“Working as a consultant, I rely on my writing, strategic and analytic skills to create an effective framework for each collaboration. Historically working as an infectious disease writer I eventually evolved into more of a strategic and executive capacity helping to identify specific topics in medicine that needed an accessible voice. In the current healthcare environment the challenge is to integrate stakeholder interests from a business, clinical, and economical perspective into a cohesive narrative to create a value based approach to healthcare delivery. I enjoy the verticals created by collaborative partners that allow deeper dives into specific therapeutic areas but my role is to be mindful of not only the content needs but also clinical decision behavior at the point of care.”
Why did you decide to become a health writer?
I often joke that what else would an exercise physiologist, triathlete, chiropractor, population geneticist with an analytic mind do? The moment I knew that writing was going to be my “thing” was while preparing my thesis. Up to that point I imagined I would be a bench scientist but something about the research and writing–the words that brought the science to life part just intrigued me.
How did you get your ‘big break’ as a health writer?
I was lucky to work at GlaxoSmithKline for a year as a contract employee during the time of a lot of development in HIV research. During the aftermath of a merger many scientists left and started their own biotech firms and were in dire need of writers. Quite often big breaks are nothing more than a bit of talent and a whole lot of lightening at the right time and the right place.
What’s your best piece of advice for those who are considering a career in health writing or who are just starting out?
Write. Read. Write. Repeat. Also the MOOC courses are dynamite. I breezed through a Neuroeconomics course just as a refresher and they are quite stimulating.
What’s the most challenging topic you’ve ever had to cover?
Well this might seem off topic but I used to write for How Things Are Made. I think my skills at finding data for stories evolved from having to write about the most obscure topics. For example Zamboni machines, Madame Tussauds wax figures, grenades, etc. I figured out that if I could find the patent, I could flesh out the rest of the story!
Nuclear medicine is always challenging but I like a challenge so that is perfect!
What’s the hardest thing about being a health writer?
I will be honest. The business side can be a challenge. You work diligently on deadline, meeting and exceeding expectations but it seems like you wait and wait to be paid. I am lucky that now I can choose to only work with clients that pay promptly. Years ago I had to juggle a ton of projects just to make sure that there was a steady stream of income. I also have a pet peeve about tire kickers and people that truly don’t understand the industry. If a potential client wants to hire the cheapest bid–they should be candid about that and select accordingly. Good, fast, and cheap–you only get two.
Wow. Where do I start. I love the science and how it constantly evolves. Integrating behavioral economics and cognitive science in the “why” of many clinical decisions. I also like the questions around avoiding low-value care in medicine. The last few years I have been integrating economic models and statistics into exciting health technology assessments. I have been fortunate to be able to be present while the most informed and influential minds in medicine and HEOR discuss current challenges in our evolving US medical health care model.
What inspires you in your career?
No need to hum kumbaya or anything but for me it is always the patient. Clinical trials require a certain level of heterogeneity bias to be able to report about efficacy and safety but the looming clinical question is always directed to the patient at hand. Will this technology benefit this individual patient to improve their clinical outcomes?
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