Write Medicine

Cultivating a Craftsman Mindset in Continuing Healthcare Education

October 04, 2021 Alexandra Howson PhD Season 2 Episode 15
Write Medicine
Cultivating a Craftsman Mindset in Continuing Healthcare Education
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Anne Jacobson MSPharm, CHCP is an independent writer who has been specializing in healthcare professional education since 1999.

We recorded our conversation in May 2021. For Anne and many colleagues in continuing healthcare education, the last 18 months or so has been a time of taking stock and reflection on what we want the next phases of our careers to look like.

We discuss this process of reflection and the path it leads to questions about how we find fulfillment in work and life.

As many guests on Write Medicine have shared, there are so many different stories of how we found our way into medical writing and medical education.

Anne observes that across all these different stories is a consistent theme: most of us didn’t follow a pre-existing passion for medical writing or continuing healthcare education; we discovered it while we were on the road to other things.

But what many people share in this space is what Cal Newport calls a craftsman mindset

We explore:
✔️ How does a person get good at what they do?
✔️What does craftsmanship look like?
✔️ How do we keep things interesting in our work and create the life we want?
 

Resources
✔️ Continuing Medical Education (CME)
✔️ American Medical Writers Association Conference
✔️ National Association of Science Writers
✔️ Cal Newport Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown

Deep Work
So Good
Digital Minimalism
Craftsman Mindset

✔️ International Society for Medical Publication Professionals
✔️ National Association for Health Care Quality
✔️ CME Palooza
✔️ UC San Diego Medical Writing Certificate Program
✔️ American Medical Association (AMA) Medical Writing Certificate Program

Connect with Anne: LinkedIn and Twitter
Connect with Alex

Podcast Team
Host: Alexandra Howson PhD
Sound Engineer: Suzen Marie
Shownotes: Linzy Carothers

Alexandra Howson  08:40

Hello, and welcome to Write Medicine. I'm Alex Howson. And I'm here today with Ann Jacobson, who's an independent medical writer working in continuing medical education. Good to have you here today. So we're here to talk about what it takes to stay in continuing medical education as an independent writer, and what are some of the skills and qualities that really helped support that journey? But let's start with sharing with listeners who you are and the kind of work that you do.

 

Anne Jacobson  10:00

Great. Sure. Well, thank you so much for having me. You've had such an amazing group of guests on the podcast so far, and I'm honored to be among them. So, you know, everyone's story is different, which we'll come back to. But my particular story in getting into medical writing and CME is I was an English major. But after graduating from college, I thought I might want to go to medical school. And so I went back and I did a post back pre-med program. And I did some of the things that you do if you're following an unusual path back to medical school. So I worked in a few research labs and gotten some research publications, and I was enjoying that environment. But I was still not quite sure if that was going to be the right path for me. And in doing that, working at a research lab, I met someone else who was working there, she was a disgruntled PhD student at the time, who knew that the lab path was not going to be for her. And she had discovered medical writing. And so she was the one who turned me on to it. And it was very much a eureka moment, I didn't know that medical writing was a thing. And it was a great mix of my two, you know, interests at that time. So I kind of got onto that. That was I covered my first my first gig was covering a medical conference just over 20 years ago. So 1999. So that was back in the internet boom, where, you know, there was such an appetite for content, you could get hired to cover medical conference with a very low experience. So it was great timing, I was hired to cover some medical conferences. And once I had a few clips, I was off to the races as a freelance medical writer. So then I branched into other aspects of medical writing, I worked for some medical communications agencies. And back in those days, you know, a single medical agency would handle the full gamut of projects. So what we now consider both promotional and educational. So we would work with one supporter, one brand team, and we would do both their AdWords and speaker training, and then we turn around and do their satellite symposium, which today, we would gasp that the horrors of that, but that's, that's how it was. Um, so But things were evolving. And as an industry standards got tighter, and it became clear by about the mid 2000s, that you had to choose a side. So you had two companies were splitting into sister agencies, and you had to choose the promotional path or the accredited medical education path. And I chose to, I chose CME. So I've been focused pretty much exclusively on medical writing and CME for about the past 15 years, and mostly as an independent consultant.

 

Alexandra Howson 12:46

You're a long hauler?

 

Anne Jacobson 12:47

Yes, for sure.

 

Alexandra Howson  12:50

So there's a couple of things there I want to pick up on one is for other writers who are listening to this episode, and who may be kind of relatively early in their career. Can you talk a little bit about how you find those initial few clients, I actually remember seeing a slide deck that you must have shared at the American Medical Writers Association conference at some point and thinking, oh, wow, I'd really like to do that kind of work. But really having no idea how to think it was on meeting support.

 

Anne Jacobson  13:32

Yeah. Well, yeah, no, absolutely. Well, I'm so grateful to. What I did is I found my way on to the National Association of science writers. So I became a member there. And members there that you know, back in the day, wasn't even a listserv, it was just a message boards. And people were so generous in sharing their own experiences, and truly just the mechanics of freelance writing and conference coverage, because it was science writers, they tended to focus on life science conferences, but even Yeah, how to find a copy how to find clients, how to find you know, how to invoice, how to register for conferences, press, you know, things like that. So I really just digested absorbed all that information and took that as an instruction manual on how to do it myself. And again, you know, the timing was just so great, I think. Had it been a different a different time, I would have been I would have met with less rapid success. But you really could. I was living in Atlanta at the time. It was a big conference town. I just looked up all the conferences that were coming and wasn't shy about sending out emails to any related journal that had an online presence and said, Hey, hire me. I'll go cup with this conference for you know, travel expenses, and then built it from there.

 

Alexandra Howson 14:57

So you really had a go getter? Kind of approach to this work from the start. Where did that come from?

 

Anne Jacobson  15:06

I did, I don't know. Um, you know, part of it is that I could do it somewhat anonymously. And what I mean by that is I wasn't picking up the phone and cold calling people because that's terrifying. But I could do it in an email. And I could communicate with my client and discuss all the work and do all that by email, which was much less terrifying. And I guess just really an appetite for it just really seemed like such a good fit. For me. It was so exciting. It was such a find, after years of trying to find my place. I thought, wow, this could be this is something really interesting.

 

Alexandra Howson  15:49

And I'm curious to then, what was it about the education side that particularly drew you and made you want to kind of pick that side?

 

Anne Jacobson 16:00

Yeah, well, it's funny, because, um, I enjoyed, the aspects of both sides that are nice. And you know, writing is writing. But I'll really tell you all admit to you, that it was more that I was deterred from promotional, because that was back in the day, when we were still, you know, everything Of course, on promotional needs to go through a lot of medical legal review. And still that's done electronically. But back in that time, it was all everything was printed out in binders, to print hard copies of everything, hard copies of every reference, highlight things by hand. And if you wanted to change, you know, if you wanted to say the skies blue, you need the reference and a highlighted reference in the binder page x in the binder. And if you wanted to change anything, at any point, you had to redo the binder madness. It was more like I don't want to deal with the medical legal review aspects of promotional Surely there's just as robust quality standards on the educational side, you know, from scientific accuracy point of view, and all of that, but the mechanics of it were different. And less horrifying. So that was really what led me down the down to hear you.

 

Alexandra Howson  17:11

And so what is it like to be a long haul or in medical writing and continuing medical education in particular?

 

Anne Jacobson  17:18

Yeah, you know, I'm so glad that we chose this topic today. Because, you know, we're kind of thinking about, what are we?

What are we going to talk about, and I really thought this was an interesting topic, because, you know, you've had so many great discussions with your guests on many of the details of content development and CME, so things like activity formats, and instructional design and learner engagement and how to do these things, all of which all of those topics are near and dear to my heart. But I was thinking for today, since Also, since we share some of that long haul or writing, theme and our own both of our professional careers that that'd be really interesting to pull back from that, and take a look at the bigger picture of medical writing as a long term career. And also I know for a lot of us, so we're recording in May 2021. So we're starting to see the light at the end of the pin pandemic tunnel. But for a lot of us this period has really been a time of reflection, and taking stock of our all aspects of our lives, but definitely professionally, you know, are we happy? And what are we doing and what are the next phases or careers going to look like? And so I thought it would be interesting to talk about that both from for people who are in the earlier stages of their careers thinking about it, this might be a good track for them. And then also for those of us who are who are like ourselves, and we're a little more experienced, and just being sort of reflective on it. So you know, if I'm a person who likes to do her homework. So, in preparing our conversation now, I was really thinking through a lot of these issues and how to approach them and I kept returning to the work of Cal Newport, who is a professional Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown and writes a lot of books for the lay person. And I'm really a fan of his work, so he concentrates. So for those who aren't familiar with him, his research his academic research focuses on how digital technology interacts with our personal and professional lives. He wrote one of the he got a lot of attention for a book called Deep Work. That looked at knowledge workers. So those of us who do cognitively demanding work, how we can balance our need to concentrate on our demanding tasks, but do so in work environments that are increasingly becoming more challenging to do to concentrate and given all the digital distractions we have. Another book he offered solutions for that called Digital Minimalism, where he really advocates for stepping away to allow that deep work. But anyway, that's some more of his recent work. But one of his earlier books, I thought it sets us up set the perfect framework for our, our discussion and my thoughts around having long term meaningful career in this field. So in that book, which is called So Good, they can't ignore you. he explores and challenges the directive that we hear a lot about setting up our work lives of follow your passion that's going to fulfill that you're going to find personal fulfillment and work and ultimately life if you follow your passion. But so how so how does that apply to us? So as we already talked about at the beginning, and most guests guest share, we all come to medical writing and see me through so many different paths. And to the point, yeah, to the point where it's almost a joke or a fun icebreaker at any CME event, because it's, you know, well, how did you find your way here? Because I know it wasn't on purpose. So what crazy path Did you take to get here? So, by definition, we've all found ourselves, none of us has followed our preexisting passion for this, we just we found it on accident. So, does that mean that we missed the boat of following our passion? Are we are we doomed to live the perpetual heartache of not having followed our passion? And what I love about Newports work as he argues, luckily, no, absolutely not. It's not too late for us. And in fact, he kind of says that he argues that instead of that passion model of figuring out what your passion is, and, and, and building your work around them, he flips it. And he argues that ultimately, we're going to find greater fulfillment in our in our work lives over the long haul, by approaching our work in what he calls the Craftsman mindset, which I've found, so helpful in thinking about my own career in CME, so I'm really, really excited to get your thoughts on it, too. So, I'll quickly lay out the model, and then we can we can talk about how that applies to the work that we do.

 

Alexandra Howson 22:12

Yeah, absolutely.

 

Anne Jacobson  22:13

Great. So in his Craftsman Mindset, he says, Okay, first of all, you have to pick something that's of interest to you legitimate interest. But again, this isn't a passion we're talking about, but mild interest with the low threshold. So I think, you know, if you're listening to this podcast, boom, you're already interested in medical writing or CME. The second step is to, within that interest, develop skills that are rare and valuable. And so, what he means by that is, you know, rare, and that it's hard, you know, that not many people are able to achieve the skill set, and it's valuable in the marketplace. And in my experience, being a skilled medical writer, and CME is, is both very rare and entirely valuable. It's genuinely hard to find people to do all the work that comes in, I know, among our network of freelance writers, we're constantly passing work off to each other, because we just can't do it ourselves. And people really struggle to find medical writers to do all the all of the content work that's funded. And so it's genuinely hard to find people to do it. And this is where the craftsmanship comes in, is that it takes time to get this rare and valuable skill set. And we can talk about that Craftsman thing in a bit. But the end of that is, then once you've achieved that level of you have these rare and valuable skills, you can then use that to leverage the rest of your career essentially, as you can you can choose for yourself and the aspects of features of your career and your work life that are important to you.

 

Alexandra Howson  23:59

Yeah, there's so much wisdom there. I'm not quite sure where to start. I have a lot of questions. And I know that we want to talk about what craftsmanship looks like. But before we get there, the first thing that I'm thinking is this kind of message has got to be so valuable for millennials and Gen Z. So, I know the millennial generation is a big generation. And my older daughter is in the kind of mid to top end of that, and one of the things that she's 27 now, one of the things that she talks about a lot is this imperative to find a passion. You know, that's the dominant message in the high school system. And so to have an argument that turns that around and says no, you don't have to do that there is another way to think about how to find your place of work in the world, I think will be really reassuring. So, to those who are kind of in that early in those early kind of stages of career, and for Gen Z as well here, you're just beginning to think about what kind of work are they going to do in the world. So that's the first things, a lot of reassurance there, and then we're gonna unpack that a little bit more. The second thing is, I love that framing of skills as rare and valuable. And maybe this is something that we come back to, towards the end of our conversation. But I also think that and maybe this is just me, but I do think it's really challenging for people who write content in this industry to see their skills as rare and valuable. And part of that is because and I know that I've talked about this or you know, we've kind of touched on this in some other podcast episodes. And I want to attribute actually, what I'm going to say to you, it's a kind of full circle moment for me is that content writing is kind of is a form of hidden labor. Yes. Because few people in the continuing medical education field, really understand what it takes to create content and don't really understand the rare and valuable skills required to create that content. And the first time I really heard that arguments about hidden labor, I think was from you. At the meeting many, many years ago, so I don't know if you want to pick that up just now. Or maybe that's something we kind of circle back around to maybe we get into how you get good and what that looks like.

 

Anne Jacobson  27:08

Yeah, and then that manifests as what comes from that. For sure. Yes. So, I think Yeah, absolutely. So, if we, well, and I just wanted to just to reiterate on your point of, you know, the message of finding your passion. Well, what do we know about passion? It's great but it burns bright? For a while. Right. But can you sustain it even if you miss the boat of not, you know, finding a passion that naturally flows into a career? I don't know. It's fraught with complication, I think. But yeah, so craftsmanship, craftsmanship. So, what, what does craftsmanship look like. And when I was thinking about craftsmanship, in particular to medical writing, I thought of, so there's a, there's a classic New Yorker cartoon, and maybe some people are familiar with it, but I love it. It's a, you see two men standing at a chalkboard, presumably a student and an instructor. And you see a complex math problem on the chalkboard. And on the one side, there's this start of the equation. On the other side is the solution to the equation. And in the middle, it's written, then a miracle occurs. And the caption is the teacher saying, I think you should be more explicit here in step two. So definitely, let's be explicit about how do we get good because sometimes we don't even know for ourselves. It's just it's sort of a miracle that happens that unfold slowly over time. And I can only sort of reflect on the things that I have done, and maybe that's fed into my own skills over time. So, I think one thing that I have done is I've definitely embraced opportunities for training. So in our field, you know, I think I strongly believe in continuing professional development as a thing, both for healthcare professionals but also for myself. And so, I've always thought that out. When I, in those early days that I mentioned where the industry split into the promotional and accredited CME sides. I thought it was important I felt it was important kind of from a business perspective to demonstrate to my clients that I was serious about my commitment to CME. And so, I went through the Alliance certification process, and that was one of the first waves it actually used to not even be the Alliance back when it was the CC MEP independent organization, but it's since been adopted by the alliance in the Alliance now carries it through. So, I did that in 2008. And I've maintained that through several cycles of recertification. And so, I think in doing that, in doing that process, the recertification process it recognizes both intentional training. So, whether you're doing webinars or attending conferences and that kind of thing, or whether you're doing practical experience, so if you're presenting a poster and outcomes poster somewhere, or writing an almanac, or it just it just encourages, it encourages that type of active learning or our port or participation in the field. And you accumulate your points for re accreditation. And over time, actually it provides another incentive that over time, with the Alliance, you can be recognized as a distinguished member. So, it takes a while to accumulate that many points. But that will be something I'm excited to be recognized this summer, at the annual meeting of finally becoming a distinguished member, whatever that means. But um, yeah, it's a nice recognition. Yeah. So, I mean, I've always been, you know, thought that that's been helpful just to understand what's going on in your industry. If you're, you know, if you're a medical writer who chooses to focus on seeing, it's so important to know about your industry, but at other times I've touched on, I've been more or less involved in other organizations, at times when it's made sense to other projects that are going on. So, whether that's ISMPP, the International Society for Medical Publications Professionals, that's a mouthful, National Association for health care quality. So, I think, you know, that's another form of just ongoing education. The ACC me has annual meetings now. CME Palooza is a nice way to get some education, that's free. That's a nice aspect there. So, there's no barrier as far as you know, membership or registration fees, which can be some an issue for some, some independence. But even for informal education, if you feel that that's needed. So, for myself, you know, I was several years into my journey as a medical writer focusing on CME just plugging away. But I recognized in myself, that performance improvement was coming into CME and that was an area where I had some pretty sizable knowledge and skills gaps. And I love that episode that you had with Steve Powell talking about his journey in performance improvement and the parallels between risk management and CME. Everything he was saying I was on a walk listening to it, I was like, Yes, yes. Everything he was saying was so right on my thinking in that, but I've I recognize that, hey, this is an important trend in our industry, and I don't know much about it. And for a while, I had been thinking I might want to go back to school. So, a couple of years ago, I completed an MSN pharmaceutical outcomes and policy at the University of Florida. And that program focused on patient safety, medical errors, performance improvement, but those sort of system-based interventions, um, you know, which has served me well since in some projects, so I just, I guess I'm a believer in ongoing education. So that's the first thing. I do have a second. So, my second thing that's about the CME side, I think, on the writing side, I think, you know, reflecting on my own experience as a writer, and some of the feedback that I get, and just my own thoughts around that, I think, especially in the context of this craftsmanship model, is that you really do have to respect your writing as a craft. Um, you know, we know that, that 10,000 hours theory of mastery, whether you're going to learn to play the violin or something, it takes a long time to develop a skill and you know, it is a combination of you know, in medical writing, it's very much a combination of the analytical side and the research side and the science brain, but I really do feel that there is a craft side to it as well it's sort of artistry adjacent. Not quite, but I mean, sometimes I almost feel like I am in a very creative space when I when I find that that sweet spot of flow that Cal Newport talks about in his in the in the Deep Work book of deep concentration, where it's just you in the project at hand and you're in your sweet spot of working It does feel very creative and, and, and craft like. And I think the last thing that I think I'll say about respecting your own writing as a craft is to be nice to your editors who you work with use resources like the MA manual style and Trier's English. And I don't know why some people don't do this, and I and I know that they don't, because I hear a lot from editors. Oh, your work is so clean. I mean, it's not they're not saying whether it's good or whatever, they're saying, Oh, it's so clean. And I think what kind of hot mass work are you receiving? And it makes me think, just take care, just do clean. You know, just respect your own work and bring that craftsmanship to it. And I think that would be an immediate differentiator because I'm hearing from my clients and project editors and think and stuff that that's not often something that they are receiving. So when it when we get to that what's rare, what's the value, um, you know, submitting work that is of high quality, and in that regard, as well, even just something as simple as copy editing.

 

Alexandra Howson  36:19

Yeah, I, I've heard that as well, that the way that you describe it, in terms of clean copy, I've heard, you know, people say that they, they get work with half-finished sentences. And so that's interesting to hear that it's more of a problem than we really wanted.

 

Anne Jacobson  36:45

Yeah, it surprises me that it's a problem. And every time I hear it, I'm surprised again, but um, yeah,

 

Alexandra Howson  36:52

Yeah. And I love that focus on respecting your writing as a craft and the time that it takes to, to build that skill set, and also the creativity involved. I think one of the things that's attractive about working in the education space is that there is so much scope for there is scope for storytelling, it's not simply a dry presentation of, you know, here's the, here's the data, it can be sometimes it's required, or called for by whomever you're working for, but it can be a really creative space. How I know we're going to get on to, you know, how do we sustain that craft over a professional life course? How do you find? Or what are some of the ways that you find a very helpful to communicate the value of what you do to other stakeholders in the continuing medical education field?

 

Anne Jacobson  38:14

You know, I think that that really is a major challenge. It really is, I have to say, um, you know, over career, it's taken decades to find people I work with who do value that. And, and even by value, we mean, financially, you know, they're willing to pay appropriately. For what you bring, that is an oftentimes more than just a reflection of the hours that it took you to do that project, but the years the decades of skill behind it. But those clients and those projects, they are out there, but I agree, it's definitely a challenge. I mean, we're all aware of CME providers that are borderline content mills and want to pay freelancers, the lowest possible rates, and you know, that's fine. That's a business model. That's okay. But I think what's really great about once you do get to that level of demonstrating that your qualities are rare, then you can work with people who also then recognize the value. Yeah, absolutely. It's a challenge for sure. Even at this stage of our careers, I know and you know, other people with similar, you know, long, long successful careers and so much work to demonstrate their skills. It's an ongoing challenge, right.

 

Alexandra Howson  39:50

Well, let's talk a little bit about you know, how you how you keep all this, how you keep this show on the road, you know, over the over the course of you know, a project rational life because sustainability. And sustainably I know, we've talked about this and other kind of arenas. But you know sustainability isn't just about the knowledge work. It's also about keeping this physical body capable of tapping the keys. Yes, absolutely.

 

Anne Jacobson  40:22

Yeah. Well, great. Yeah. So how do we write? How do we make it sustainable? How do we make it a career that we want to stay in. And what I love about that sort of final prong of that craftsmanship? mindset is that once you are good at what you do, you can then leverage that into starting to call the shots in your work life. And so that's going to be individual, you know, it's gonna be different for everybody. For me, some of the things that I am able to negotiate in my own work that are important to me is certainly autonomy. So being able to choose the types of projects that I do, and very importantly, the clients that I work with, and those long-term partnerships where I do feel valued, where not only financially valued but I'm, I feel like I'm a valued member of that team. So, autonomy is very important. And then with that, in choosing the projects we like to be we want to work on is choosing projects where we feel that our work is impactful that it is meaningful. In however we define that for ourselves, but the feeling of doing meaningful work. And so, for example, for me, I'm very excited, I still am motivated by what the future holds in CME. So, some of the areas that CME is starting to get into, like the social justice issues and racial disparities, digital health and its potential there, I think is you know, fascinating. And it lights up the part of my brain that originally wanted to go to medical school, and it wants me to keep in the game. But I think I would only want to keep in the game. If I felt those other things like if I get away, I'm able to have those the rewards of feeling autonomous feeling like my work matters. Another is, you know, the flipside of autonomy is also connection. I think, once we are at a certain stage of our careers, we feel like we are able to contribute to the field itself. And that's rewarding. So, one way that I'm able to do that and feel that I contribute is whether it's, you know, presenting at conferences or mentoring up and coming writers is incredibly rewarding. I think, one of the, one of the Newport isms, that Raul and I keep returning to his work, because it's just such a great framework for thinking about this. But you know, and in his model, you know, over time we grow our skills, we do the work that we put in the work, that craftsmanship work, to grow our skills, and then we get to a place where we start to feel like we're good at what we do. And then and then we start to feel like what we do is a calling, because we feel those for awards. So even though we didn't enter the fields, because it was our passion, we ended up feeling that it's a calling. But and that's more sustainable. And I really do feel that that's where I am right now. 

 

Alexandra Howson  44:04

In the career 20 plus years after I started, it was so interesting to think about the transition from of crafts, craftsmanship, to calling. I need to read more about that. But I love the sense of standing, committed to immersed in and impassioned by the work to such an extent that there is there is a call to give back and pay it forward. So, let's talk about mentoring. Can you talk a little bit about perhaps mentoring that you've done, mentoring that you've experienced and how that might work within this particular field?

 

Anne Jacobson  45:00

Absolutely. So yeah, I think mentoring for most of us who sort of who work on the independent consultant model, it can be challenging to find opportunities for mentorship, because that's just by definition, we work by ourselves, right. Um, I recently I have had the opportunity to work on larger projects where with larger teams, and have been able to work side by side with more junior level people, even to the, you know, planning conversations on the one hand to the end, and on the other side of content development, even, you know, line editing, but really talking about choices in those edits, and it's been a really, really rewarding part of, of this work, because if I don't know, yeah, it's, it's unusual, it's rare that we get to do that. But, um, so but I'm transitioning into, because I enjoyed that so much. One of the new things that I'm going to be starting this fall is I'm going to be working with the UC San Diego medical writing certificate program. And I'm going to put them there. I'm so excited I'm going to be doing there. I'm the instructor on their CME capstone course. So, what that will look like is people who are in the medical writing certificate program, they choose, they have to do a capstone project, and they choose whether it's, you know, promotional, or CME or a couple of other flavors of medical writing. And so, for those who choose to do a CME project, I will be their mentor for that. And I'm really thrilled, I'm so excited, because it will be even more of an opportunity to explore the mentorship side and just giving back. Really just the, you know, the pleasure of giving back, I think, one thing I have heard is people being reluctant, because I'm to help up and coming medical writers, because they might view them as their future competitors. But I will say there is no, that is not, if that's something that you're worried about, do not worry about that, there is more than enough work to go around. Helping people is not going to in any way, compromise your own job security. And for me the process of going through and explaining to somebody else like my choices, whether it's word choice, or whether it's survey design, you know, question prompt or whatever, it has forced me to rethink my own choices in my own writing. And it's served my own writing. And so, it's had a direct benefit for me not in addition to just you know, the fact just paying it forward. So that's, again, that's a that's a piece that's a layer that can be really rewarding.

 

Alexandra Howson  48:01

Yeah, I think it's interesting that a lot of the literature on, on mentoring, you know, suggests exactly that, you know, it is a two-way relationship, it isn't simply paying it forward, there's so many rewards associated with being in that kind of relationship of exchange with someone. Something that you said very early on, when you were in our conversation, when you were kind of getting into this field. And you were supported by absolutely, you know, other writers in a range of organizations who were very generous about sharing their knowledge and information with you. Do you see that as something that has changed at all over the last, you know, five to 10 years? Do you get a sense of people being more protective about, you know, their sources and their things that they use to support their work? 

 

Anne Jacobson  49:04

And, you know, that that's such an interesting question. I mean, one observation that I will make is that I've seen a rise in paid training programs. So there's one for me, there's one type of training program where I see you know, the Alliance, the excuse me, AMA has a certification program, things like UC San Diego, Chicago, a couple of other universities also have medical writing certificate courses. Am I sort of lump those in a more academic medical society, I sort of regard the private training as a different I don't know why I bring up I'm admitting I bring a judgmental I mean, it's it this is model just as good as any other but I wonder if the emergence of those types of things, things has eroded the openness with which we'll exchange that information and help that said, though, I will find that more formally. So national association, association of science writers or ama, or those types of things, or even informally, you know, you met half my dear, dear personal friends in my life are medical writers who I met through work. And once you establish that network, and you sort of prove yourself to be, you know, a decent person, I know that you're not that you're not, you know, whatever, you're just demonstrate that you're coming at it for the right reasons, people just go out of their way to help you. I mean, as I, as I sort of mentioned, you know, this informal network of writers who are constantly sharing, hey, I, someone offered me this project, I can't do it, can you take it on and, and that type of thing, or even just, you know, one off help of, hey , can

I run this by you, whatever. So I feel in my life that I, for so long in my career that I have been surrounded by that, at many points. So, it's, it's interesting, I don't know, now, if being a newbie trying to get into it, if the barriers to entry would be higher. So that's Yeah, that's, that's really interesting to think about.

 

Alexandra Howson  51:19

Yeah, I don't really know, either. But it's true, what you say about the rise of these different formal kinds of training, you know, on the academic on the one side, and, you know, a little bit more commercial on the other, and, you know, my mic and a background is largely, you know, academics. So academic training I can get, I can get my, my head around, you know, that idea. But the other kind of training is, I guess one way to see it is in the professionalization of occupations, you know, the literature there kind of suggests that one of the things that happens once professions or occupations get to a certain level is that they start to professionalize. And one of the ways that they do that is by formalizing, you know, training opportunities. But of course, we live in America, and everything could be monetized. That's the other part. As well, I'm, and I'm kind of going off at too many tangents here. It just struck me, I was just curious, Is there any?

 

Alexandra Howson  52:25

so I think we've covered a lot of terrain and what you've said, is filled with so many good resources for people who are thinking about medical writing in the education field as a possible place to grow their talents and skills, but also for people who are more established and who are maybe hitting that period of, you know, sometimes myself included, you know, maybe several years left doing this work, how can I keep it fresh? You've offered a lot of information there and a lot of resources for people who might be in that that place, or space as well. Is there anything that we haven't kind of touched on that you would really like to emphasize about the risks or benefits of doing this kind of work?

 

Anne Jacobson  53:23

Gosh, no, I mean, I just, I would really say, if people are interested in it, you know, please, please join us. Come on in the water's fine. And I really, do you believe that there is a shortage of medical writers in CME, and, you know, we can all will all advance as a field together if, if the, if we raise the bar on the average skill set, I mean, I think that can only really serve us all really well. And meanwhile, we'll all work together to sort of fight for better recognition of the of the value that we that we do bring. But I think that, you know, that kind of challenge is probably true of any industry. And, yeah, keep fighting the good fight there. But it is rewarding. You know, I think it's some, you know, I think in terms of a long term career, I think it's incredibly rewarding, and it's been so helpful for me to even go through the exercise of thinking about having this conversation today. And even, you know, digging into some of the research around it, and when I when I landed on that term craftsmanship, a light went off for me, of how I regard my own work, and you know, sometimes you just need those little nudges to keep going.

 

Alexandra Howson  54:49

Absolutely. Thank you for bringing craftsmanship to our attention Anne Jacobson on the Write Medicine podcast.

 

Anne Jacobson  54:59

Thank you so much.



Introduction to Anne
The attraction of continuing healthcare education
Cal Newport
What do we know about passion?
Widen your horizons
The value of and value-ing storytelling
Paying it forward
Key take aways