Newsletter-June 2022

Welcome to the June 2022 chapter newsletter. 

It’s summertime. And, all things considered, the living is easy. Please, if you’re inclined, checkout this recording of Gershwin’s Summertime by The Academy of St. Martin in the FieldsChamber Ensemble. Like many Gershwin compositions, Summertime occupies a dual existence: sometimes catchy jazz tune; other times swelling orchestral arrangement. In this chamber rendition, a gaggle of violins ramble and reminisce while the cello underneath steams with profound, bottomless longing. The tightly stacked string parts elbow each other for space, conjuring images of a cramped and sweltering tenement complex in depression-era SouthCarolina. Its occupants wake up every morning and gaze across the waterfront, waiting for the boat that will bring them to New York

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:



Virtual Presentation on Cybersecurity with J. Kelly Byram, June 15 at 7 PM via Zoom


  • Member profile: Samuel Smith
  • Member profile: Theodore Sadler, PhD MSc
  • Book club notes: The Great Influenza
  • Chapter Advisory Council Update by LeAnn Stee


Volunteers needed 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.


Virtual Presentation on Cybersecurity with J. Kelly Bram: June 15 at 7pm via Zoom

Save the date! On June 15, 7 PM we will hold a Zoom meeting with J. Kelly Byram, MS, CEO and Cybersecurity Lead of Duke City Consulting and Past President of AMWA Southwest Chapter. Ms. Byram conducts webinars and coaching on cybersecurity and will discuss aspects of cybersecurity for freelancers. Knowing what software to have and which steps to take to prevent data theft is critical for good business practice and avoiding identity theft. She will present tips on what to avoid during travel, while working remotely, and much more. Her booklet “Freelancer’s Guide to Cybersecurity” served as the basis for a breakfast roundtable at the AMWA National Meeting in San Diego in 2019. Please join us for her talk. 

Zoom meeting 

Meeting ID: 897 1073 2023 

Passcode: 203077 


Member Profile: Samuel Smith, MS

Sam has worked for prestigious institutions like Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, and the NationalInstitutes of Health and spent years as an award-winning journalist. Sam is proficient in the full spectrum of medical and scientific communications.He has developed strategic communications assessments and plans, academic manuscripts and books, regulatory documentation, sales and consumer communication, peer-to-peer communications, executive/C-suite communications, presentations, and business plans. Sam has developed content in a wide range of indications from oncology and cardiology to genomics and medical devices. He holds a master of science degree in journalism and a bachelor’s degree in English, pre-medicine, both from University of Illinois.


Member profile: Theodore Sadler, PhD MSc

Dr. Theodore Sadler, PhD, MSc is a published author in several peer-reviewed scientific journals, invited speaker to academic institutions, and presenter at international conferences.Theodore has a BA in Biology from Boston University, and his doctorate in Pathobiology from the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine focused on elucidating the potential mechanisms leading to severe affective disorders in adulthood in an animal model.Theodore has over 20 years of academic and industry experience covering clinical, medical, regulatory, and scientific writing roles, where he has had the esteemed pleasure previously working for Medtronic, Air Liquide America, LivaNova, and the University of CaliforniaLosAngeles among many. Currently, Dr. Sadler is a Senior Medical Writer for Abbott Laboratories where his primary focus is providing multiple deliverables covering EU AIMDD, MDD, and MDR requirements. That being stated, among his core competencies are developing abstracts, manuscripts, posters, and slide decks as well as publication plans, regulated documents, and analysis of datasets. When not spending quality time with his family, Theodore is a published travel writer and photographer, triathlete, and active outdoorsmen.

Book Club Notes: The Great Influenza by John M. Barry 

Notes by Paul W. Mamula, PhD 

Our virtual book club met on April 25, 2022, to discuss The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry. The book describes the 1918-20 influenza pandemic that killed an estimated 21 million to100 million people in 3 waves. 

The Book  

The text is 460 pages in 10 sections, with 16 pages of photographs; it also has chapter notes, a selected bibliography, and an index that add about another 100 pages. The book was originally published in 2004 and has been reissued several times. The 2018 edition contains an afterword that details the 2009 influenza pandemic and the lessons that were applied (or not applied) to preparedness.  

The book begins by describing the state of medical training and research before proceeding to the 1918-20 pandemic. Barry skillfully integrates the historical development of medicine with the search for the virus causing that pandemic, while noting its effects on the world during World War I. He also includes many fascinating tidbits, making the book more than just a retelling. 

The opening chapters ably describe the principal physicians and public health officials who managed the pandemic in the United States, notably William Henry Welch (who improved US medical schools and physician training), Oswald Avery (who identified the virus), and Paul A. Lewis (who helped address response to the pandemic). Barry posits that the pandemic began in the United States as it began to mobilize for World War I and was exacerbated by crowding in army camps. Most of his focus is on the United States, but the latter portion of the book includes a discussion about how the pandemic affected war plans, political leaders, and the war’s outcome.  


I was fascinated by the beginning chapters about the poor state of medical training in the early 20th century in the United States. Although training was improving, only a few medical schools had admission standards (some did not require any college!); faculty earned their pay from student lecture fees rather than from salaries. It made for a weak medical system, unlike that of Europe, most of which had rigorous admission standards and training. The dearth of well-trained physicians left the United States vulnerable when the war and the pandemic reduced the number of physicians and nurses available for patient care. 

The magnitude of the pandemic was stunning. Mary Knatterud said, “It’s hard to grasp the 1918-20 flu pandemic’s toll of up to 100 million deaths worldwide, so I was hooked on the book on page 5, given this astounding perspective about that harrowing time period: ‘Influenza killed more people in a year than the Black Death of the Middle Ages killed in a century; it killed more people in twenty-four weeks than AIDS has killed in twenty-four years.’”  

This influenza strain was particularly deadly, killing many young healthy men and women, rather than infants, children, and elderly who are usually the most severely affected. I liked his descriptions of the virus and the science. Barry provides enough detail to make it a good read for nonmedical readers, but it would have been nice to have more about the mutations that led to extreme virulence. Barry’s inclusion of the dispute about whether influenza was caused by a bacterium or a virus was a fascinating study in scientific rivalry and professional bias.  

Wartime censorship in Europe and the United States restricted mention of the pandemic and kept it from the headlines. Governments made little to no mention of the virus, even as it affected troops in Europe and compromised the war effort. On the other hand, Spain, which was neutral, did not censor the press and reported freely about influenza outbreaks, so the pandemic became known as the “Spanish flu” (p 171). Barry claims that the pandemic weakened German troop strength and helped end the war, although most of Europe had been at war for 4 years, so his argument seems weak to me. Given the lack of news about influenza in the press, teasing out its effects would be difficult. 

Knatterud emphasized, “I loved his historical emphasis on an array of heroic, largely unsung caregivers and scientists—and his take on the flu’s contribution to Germany’s loss of WWI and to the erratic behavior of President Wilson, ill himself with the flu, during the ultimately disastrous Paris peace talks (pp 384 and following).” 


Sometimes, it was difficult to keep track of the many individuals who searched for the virus, those in public health efforts, and other political figures (except for President Wilson). We split on the trivia and odd facts Barry includes in his text. Kendra Hyland found them a distraction, while Knatterud and I thought that they enhanced the story. Still, some of Barry’s assertions aren’t very well substantiated, eg, his claim that the pandemic began in the midwestern United States. No one really knows, and some records show it appearing in multiple countries. Also, Barry attributes President Wilson’s stroke (after the WWI peace conference and after the negotiations to form the League of Nations) to influenza, rather than to other potential causes (eg, hypertension, smoking, or stress). I also wonder what the book would have been like if more European accounts had been consulted, a minor complaint given that Barry took 7 years to write it. 

Some of the writing is a little surprising, though. Knatterud pointed out “how disappointing it was to come upon Barry’s racist and sexist use—in a book first published as recently as 2004 and reissued in 2018!—of terms like ‘primitive savages’ and ‘white man’ (p 11), as well as his occasional grammatical snafus like ‘this bacteria’ (p 261).” 

Knatterud concluded, “My favorite takeaway is Barry’s advice—in his 2018 afterword, published just as COVID-19 was about to hit—to medical and governmental authorities in any future public health crises: ‘You don’t manage the truth. You tell the truth’ (p 460).” 

Up Next 

Please join us on September 26, 2022, for our next selection: The Premonition by Michael Lewis. The book discusses how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mismanaged the Covid-19 pandemic. Lewis provides a fast-moving but incisive account that is a page-turner. Having read the book is not a prerequisite to join the discussion. 

Chapter Advisory Council Update 

By LeAnn Stee, North Central Chapter Representative 

Mission of the Chapter Advisory Council (CAC) 

The CAC serves to maintain a connection between chapter leaders and the AMWA Board of Directors by advising the AMWA board on the organization’s strategic direction as it affects the chapters and acting as a sounding board about issues that have an impact on chapters and the national organization. 

First Quarterly Meeting 

The AMWA CAC held its first quarterly meeting of 2022 on February 10. The meeting was held virtually with GoToMeeting software. Thirteen chapters were represented. Jen Minarcik, chair, opened the meeting with a review of the mission of the CAC (see first paragraph). 

AMWA 2022 Medical Writing and Communication Conference: Sharon Ruckdeschel, director of membership and systems for AMWA 

The 2022 conference will be held November 2 through November 5 in Denver, Colorado. An in-person format is being planned. The theme for this year’s conference is Elevating Health and Well-being Through Medical Communication. Call for proposals is open (March 1 is the deadline for education sessions; April 1 is the deadline for poster and roundtable sessions). A preliminary schedule will be available in early April. 

Updates from the AMWA Board of Directors: Jen Minarcik 

a. AMWA Technology Updates: AMWA staff work to ensure that all technology systems remain updated and fully integrated. Recent software upgrades to the association management system by the vendor are requiring AMWA staff time and resources to implement across the platforms. 

b. AMWA Journal Updates: The journal is on track to debut in a new digital publication platform for the March 2022 issue. The editor-in-chief is developing themes for upcoming issues. A call for writers and peer reviewers will be forthcoming. 

c. AMWA’s Diversity & Inclusion Assessment Task Force: 

  • Purpose of the task force: To identify how AMWA can foster a more diverse and inclusive environment 
  • Charges of the task force: 
  • Working with AMWA staff to analyze membership data and conduct a survey to help determine the current state of the organization’s diversity and inclusion 
  • Identifying key deficiencies, needs, and current challenges as related to diversity and inclusion 
  • Developing initial strategies to enhance diversity and inclusion within the organization 
  • Chair of the task force is Gail Flores 
  • Members are being recruited: if interested in being a member, send a brief cover letter highlighting your interest and a biographical profile summarizing your medical communication background and experience with diversity and inclusion issues to AMWA Executive Director, Susan Krug, at skrug (at) amwa (dot) org 

Spring Chapter Compliance 

Each chapter’s spring Chapter Activity Report is due on March 1. AMWA uses these activity reports to conduct a compliance review each spring. 

The report template, the Chapter Requirements and Compliance Checklist, and the Chapter Website Checklist are on the AMWA website in the Chapter Leader Resource Center. 

Chapter Officer Recruitment and Incentives 

Discussion topics were strategies that chapters are using for recruiting officers and what incentives are being offered for members who volunteer for executive committee roles. 

Spring/Fall Chapter Events 

Discussion included what types of support or strategies are needed to improve the ability of chapters to host virtual events and whether chapters are discussing the return of in-person events. Types of support that are needed for in-person events were shared. 

Future CAC Meetings in 2022: May 12, August 11, November 10