Newsletter- January 2021

Welcome to the January 2021 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:


  • Next Book Club: Monday, January 25th, 2021 via Zoom
  • Discussion Panel: Transitioning to Medical Writing, February 18, 2021 from 6 – 7 pm – via Zoom.




Book Club hosted by Paul Mamula

Topic: Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs by Michael T. Osterholm and Mark Olshaker

When:  Monday, January 25th, 2021 at 11:00 am Central Time via Zoom

Details:  We will be reading the second edition (2020), which has a new section about the COVID-19 pandemic. The book is nontechnical and an easy read. It traces many diseases and also includes stories about Michael Osterholm’s life and career. See you there!

RSVP: By 9 a.m. the morning of January 25th, please email Book Club coordinator Paul Mamula to let him know you will attend: paulpat (at) Click here to join the Zoom meeting. Meeting ID: 841 9976 1011
Passcode: pn03K8

Discussion Panel: Transitioning to Medical Writing

Hear from a wide-ranging panel of medical writers on their experience in the medical writing field including what it takes to succeed, how to find/secure jobs, and the pros and cons of each position. We are thrilled to have a panel that includes members from diverse medical communication practices with about a century of combined experience, which allows us to learn about the various career options in the field. Please join us!

The panel members are as follows:

  • Scott Wessels, MPS, ELS (Senior Program Manager, American Academy of Neurology)
  • Naomi Ruff, PhD, ELS (Biomedical Communicator, RuffDraft Communications LLC)
  • Amy Lindgren (Freelance Writer, Banfil Street Press)

The event will be held on Feburary 18, 2021 from 6 – 7 pm via Zoom. Please RSVP here or email Messac at programs (at) amwanorthcentral (dot) org to register. Zoom Meeting ID: 959 1303 1850


Take an active role in AMWA – Volunteers needed!

The AMWA North Central chapter is looking for a new president-elect. The president-elect position is critical to our status as a chapter!  Without a volunteer to fill this vital position, we will not be able to continue as a chapter. Please volunteer!

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.

President-elect: The new president-elect role will serve a one-year term beginning in February 2021 and ideally will transition into the role of president in 2022. As president-elect, you will attend the monthly AMWA NC chapter board meetings, take minutes, and chair the meeting if the president is unable to attend. Other duties may be assigned by the president or board on an ad hoc basis. Please submit your nominations to president (at) amwanorthcentral (dot) org.

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, Michele Cleary: president (at) amwanorthcentral (dot) org


Insights from AMWA’s January discussion panel: Transitioning to Medical Writing Part I

by Ashley Mooneyham, PhD

On January 14th, 2021, over twenty North Central AMWA members gathered to hear insights about transitioning to a career in medical writing from three panelists: Kendra Hyland, PhD, a Senior Medical Writer at Medtronic plc; Michael Franklin, MS, a Senior Medical Editor and Writer in the Division of Hematology, Oncology and Transplantation at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities; and Paul Mamula, PhD, an independent Freelance Writer and Editor. The discussion focused on panelists’ backgrounds, work responsibilities, skill development, and recommendations for breaking into their industry.

Kendra received her PhD in mucosal immunology from the University of Minnesota before joining Medtronic as a technical writer. She then transitioned to her current position writing Clinical Evaluation Reports (CERs) on minimally invasive surgical devices. Kendra enjoys the many different aspects of medical writing that are encompassed by CERs, including reviewing clinical literature, summarizing documents, and data analysis, which keep her engaged throughout the work day. She notes analytical, critical thinking, and communication skills are essential to success. Also she found that attending AMWA workshops, such as the Microsoft Word workshop offered at the national AMWA conference, were great tools to develop these skillsets. If you’re interested in breaking into medical writing at a large company like Medtronic, Kendra recommends getting a foot in the door through contract medical or technical writing.

Michael began his academic studies in cognitive psychology before transitioning to science journalism because he was interested in writing about the big questions of science. He began his career as a managing editor of a peer-reviewed journal at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities (UMN), where the Editor-in-Chief was a faculty member in the Hematology, Oncology, and Transplantation Department. Through this networking relationship, Michael secured his current position as a Medical Editor. He primarily worked on copyediting at first, then transitioning to advising and writing on manuscripts and grants for some of the top cancer doctors in the Midwest. Michael emphasized being in the “right place at the right time” to land your dream job. Medical writers can facilitate this by offering to freelance with University faculty members to begin building relationships toward what they ultimately want to do.

Paul has had a successful decades-long and varied career, which he lightheartedly describes as a result of “Magpie Syndrome”; he is always seeking something new and interesting. Paul completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco, engaging in endocrinological research and later a research position at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He took an editing position at McGraw-Hill Companies after a brief stint in industry and worked on multiple medical publications and special project groups for 8 years. He then transitioned to a Researcher-Writer position at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy before becoming an independent freelance writer and editor. According to Paul, having experience in several distinct fields is a valuable skillset in freelance writing because it broadens the potential client pool and allows for more consistent work. Most of Paul’s clients come to him through word-of-mouth, which he highlights as a pillar of freelance success; “if you do good work, you’ll receive more work”. Paul’s recommendation for breaking into freelance writing is gaining transdisciplinary experience and networking through organizations such as AMWA.

Each of the panelists had a valuable story to tell. If you want to learn more about Medical Writing, consider attending Part II of AMWA’s “Transitioning to Medical Writing” panel discussion on February 18th!