Jane Rollins is an epidemiologist by training and has worked in public health for many years. One day she realized that her strong suit was making complex ideas and data easy for people to understand, rather than writing computer programs to generate that complex data.
“I joined the American Medical Writers Association in June 2000, attended my first AMWA conference that fall, and 6 weeks later had my first in-house job as a medical writer as a result of networking. I became a freelancer in 2004,” she says.
How did you find your first client?
“Again, it was networking. I met someone at an AMWA chapter meeting who worked for a continuing medical education company. They had too few staff to handle the workload, and they brought me in. The job paid peanuts, but I was able to do a half dozen projects for them, all in different therapeutic areas, which I could then leverage with future clients.”
What did the work/job involve?
“I listened to cassette tapes of medical conference presentations, summarized the material in a precise format, and wrote multiple-choice questions for dissemination in print.”
Were you happy with the work you produced? Why/why not?
“It was pretty mechanical work, but interesting. I started working on those projects while I was still employed full time, so I appreciated the sporadic nature of the assignments. Once I left my full-time job, and realized how woefully underpaid I was ($500 per module), I started looking elsewhere.”
What did you find most difficult about the process?
“The doctors who presented at these conferences made statements citing research by such-and-so author in such-and-so journal, and it turned out that the research was done by another team and published by a completely different journal.”
What would you do differently if you could do it again today?
“I would do things exactly the same way – join AMWA; attend the annual conference; start conversations with strangers in hotel lobbies and at chapter meetings.”