View Full Version : Any medical writers here? ...

04-01-2004, 03:34 AM
If so, I have a few questions if you would be so graciously inclined.

04-01-2004, 10:34 AM
Hi. I'm a medical writer, mostly in the holistic field, although I've done some pharmaceutical writing too. I'll answer any questions, if I can. ;)


P.S. Oh my God, I just saw the smilies on side of the text box. I HAVE to use this one!!!!


This has nothing to do with you -- but this is just too funny!

04-01-2004, 11:17 AM
Hi, Debi! Thanks for replying! :D

LOL @ your use of the smiley!!!

To my question--My strengths in writing nestle in the commercial area. I've been doing some research, and I'm thinking that medical writing might be a good fit for me.

I'm specifically interested in pharmaceutical writing and also in writing books specifically targeted to the lay reader in regards to different "common" diseases, i.e. eczema, asthma, etc.

Aside from going back to school (I have a Master's degree, so I'm a little sick of school right now ... :rolleyes ), what is the best way to break into this area?

I've perused the AMWA site but found no specific guidance there.

I have absolutely no direct writing experience in this area, but I do have background as a medical transcriptionist, so I'm thinking that those skills combined with my writing abilities may propel me in the right direction if I have the right plan of action.

Thanks in advance for any insight that you can provide. I hope that I've defined my interest clearly.

Tish Davidson
04-01-2004, 11:43 AM
I'm a medical writer and I've worked on a ton of books for lay readers and nursing textbooks. I was a writer of other things first (a journalist, a parenting columnist) and got taken on on the strength of my education - a masters in physiology. Not that this info will probably be much help to you. However, I would stress with any prospective employer your familiarity with medical terminology. A lot of pharmaceutical companies either want medical copywriters or people with experience in new drug trials documentation of various sorts. You're more likely to be able to get into the documentation sort of work as a regular employee and not as a freelancer. When they hire freelancers or contract employees, they want someone who has experience and is already trained.

04-01-2004, 12:34 PM
Hi, Tish! I was hoping that you would add your voice to the mix! :) Thanks for the insight!

As far as the books are concerned, did you write them on a freelance basis or as an employee?


Tish Davidson
04-01-2004, 11:57 PM
I've always been a freelancer. Most of the medical writing I have done has been on a work for hire/contract basis. I've worked for a book packager (VISED, Princeton Junction, NJ) on nursing books for Delmar and McGraw Hill. Mostly I did several chapters per book and the book packager provided an outline and most of the reference material. Occasionally I did an entire book. Most were aimed at the LPN/community college level. I've also done books of diagnostic tests and lay people medical encyclopedias for Gale/Thompson and Scribners where I had to do the research as well as the writing.

I got my first assignment with the book packager through a blind ad in the New York Times. They wanted someone with science and early childhood ed experience to writer chapters on health, safety and nurtition for an early childhood ed textbook for community college students. I happened to be teaching at a training school for nannies at the time and by pure coincidence lived about 5 miles from the book packager. All their other freelancers on the project lived in the Midwest, and I think they liked the idea of having someone close that they could actually meet and interview. In other words, I was lucky. Once they found out I had a science degree and could write satisfactorily and meet deadlines, they asked me to do other work.

I got my first encyclopedia job throut the AMWA website, and then got passed around the company by word of mouth and have gotten other similar jobs with other publishers because editors changed jobs and called me asking if I wanted to work with them in their new jobs. Eventually an editor that knew me from the encyclopedia work asked me to write a book for a new junior high series (this one is on a royalty basis for Scholastic). I'm due to complete my third book in the series May 1.

In writing this, I had an idea. When I was working for the book packager, I turned down a book on medical assisting. I bet there are textbooks for people who want to be medical transcriptionists. Maybe you could find out who publishes these and approach them for writing work, since that is your area of expertise. Even if they have a textbook out now, they often put out new editions on a regular basis and use freelancers to revise/re-write/ add to the old volume. It might be a foot in the door.

Medical writing can pay very well (current freelance job is paying about $2000/wk for a 45 hour week), but with all freelancing, there tend to be gaps. It only works for me because I'm married to someone with a regular job that has medical benefits and we can squeak by on his salary in the lean times.

Hope this helps. Good luck.

04-02-2004, 02:35 AM
Tish! Tish!!!! In the words of Horshack of Welcome Back, Kotter fame, "Ooooh! Oooooh! Ooooh! Ooooh! Oooooh!"

You're describing the EXACT writing scenario that I'm looking for!!!!!!!!!!! Oh, man, I'm getting GOOSEBUMPS!!!! (Please forgive me, I'm doing my best not to GUSH! :rollin )

Thanks for all of this EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT advice! I feel a plan forming!!! I, too, have the advantage of being married to someone with a healthy and stable income, so I have some flexibility in terms of pursuing a freelance career.

I take it that you feel that AMWA has value? I was thinking about joining but didn't want to cast my hard-earned :money :money :money into an association that may simply be a figurehead and may not be a viable ACTIVE voice for its members (not saying that AMWA is this way. I've joined other associations in the past that have been a true waste of my money and just don't want to make the same mistake again.).

Tish Davidson
04-02-2004, 05:02 AM
I have gotten several jobs through the AMWA job line available only to members. Membership is $125/year and you can take it off your taxes as professional dues. Other than access to the job board and a listing in their membership directory, I don't get much out of the orgnaization. I do get calls from headhunters and people looking for writers to cover professional meetings because of the directory listing, but since I'm not looking for a corporate job and don't want to cover medical meetings, that isn't helpful to me.

AMWA has a local chapter and I have gone to a few meetings, but my impression is that the organization is dominated by people who are full time employees in the biotech or pharmaceutical industries. I have found the AMWA conferences and courses too expensive to attend. That said, I keep on paying my dues, because of the job site and the job e-newsletter my local chapter puts out twice a month.

04-28-2005, 09:41 PM
Tish, Debi, or anyone else,

I would like to break into this arena, too...and get paid directly for writing.

Right now, I get paid indirectly in that I write my own web content and e-mail newsletters. I am a Ph.D. biologist specializing in chronic health issues like hormones, fatigue, metabolism, and gastrointestinal complaints.

I would hope I could land a contract or two. However, I really don't know much on how to get started. Any advice on a fruitful starting point would be much appreciated.


Mark Rhodes

Tish Davidson
05-16-2005, 09:22 AM
I would say that your best bet is to look into joining AMAW and National Association of Science Writers. With a Ph. D. you should be qualified for the jobs they advertise. If you e-mail me, I'll send you another contact I am reluctant to post publically.