Dr. Scott's Spring 13 ENC 3453 Course
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What surprised you when further exploring another group’s resource page about a type of medical writing?
One of the most surprising things I learned about medical writing from the resource pages we were asked to make was the amount of similarity between medical health journalism and consumer and public health communication. Both of these areas of medical writing address health concerns that affect the public, and the pieces are written specifically for everyday consumers who would not understand the legal jargon behind other types of medical writing, like regulatory writing. Even though both of these types are written directly to the public, their style and process of reception are different.
An example of consumer and public health information is a pamphlet you might see in the waiting room of an OBGYN about donating your child’s umbilical chord for stem-cell research to help save another baby’s life. This brochure is written specifically for pregnant mothers, and having it in the waiting room of an OBGYN’s office is a good venue for this information to reach them. Even though waiting for a doctor can be a long process, the information in the brochure must be factual and get the point across quickly to provide the most information as possible.
An example of medical health journalism would be an article about why exercise is good for mental health, which could be seen in a popular magazine such as Women’s Health or Men’s Health. These magazines are usually read by “health buffs,” but if the topic seems interesting and relevant enough, especially it is presented well on the cover, any consumer could pick up the magazine to read the article. The style must be a quick-read, but still get valid information across.
Based on the outward similarities of the two types of writing, I would have thought the job title would have been the same and that the outlet (magazine or brochure) would only be different because of who hired you. This assignment showed me the difference between the two. It has also made me more interested in Medical Health Journalism. I am a Creative Writing minor, so maybe during my career as a psychologist, I could end up writing some articles for magazines so that pertinent mental health information could reach the public eye in an entertaining way.
The thing that I liked most when looking at these topics, was the Medline Plus link that I found on the Public Health Communication page. It is a page that shows you the process of creating an easy-to-read medical document. Some of the things that are mentioned: keep grammar within a 6th and 7th grade reading level, have pronunciation guides when dealing with medical terms, and other things. There are even links on the page to find out what grade level you’re writing the document at. I found that fascinating, because I’d never really thought about it before. You don’t really need to worry about that with medical journalism, because if you’re writing for the guys who read Men’s Health, you’ll automatically fit your writing style for them. In this way, I found that Public Health Communication is a medium between the more formal Regulatory Writing, and the simpler writing in Medical Journalism. Public Health writers still need to be able to engage the audience like journalists, while taking complicated topics and condensing them for people to understand–but maybe in a more formal way, focusing more on giving the audience information than entertaining them.
I really enjoyed the “Careers in Medical Writing: Regulatory Writing” article under the resources of the Regulatory Medicine blog. I thought it was interesting that the man who wrote the article had no plan to become a regulatory medical writer. I always figured this career was something people interested in research and writing planned to be. I didn’t know it was something you could just “land” in. I was also surprised to find out that sometimes the regulatory writers aren’t even part of the research or clinical trial they are writing about. I found that a lot of times the companies or organizations will hire people specifically to do the writing. To me, regulatory writing seems like the most complex and time-consuming type of medical writing.
Going through the different sites, I liked to see the different information that the other groups put on their websites. There were some that were surprising to me and intriguing at the same time. For starters, I liked how the jobs between Medical Health Journalism and Public Health Communications are so similar. Someone pursuing a career in either can get a job at CNN, Fox News, and different other kinds of organizations. I was also surprised by how general both medical health journalism and public health communications are in the media. They aren’t only on the television, but both can be found in blogs, magazines, newspapers, and other different methods to get information out to the general public. I also never considered oral health one of the different topics medical journalism would cover. When I was browsing the website, I never thought that there would be so many Fellowships, Webcasts, and workshops and seminars that could help someone going into that field. But when looking at the schools that offered Masters programs, I expected there to be a much larger list. However, I liked that the Medical Journalism Blog had so many links that took me to different sites with an array of information. Also, I liked that regulatory writing creates documents for other doctors from trials and other experiments. I found it pretty surprising that Regulatory Writing reports on the status of different clinical trials and whether their study protocols were effective.
I found it rather interesting that oral health was its own topic in medical journalism. I mean, I go to the dentist twice a year and I brush my teeth and then I go about my business. But it was really eye opening to see such advocacy for something that in other parts of the world presents a major health concern (goodness, we could even say different parts of the country! I went to the resource page and read some horrifying realities about dentistry in West Virginia). It also made me think about the fact that a good many of my friends don’t go to the dentist because they don’t have the insurance for it. This isn’t just true of college students, I think many people aren’t concerned with oral health because they aren’t cognizant of how far reaching the diseases associated with it are. Something like gingivitis can go so far as causing heart disease if left untreated or not treated carefully. As a pre-vet student I can also say this is very much true of animals as well (there are dental complications that ultimately impact the heart in dogs and cats). So it makes sense, but only if you really think and read about it. It’s a very striking issue that I was really glad to see once I sat back and looked through the Medical Journalism resource page.
I was intrigued by the various types of education/training required for the different types of medical writing. Previously, I had thought that a medical writer was just someone like a physician, nurse, or any other type of health care provider who just happened to find their niche in writing. These presentations have now opened my eyes to see that the different types of medical writing encompass a great variety of educational backgrounds. One thing that surprised me was how regulatory writers could possibly have no prior education in rhetoric or composition and yet they are still among the highest paid medical writers. Regulatory writers more so fit my previous stereotype as someone who found their niche in writing, however rather than being a health care provider, regulatory writers are more often individuals who come from some type of data driven, statistical or actuarial science background. I was also interested to find out from the journalism group that there are multiple graduate programs which are specific to medical/health journalism. I feel that this is important because this type of medical writing is mainly being distributed to the general population and thus requires a great deal of skill and knowledge in both composition as well as health/medicine. The ability for these writers to be fluent and thorough, while still writing for their Joe Plumber audience is crucial to their success as a writer.
I was most surprised by how much distinction there is between Medical Journalism and Consumer and Public Heath Communication. While both aim to inform the public about health and medical issues, it was clear to me that Journalism takes a much more persuasive and entertainment based approach whereas Consumer Communication focuses more on informing the public about important health issues and making them aware. Consumer Communication takes a more educative approach. I also thought that Marketing would have a large overlap into Consumer Communication, however, even without seeing the Marketing page yet, it is clear to me that the distinction again will be in that Consumer Communication focuses more on educating the audience while marketing will be focused on encouraging the audience to choose a certain product or action. I will be interested to learn how much the Marketing field will overlap with Journalism. While journalists are presenting a story, they are also in a way marketing an idea.
After going through the different websites and resources what I found the most intriguing is the huge gap of difference between regulatory writing and the other kinds of writing ( though medical health journalism and consumer and public health communication vary also). I would infer that regulatory writers get payed more than other kinds of journalists because of how much attention to detail and data processing they have to do. It really shocked me to see how many guidelines and the type of guidelines that regulatory writers had to follow in order to have a successful career in it. What I would like to know is if these kinds of writers have any resources available to them in order to learn about all the guidelines that they have to follow…. because it seems to me that it would be extremely painstaking just to learn about all the regulations that they have to follow.
Thanks to the resource pages I definitely know for sure that I absolutely don’t have what it takes to be a regulatory writer and that maybe sometime in the future I could possibly break out into one of the other kinds of medical writing.
On the Medical Health Journalism website, I found the four major topics interesting because of the drastic difference between these topics, and the types of advertising that goes on in the medical field. If you were to turn on a TV and pay attention to some of the commercials, the way they appeal to consumers is not on an informative level, but rather a social and superficial level. For example dog food commercials usually explain how on in five dogs over the age of three have gum disease, but a toothpaste commercial will just say you could have brighter, whiter smile in just ten days. Commercials for products that can “prevent aging” or make you feel young again seem to aim to make older people feel vulnerable and like they need their product. I think it goes to show that the priorities of direct to consumer advertisers are not where they need to be; which is the health of the public.
While exploring our classes presentations, I was very interested with the references page on the medical writing journalism presentation. It really got me thinking that there is a broad array of mediums that medical writing journalism can be displayed in. Their list of resources proves my point alone. There can be a health article about a new type of elective surgery in the Sunday New York Times, or there can be a bit about a new medicine on the Today show. The topics can range, as well as the jargon that is used in the article. The same language that is used in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine is not the same language that will be used in the Today show segment. When you really think about it, medical journalism can be pretty much anywhere. On the radio, on a local news station, on a national news program or even in a college newspaper, such as our own; The Central Florida Future.
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