management style. Ultimately, Holmes used her mesmerizing good looks, personality, and family connections to dupe investors and large companies, while squandering hundreds of millions of dollars along the way.

Carreyrou’s book differs from the typical investigative work and reads much more like an espionage thriller. I couldn’t put it down; the details of how the story unfolded are simply fantastic. The intimidation by Theranos’s lawyers and executive board members to try to suppress the story is absolutely chilling. Elizabeth Holmes and Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, her boyfriend and chief operating officer, hoodwinked investors over a 13-year period and along the way misled FDA inspectors, misrepresented their analyzer, and tried to suppress investigations into discrepancies. The results they produced were often derived from duplicate analyses run on diluted samples that had been tested using an illegally modified Siemens analyzer. Theranos had a peak value estimated at $9 billion, but growing concerns caused its value to plummet and the company to fail. The book ends shortly after the indictment in March 2018 of Holmes and Balwani for fraud, but the case is still being prosecuted.

Bad Blood also provides a cautionary tale for investors. Most of the large investors, including Rupert Murdoch and the Walton and DeVos families, had no background in science or medicine, yet still invested hundreds of millions of dollars on the strength of Holmes’ personality. They should have known better.

An Update for the Curious

Several new developments that occurred after Bad Blood was published are worth noting. Holmes settled with the Securities and Exchange Commission by paying a $500,000 fine, returning 18.9 million shares, relinquishing her voting control of Theranos, and being barred from serving as an officer or director of a public company for 10 years. She was not in the clear, however. On June 15, 2018, both Holmes and Balwani were indicted on 2 counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 9 counts of wire fraud.1 Fortress Investment Group LLC provided a cash infusion, obtaining control of Theranos in return for the company’s patents and believing it could turn the company around. Nonetheless, Theranos still went out of business.2 Although medical testing fulfils a critical need, others have suggested that Bad Blood provides lessons on why the United States badly needs healthcare and insurance reform.3 Curiously, technology that Theranos promoted does exist to perform microtesting, but not via hundreds of analyses from merely a few microliters of sample. Unfortunately, the fraud has dampened enthusiasm for investors industrywide, much to the detriment of a local Minnesota company developing related analytical technology.4

References

  1. Press Release. Founder and Former Chief Operating Officer Charged in Alleged Wire Fraud Schemes. US Attorney’s Office, Northern District of California, June 15, 2018. https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndca/pr/-founder-and-former-chief-operating-officer-charged-alleged-wire-fraud-schemes
  2. Abelson R. Built on Deception and on the Brink of Bankruptcy, Theranos Is Shutting Down. The New York Times, Sep 5, 2018, page B3.
  3. Shure N. The Real Lesson from the Downfall of Theranos: We Need to Nationalize the Healthcare System. In These Times, Sep 28, 2018. http://inthesetimes.com/article/21467/_healthcare_disruption_tech_single_payer_medicare_for_all
  4. Carlson J. St. Paul startup takes run at big market with $8 blood tests. Minneapolis Star Tribune, January 14, 2019, Business Section, page D1. http://www.startribune.com/can-st-paul-startup-succeed-where–failed-ativa-bets-on-8-blood-tests/504239192/

Have you read another good book lately?

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.