Medical Writer Update

Keeping in Touch

Volume 2, Issue 3 — Fall 2011


I’m writing this as I wait in the airport in Richmond, VA for a flight to Chicago for the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) Annual Meeting. I just finished an interview with the head of the ACR’s marketing and communications committee, who told me it’s the largest meeting in the ACR’s history, with more abstracts and attendees than ever. That’s saying something in the current economic climate!


I’m psyched for the meeting not only because it is so large, but because after three years of attending, I finally figured out my strategy: comfortable shoes, lots of water, lip balm, and the ability to juggle a camera, notebook, and bags with aplomb. This year, I’m covering presentations on lupus, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and osteoporosis for my clients, a level of variety that greatly appeals to my multi-tasking nature.


By the time you read this, the meeting will be well underway, but having perused the abstracts in depth, I can give you a few highlights:

·         Demonstrations of better safety profiles of the TNF-alpha antagonists and other biologics in rheumatic diseases than previously thought.

·         Highlights of the growing osteoarthritis epidemic, one that, as one doctor told me today, is paralleling the obesity epidemic. The implication? A new public health problem.

·         New disease modifying agents and pathways. Look for more on kinase inhibitors in rheumatoid arthritis such as the oral janus kinase inhibitor tofacitinib; phase II results of a potential new treatment for gout (arhalofenate); and phase III results of the human anti-interleukin-1 beta antibody canakinumab in juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

·         New guidelines for diagnosing and managing rheumatoid arthritis and lupus nephritis.


Of course, the abstract book is over 1,000 pages, so you can imagine I’ll be doing a lot of running around.


Project Highlights


It’s been a summer and fall of multitasking with some of the most interesting projects I’ve had in years. Among them:

·         Developing an in-depth needs assessment on a disease state that included three patient interviews; six physician interviews; a three-hour roundtable with four additional physicians; and a detailed literature search. The result was an extensive report and a more comprehensive understanding of the gaps in this disease than one would typically get with the traditional needs assessment. I had a blast on this project.

·         Attending my first ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology) meeting. I attended on behalf of a CME client, covering ovarian cancer presentations. This program included videotaped interviews with several presenters that were then integrated into a slide presentation. Again, a really fun, fascinating, and educational project.

·         Covering the American Thoracic Society and the European Respiratory Society with a focus on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

·         Co-authoring a consumer book on menopause titled Beyond Hormones for Rodale. Look for it online and in stores early next year.

·         Delving into my first ophthalmology topics with CME content on dry eye disease and age-related macular degeneration.

·         Writing for two new publications: The CDMI Report, which focuses on chronic disease management (and lets me flex my managed care/health policy muscle); and The HIT Exchange, which bills itself as the “magazine for the convergence of healthcare business and technology.” It focuses on health information technology and, thanks to my stories for it, I can now insert the phrase “meaningful use” into any cocktail party chatter.


Training, Training, Training


I’m a firm believer that you should never stop learning, especially if you own your own business. So this year I sent myself to three educational conferences to continue honing my skills:

·         Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP). I’ve started providing CI services and analysis for clients over the past few years, so I decided it was time to join SCIP and attend its conference. My knowledge of this fascinating field expanded exponentially with a full-day session called CI 101. I hope to attend the 2012 conference in Philadelphia in May.

·         Alliance for Continuing Medical Education. The field of CME is in perpetual motion, and this meeting helps me keep my finger on the pulse of changing regulations and guidelines, as well as new approaches to the ever-changing world of CME.

·         American Medical Writer’s Association (AMWA). I love this group and its annual meeting. In addition to presenting at two panels and two breakfast roundtables, I took workshops on the cardiovascular system and on making effective slides. Those of you who hire me to develop slide kits in 2012 will directly benefit!


Well, that’s it for now. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and a joyous, safe holiday season. I, for one, am very excited about another great year in 2012!



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Debra Gordon, MS



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