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My life as a medical writer. Karen Wilson Smith PhD. The pursuit of happ y ness sp. PhD: the effect of exercise on blood gas transport in the thoroughbred horse. Report writer at Animal Pharm : 2 years. Freelance writer: 3 years.

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my life as a medical writer

My life as a medical writer

Karen Wilson Smith PhD

the pursuit of happ y ness sp
The pursuit of happyness sp

PhD: the effect of exercise on blood gas transport in the thoroughbred horse

Report writer at Animal Pharm: 2 years

Freelance writer: 3 years

Managing editor at start-up company Genesis….Editorial director at Parexel MMS: 9 years

Medical writer…senior medical writer…editorial manager at FSP: 3 years

transferable skills
Transferable skills
  • Digesting complicated scientific material
  • Problem-solving
  • Liaising with opinion leaders
  • Presentation skills
  • Writing and editing skills
how i became a medical writer
How I became a medical writer
  • Fierce and relentless editing
  • Learning to pick up the phone and talk to people
  • Luck
  • Hard work
  • Asking for help
  • Listening to the client (it’s not about “you”)
  • Mutual peer support
new skills required
New skills required
  • Commercial awareness
  • Multi-tasking
  • Thick skin
  • Asking for help
my first three years
My first three years
  • Franklin Scientific Projects (now Medicus)
  • Small agency (6 writers, 1 editorial director, 1 MD, 2 designers, 2 layout technicians, 2 secretaries…and no computers)
my first projects
My first projects
  • Taking over a monograph on verapamil from my predecessor
  • Managing a number of translations of a toothpaste newsletter
  • Developing presentations and a supplement for P&G’s Vicks products
career development

Specialist medical writer


Client services

Career development

Focus on more technical and specialised writingReview copyPitch and proposal activities Company “expert”Unlikely to have line reports, but may act as a mentor

Close liaison with client servicesClose liaison with clientManage timelines and budgetsReview copyReduced project workResponsible for team of writersRecruitment & appraisals

the next nine years
The next nine years
  • Genesis Pharma Strategies (then PPS, now Parexel MMS)
  • Started as fledgling agency built on consultancy
  • Taken over by huge US company
  • My role grew from managing 4 writers to managing ~40 writers, secretaries and production editors on two sites plus senior management responsibilities
  • Main client was AstraZeneca (Galida)
a typical day as an editorial director
A typical day as an editorial director
  • Meeting to discuss resourcing for a proposal
  • Review copy
  • Speak to client about project timelines and activities
  • Review cvs
  • Approve timesheets
  • Troubleshoot
typical projects for junior writers
Typical projects for junior writers
  • Abstracts
  • Posters
  • Congress and journal information for Publication planning
  • Meeting materials (invitations, abstract books)
typical projects for experienced writers
Typical projects for experienced writers
  • Satellite symposia (all meeting materials)
  • Publication planning
  • Writing manuscripts
  • Reviewing copy
  • Proposals and pitches
are all agencies the same
Are all agencies the same?
  • Many different types of agency
    • Large / medium / small
    • Hierarchical / flat
    • Writers / editors
    • Client services / no client services
    • Independent / owned by large organisation (often CRO, advertising agency or publisher)
  • What makes the difference?
    • The people
    • The creativity
    • The types of project