First of all, a medical
writer must know medical terminology.
You must be able to speak the language.
The technical terminology is composed of
root words of Latin or Greek origin, and
prefixes and suffixes that describe
conditions or processes. At the end of
this course a brief list of basic
resource books will be recommended. As
you find your niche in the medical
writing field, you may need other
Basic Anatomy and Physiology
Basic anatomy and physiology is necessary so that you can locate the spot in the body where events are happening. If you are considering a career in the pharmaceutical industry, find out the specifics of drug research and development as well as the approval process required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Work within biotechnology areas requires a basic knowledge of genetics and relevant terms.
Know your statistics, or
at least be familiar with the standard
evaluations and their uses: mean and
standard deviation, p value, Student's t
test. This segment will ask you to
define each of these methods and explain
when it would be used.
Computer skills are
essential. Your computer is your tool.
Know how to use it. Be familiar with
essential programs like Word,
WordPerfect, PowerPoint, Excel, and
Visio for most documents you will work
on as well as QuarkExpress, PageMaker,
or FrameMaker for larger documents.
Hone Your Writing Skills
Join a writers' group to
get you habituated to writing on a
regular basis, and so you can hone
writing and editing skills. Find a local
group to join. For more specific
collegiality, consider joining the
American Medical Writers Association.
The national organization's website is
www.amwa.org. Local chapters are listed
there so you can find a chapter near
you. Get acquainted with people who are
active in the field.
Building Your Resources
1. Basic Reference Books
Build your library of
resource books to help you with your
writing. Basic reference books include a
basic grammar book, the AMA Manual of
Style, Council of Biology Editors Style
Manual, Chicago Manual of Style,
Dorland's Medical Dictionary, or
Stedman's Medical Dictionary, and a good
basic dictionary like Webster's
Collegiate. It is also helpful to have a
copy of the Merck Manual
(physician-level encyclopedia of
illnesses) and the Physicians'' Desk
Reference (PDR), which lists and
describes all pharmaceutical agents
2. E-mail and Web Browsing
E-mail and a web browser are essential to every medical writer. Get comfortable with it. You need to have access to medical research papers like those available on Medline, PubMed, and Grateful Med. Much of medical writing business is carried out by e-mail. However, costs for a basic e-mail service are going up. Several techniques and strategies can be used to minimize your expenses. Skills for on-line searches will be covered.