Though Medical Writing is fast developing primarily in the pharmaceutical area and the CROs now, this is a subject that is hardly known except confined to the industry circle. Even among the industry this does not seem to be of that important a function or job to be talked about or discussed. It is something like script writing for a film/play-taking a backseat.
To know more about this subject, LifeScienceWorld spoke to Dr. Natasha Das, a professional Medical Writer for more than 15 years. Dr. Das was the only Asian to be invited as a Speaker at the 1st Medical Writing Festival in 2011. She is the Co-author of ‘Becoming a Medical Writer’ (India Edition) and is also the Founder Secretary of All India Medical Writers Association (AIMWA).
Dr. Natasha Das expresses her views on the following:
A brief in general about Medical Writing and the various categories involved, like Medical Transcriptions, Regulatory writings etc.
Medical writing is a ‘catch all term’ for all content writing related to health and disease. It does not include medical transcription. Medical transcription means just writing a transcript from either a prerecorded or live audio clipping. Medical writers write new content instead of only a transcript. There can be many different varieties of medical writing. The ones that come to mind are regulatory medical writing, medical journalism, marketing communications, educational medical writing (including patient education literature as well as manuscripts for journals, CME articles etc), technical writing, public health and policy writing, medical script writing etc.
How Medical Writing is perceived in the Indian industry and what are the career prospects?
Even within the Indian pharma industry, very few people understand that medical writing is more than just regulatory writing or medico marketing communication. A medical writer may work in a pharma company, a CRO, a medical devices company, a medical institution, a medcomm company…They may also work with publishers, newspapers, TV, voluntary and govt agencies, websites etc. Moreover, there are hundreds of freelance medical writer in India who work on several different kinds of medical writing projects.
This is an area which is relatively unknown. Many medical students are not even aware of medical writing as it doesn’t find a mention in the academic front. What are the reasons behind it?
The awareness is definitely lacking. For example, why would you want only ‘medical students’ to be aware of it as a career option? Because we expect a medical writer to be a doctor, right? In fact nearly 2/3rd of all medical writers in India are doctors. Most of the others are with a paramedical background…nursing, pharmacy, dental, homeopathy, ayurveda or even PhD in one of the Life Sciences. However, a medical writer can in fact be someone with no degree in the sciences. He can have a journalism background or an English language background. It depends on what kind of medical writing he does. All he needs is a basic understanding of medical terms a knack for writing. Many medical writers around the world have either a journalism background or an English language background.
There are people with scientific/research/medical background who possess excellent writing and communication skills, but not looking at Medical Writing as a career. Is this not a commercially viable profession?
It does not pay as much as being a clinician in India. But there is certainly no limit to how much a freelance writer can earn. It depends on how well he markets himself.
Why Medical Writing is not included in the academic curriculum?
There are institutes and organizations such as InFocus Rx, James Lind institute, Bioinformatics Institute of India, SIRO Clinpharm which provide courses in Medical Writing. Since a medical writer does not necessarily belong to any particular stream of subjects, it is not included as part of academic curriculum but as a professional development course.
Can Medical Writing become a prospective career opportunity?
It is a career opportunity for many people today. There are different types of work places where medical writers can work.
Your dream project ‘AIMWA’-has already started conducting Workshops/Seminars etc. to promote this profession. What are your future plans and objectives?
We hope to be able to start an accredited Medical Writing course soon. Till then, we are happy to collaborate with others to conduct more number of medical writing workshops across India.
(Dr. Natasha Das can be contacted at her Email: firstname.lastname@example.org )