Debra Gordon is a medical writing expert with more than 25 years of experience in medical and healthcare communications. Throughout her career, Debra has focused on the consumer, professional and business side of health and medical writing, and she is also a seasoned speaker. Debra runs writing workshops and mentorshops for freelancers.
How did you get your ‘big break’ as a health writer?
Not sure there was a “big” break. I kind of fell into it 27 years ago during my first freelancing stint when I started writing for my local newspaper’s new health section, and freelancing for several hospitals in the area.
What’s your best piece of advice for those who are considering a career in health journalism or who are just starting out?
Read, read, read. Read all you can about medicine. Question everything. Don’t take studies at face value. Don’t write about things you don’t understand until you understand them.
What’s the most challenging topic you’ve ever had to cover?
I just finished a continuing medical education chapter on the genetics of myelodysplastic syndrome and acute myeloid leukemia. That was a bit over my head. Also a story on acrachnoiditis, which is so rare that none of the neurologists I contacted wanted to be interviewed.
What’s the hardest thing about being a health reporter?
Keeping up with the flood of information I get every day.
How has health journalism changed the course of your career?
It’s created my career. I’ve been writing about medicine and healthcare now for 27 years and have loved every story, every project (well, with a few exceptions).
What do you love most about health writing and why?
The sheer variety — you can write people stories, science stories, business stories, policy stories . . . medicine and health care encompasses every aspect of our lives and there is always more to write about and more work to do.