Philip Bradford Cobb is a medically retired neuro-pharmacologist with over 40 years as an academician, medical provider, and writer. His most recent endeavors have been the development of a medication management website providing face time collaborative consults between physician, patient, and pharmacologist.
Why did you decide to become a medical writer?
Sustained a traumatic brain injury and subsequent stroke secondary to being hit in the head by an aberant golf ball teed from the adjacent golf course to my clinical practice. Right side hemiplegia, short term memory loss, with recurrent hemiplegic migraines made daily medical practice impossible. Staying involved has always been my goal and medical writing afforded me that opportunity.
How did you get your ‘big break’ as a health writer?
I am uncertain I have gotten a “big break’ and must confess that was not my goal in becoming a medical writer. My goal was to stay in touch with pharmacology as I knew it and as it continues to grow. With short term memory loss a major issue in maintaining a viable practice, I found obsessive reading and subsequent writings have enabled me to keep abreast of a practice I dearly loved.
What’s your best piece of advice for those who are considering a career in health writing or who are just starting out?
I maintain anyone can become a health writer if that is INDEED what they want to do. This, however, requires much work. Never a writer? Study the necessary things to become one. This would include sentence structure, punctuation, and proper grammar, etc. No medical experience? Read, read, read various writing contributions to determine if you are drawn to a particular niche (i.e. consumer medicine, pharmaceutical research, medical summaries, journal contributions, etc.).
What’s the most challenging topic you’ve ever had to cover?
1) Dissociative memory loss secondary to wartime trauma! Fact or Fiction?
What’s the hardest thing about being a health writer?
Rejection! Writers, by my observation, have two distinct but often contrasting characteristics; strong egos and extreme sensitivity. Our egos lead us to believe that which we write deserves attention and yes, publication, and by contrast, our sensitivity makes us incredibly vulnerable to any challenge of that ego, i.e. REJECTION.
As a medical provider, the success of my 40 year practice was marked by increased patient population, peer respect, and academic prowess; all serving to feed my ever present ego. Forgetting that expertise is usually a byproduct of time, it was my supposition I could easily parrot my prowess in writing and easily command immediate readership. Ego? Of course!
Forced to retire medically secondary to a traumatic brain injury, as I recuperated, I found myself incredibly driven to get back into that which I had tragically lost, regretfully, as could only be accomplished through writing.
Writing was not new to me. On several occasions, throughout my practice, I was asked to make journal contributions, and curiously rejection was not an issue. Given that, ego once again led me to believe, I can do this and do it well.
With my first entry, post trauma, came rejection, followed by a second then a third. My strong ego had quickly sensed failure. I had become vulnerable. I quickly began measuring myself, not by my creation, but by my rejections, unable to bear failure’s pain.
Then, as I indicated above, I realized expertise is a byproduct of time! Tomorrow I will probably do better but only if I don’t stop today! Sensitivity had overcome ego!
Rejection is indeed difficult but not insurmountable.
What do you love most about health writing and why?
Staying in touch with the profession of medicine so near and dear to my heart. Perhaps unlike many health writing has enabled me to stay in touch.
What inspires you in your career?
The advancement of medicine.
Connect with Phillip on LinkedIn.