Newsletter – March 2015

Request for input for National Board of Directors meeting
Moving from bench science to medical writing
Another successful happy hour

Reminder: your chance to influence the future of AMWA
Every year, representatives of each chapter join the national AMWA Executive Committee to discuss current and future AMWA activities and policies. You are invited to submit any ideas or suggestions to be discussed at this spring’s AMWA national Board of Directors meeting. Click here to read about last year’s spring meeting. AMWA belongs to all of its members—this is your chance to weigh in with any thoughts or concerns. Our chapter report has been completed, but our chapter delegate may still have a chance to raise important issues at the meeting. Send your comments to Naomi Ruff ( no later than April 3.


Moving from bench science to medical writing
by Nissa Mollema

If you are a bench scientist, you may be considering alternative career paths. Many people develop an interest in a medical writing career and would like to make the switch. However, getting a position as a medical writer can be challenging. Here are five tips that may help you transition to a career in medical writing.

1. Networking and informational interviewing
Networking is the most likely way that you will find your first medical writing job—one of your network connections may hear of a job opening before it is posted or connect you with a recruiter. An informational interview could even result in a follow-up call for an interview several months later. When I made the decision to pursue a career in medical writing, I talked to many people in the medical communication field. Calling someone or meeting them for coffee allowed me to learn about different areas of medical writing (and there are a lot). When I interviewed people, I always made sure I asked for suggestions of a company to research or another person to talk to.

2. Hone your writing skills
Although there are many soft skills you acquire as a bench scientist, you will likely need to hone your writing skills to transition to a career in medical writing. Yes, bench scientists are publishing research and submitting grant applications; however, most scientists are not spending the majority of their days writing. During the job search is a good time to refresh your memory about basic grammar rules and punctuation. AMWA offers workshops, self-study courses, and webinars—all of these can help you improve your writing skills. More importantly, this will give you the confidence you will need in a new position. Many companies expect writers to be able to publish an “error-free product.” This can seem like an insurmountable task unless you train your brain to write and edit your own work.

3. Get new writing and industry experience
Look for opportunities to work on different types of writing and editing projects. For example, if you write mainly technical articles, you may find it a challenge to solicit and write a “general audience” article for a journal like American Scientist. Starting a blog can also be a great way to gain experience with developing ideas, writing, and editing your own work. If you have never written anything for industry, seek out opportunities to work on white papers. You can familiarize yourself with some of the terminology on, where there are also templates and examples of regulatory documentation available. Take a free course! Coursera ( has free courses that are applicable for medical writers. I took one on clinical trial design.

4. Advertise yourself as a writer
Some people talk about identifying your “brand” when you are on the job market—what are you all about? If you want to be a medical writer, then act like it! Ensure that you have a well-developed LinkedIn profile that specifically calls out your interest and experience in writing.   A writing-focused resume could also be uploaded to—recruiters often use this site to look for contractors.

5. Perseverance is key
Getting a job as a medical writer is not easy. If you want to make the move, start thinking about it early and give yourself time to network and develop the needed skills and make the right connections. It took me about a year and a half to find a position after I decided I was definitely interested in medical writing. It took one of my friends a year before she was able to move from bench research to a position in regulatory writing. Don’t get frustrated with job hunting—understand that it can feel like a second job and that everyone finds it stressful. Stay focused on things you can control—like developing interviewing skills or working on your resume. I like these tips listed from Custom Search, Inc.


February happy hour
AMWA members met for happy hour on February 26th at Grumpy’s in Roseville. Animated conversation and appetizers were shared by attendees, which included a mixture of freelancers, contractors, and employees. Look for more happy hours to come! We are aiming to hold one each quarter.

Happy hour attendees