Newsletter-April 2022

Welcome to the April 2022 chapter newsletter. 

April, quite unexpectedly, is a month of mystery. Though it derives from the Latin Aprilis, the root of the name is unclear. It may come from aperio – “to open”, in reference to the blooming of April flowers. Or, so says Ovid, April is the month of Aphrodite, Greek counterpart to Venus. What’s more, April was not always “April” at all. In 68 CE, it was briefly renamed “Neronius” during a particularly tumultuous and inebriated year in the reign of Emperor Nero. 

Continuing our musical recommendations, for April I suggest A Somerset Rhapsody by Gustav Holst. Written in honor of the folk music collector Cecil Sharp (what a name for a musician!), A Somerset Rhapsody draws inspiration from four traditional English songs. It opens to a humble “sheep-shearing song” and concludes with “The Lover’s Farewell,” as the young farmgirl’s betrothed marches off to war. The result is truly arcadian – a musical fallen paradise, beautiful precisely because it cannot last. 

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.

In this issue:

CHAPTER NEWS

CHAPTER EVENTS

FEATURES 

CHAPTER NEWS

Seeking Candidates for Programming Chair

The AMWA North Central chapter is looking for volunteers! 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 or serve as a chapter officer.

Please submit your interest or nominations for any of the positions to bod (at) list.amwanorthcentral (dot) org.

Programming Committee Chair: The Program Committee Chair is responsible for organizing in-person and virtual AMWA events throughout the year, including identifying topics of interest and recruiting speakers. This is an important role in the chapter and is valuable for both member engagement and education.

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, contact bod (at) list.amwanorthcentral (dot) org.


CHAPTER EVENTS

AMWA North Central Chapter Book Club, April 25, 2022 at 6 PM 

We will meet by Zoom (details below). All are welcome, even if you did not read the book: 

The Great Influenza by John M. Barry. 

Barry’s book is a meticulous documentation and analysis of the great influenza pandemic of 1918-1920. The book traces the pandemic from its outset through its spread while also analyzing steps people and governments took in response—surprising that these measures still have lessons for our current pandemic. The book has been reissued several times as a paperback with an afterword (most recently 2018). 

Please RSVP to paulpat (at) pclink (dot) com   

Zoom meeting link  

Meeting ID: 843 9695 4769 

Passcode: 902780

FEATURES

Profile on a Member: Kristen Hutchison, by Kendra A. Hyland, PhD  

Kristen writes systematic literature reviews and meta-analyses at Nested Knowledge and uses the Nested Knowledge software. Kristen also works on manuscripts for publication and grant materials. The targeted audience is typically healthcare professionals, like physicians and pharmacists. Kristen currently leads projects with physicians specialized in neuro-interventional medicine and collaborates with colleagues around the world who work remotely. She appreciates the flexibility in her schedule which allows for excellent work/life balance. Kristen loves learning and has learned an immense amount of information in the world of clinical medicine. Kristen has a BS in Psychology and Biology and partially completed a MA in Athletic Training. Initially she wanted to be a clinician, but then she realized in graduate school that her passion was in research and working behind the scenes. Kristen appreciates that she is making an impact in patient care by publishing systematic literature reviews on best practices, for example, which are read by healthcare providers, who subsequently improve patient care. 

Kristen first learned about AMWA from a fellow medical writer when she was first starting out. Kristen has gained precious wisdom by networking with established medical writers. Without the information she has learned through fellow AMWA members, likely she would not be as successful in her career. 

When Kristen isn’t working, she enjoys writing personal essays. Her goal is to get an essay compilation published in the next few years. Kristen also loves cooking and watches many Food Network shows, because she finds that there is beautiful artistry in chefs and pastry chefs. 

 

Summary of Tom Lang’s writing workshop, by Adam Fix, PhD 

On March 23rd, Tom Lang presented a workshop titled “Evidence-Based Medical Writing & Editing.” Lang began by dispelling misconceptions regarding readability and comprehension. Are shorter words more readable than longer ones? What about shorter sentences? Is active voice more comprehensible than passive voice? Not necessarily. As Lang showed, these superficially obvious assumptions have never been verified by any evidence-based studies of reading comprehension. 

Having cleared the initial suspects, Lang shone a light on the true culprits of poor readability in medical-technical-scientific writing: lack of familiarity, complexity, and nominalizations. 

  • Lack of familiarity: Familiar words are more comprehensible. In Lang’s example, “poisonous” is more familiar than the shorter word “toxic.” Likewise, concrete words are more comprehensible than abstract words, e.g., “microscope” vs. “laboratory equipment.” Though familiar, concrete words are often shorter, word length itself is not the cause of poor readability. 
  • Complexity: Simple and direct sentence constructions are more comprehensible than complex ones, with length being a secondary consideration. Keeping subject and verb close together, according to Lang, helps simplify sentences and increase readability. 
  • Nominalizations: Verbs turned into nouns. For example, “solve” is often nominalized as “offer a solution”, while “analyze” becomes “perform an analysis.” Nominalizations force the writer to add another, usually less specific verb, thereby decreasing readability. 

The latter half of Lang’s presentation focused on the visualization of information, specifically how data can be represented in misleading ways. The “suppressed zero problem” reveals how small changes over time can be blown out of proportion by placing a number other than zero at the origin of the graph. The “elastic scale problem” shows how line graphs can stretch like taffy based on the scaling of the X or Y axis, with Lang depicting the same data set first as a dramatic spike and then as a gradual increase. Suffice it to say that the visualization of information matter as much as the writing towards overall reader comprehension, and Lang masterfully demonstrated both in his presentation. 

The slides to Tom’s presentation may be found in the Dropbox folder here. 

You can contact Tom at his website (http://www.tomlangcommunications.com/) or via email at tomlangcom@aol.com. 

Books authored by Tom include: 

  • How to Report Statistics in Medicine: Annotated Guidelines for Authors, Editors, and Reviewers, 2nd Ed by Thomas A Lang, Michelle Secic 
  • How to Write, Publish, and Present in the Health Sciences: Guidelines for Clinicians and Laboratory Researchers by Thomas A. Lang 
  • Understanding Statistics in Medicine: Basic concepts for those who write, edit, review, or read the medical literature by Thomas A Lang, Donna E. Stroup, Michelle Secic ( www.Lulu.com)