Besides being a doctor, I am also a professional medical writer and reporter. I never gave up my pen or my love of journalism when I acquired my stethoscope. Nor do I intend to relinquish my stethoscope in favor of my pen.
Before going back to school to become a physician, I earned my living for years as a professional medical writer, reporter and editor. Practicing medicine is my latest adventure.
Now that I am a practicing physician, I find that patient care and writing go hand-in-hand. Medical writing helps me expand my knowledge of the latest diagnostic tools and treatments in medicine as well as the latest evidence-based research. Caring for patients keeps me attuned to the problems and challenges of today’s healthcare system, both as a provider of healthcare and understanding their perspective as users.
My patients are my greatest teachers—I learn at least as much about medicine from my patients as I have learned from medical textbooks and databases. Treating them and listening to them makes me a much better medical and healthcare writer. It also makes me a better doctor.
If you are a doctor who likes to write, I encourage you to use your pen (or keyboard!) to reach a larger public through the media. You can enlarge and expand the good you can do beyond the exam room or clinic. Your knowledge and expertise can reach and benefit an audience well beyond your zip code, county borders—or even your country.
You may think writing takes too much time and you’re much too busy with your practice. However, new digital products, such as the Dragon® speech-recognition tool, can enable you to “write” directly into your PC, Mac or iPhone. If you’ve ever dictated a progress note or a discharge summary, you can write an article. Just get the basic idea down to start. You can always go back to edit and polish later.
A word of advice: When approaching the media to get your writing published, be careful to avoid giving the impression that you’re promoting yourself or your practice. Self-promotion turns off members of the press very quickly. I know, because as a member of the media myself, I have a built-in flack detector that instantly filters out self-serving promotional detritus and renders me immune to the sales pitch of people trying to get ink online.
Instead, make your writing informative and educational. Concentrate on content that will benefit the audience, not you personally. Certainly, your published words will attract new patients, but that should not be your purpose. Your goal should be to inform, educate and enlighten.
If you can inform, educate and enlighten in a way that entertains as well, even better! That will help grab your readers’ attention and keep them reading to the end. Medical writing doesn’t have to be boring. With the high noise level of today’s ubiquitous media, boring writing gets drowned out—and lost and buried.
If you’ve read this far, then I have succeeded in reaching you. Now it’s your turn to reach out! Start now to share your knowledge, expertise and unique experience beyond the patients you see every day—it will be a benefit to the rest of the world in ways far beyond what you ever dreamed possible.
Write, doctor, write!