Doctors as Writers, Journalists, Novelists and Scholars

Doctors as Writers, Journalists, Novelists and Scholars

Introduction

Professionals such as doctors, lawyers, engineers invest hours, months, and years in learning the profession.

When it comes to writing, there are no shortcuts; neither are there any rules. A writer is one who writes diligently and regularly.

Being a medical journalist or writer is quite an intense profession and requires a lot of brain work.

Many challenges are related to the intertwinement of medicine, and writing and this has also been studied in depth by doctors like Harold Klawans, the acclaimed neurologist.

Job Responsibilities

Medical writing encompasses different fields of work in the same industry.

The main job profile of a medical writer would be to write research papers and review medical topics. Medical journalism includes investigating the many issues in the field to give ‘a voice to the voiceless.’

New knowledge and developments are always being added to the field of medicine. The latest thoughts and ideas need to be communicated in effective ways to the audience, and this is where medical journalists and novelists come into the picture.

The demand for medical writers has gone up considerably in the past couple of years – especially with the upcoming trends in the medical industry.

The types of medical writing include:

  • Medical Journalism
  • Medical education
  • Research documents
  • Publications
  • Regulatory document writing

Required skill set and training

  • Potent writing skills
    Doctors who find themselves in the field of medicine require solid writing skills and a clear understanding of the subject. Extensive research needs to be done which is a major part of journalism, and the articles are typically jargon-laden.
  • Clarity in communication
    Another very important skill that doctors who are writers need to possess is clarity. Their job is to simplify topics for the layman, and communicate convoluted topics.
  • Attention to detail
    There has been significant growth in the amount of biomedical information in the field today. Sifting through all this information is a crucial attribute of an established medical writer or journalist. Attention to factual details and accuracy with regard to complex information is a huge plus point when it comes to the matter of skill set that medical writers possess.
  • Medico-legal issues knowledge
    Expertise on the subject of ethical and legal issues include following copyright rules, researching manuscripts, and respecting the review process in the case of journals.
  • Domain Knowledge
    Domain knowledge is a necessary skill for medical writers to form a strong foundation. This includes:
    Information about drug development processes and drug safety
    Technical guideline awareness
    Statistical results of clinical research trials
    Comprehensive medical and therapeutic knowledge
  • Training and supplemental education
    Doctors in the medical field have the opportunity to study professional courses such as a Diploma in Medical Journalism to gain an upper hand in the field. These courses can be pursued on a part-time basis from renowned universities in Indian cities. The competition in the field of medical journalism is quite fierce as individuals from the media and medical spheres are jostling to gain prominence. The course and the university itself provide guidance to the doctors to hone their writing skills and mold it to fit the guidelines of medical journalism.

Doctors who are writers, journalists, novelists and scholars

There are a number of doctors who have forayed into the field of journalism and writing.. Some of the prominent Doctors cum Authors  in the field are listed below.

  1. Robin Cook
    The acclaimed author and ophthalmologist has written 33 books in the span of 50 years. This is a feat in itself.
    His first novel was based on the psychological study of a fresher just out of medical school and was called The Year of the Intern.
  2. Taslima Nasrin
    The Bangladeshi writer and physician has been widely criticized as well as respected for her journalism on women’s oppression, and her critique on religion in general. She is currently living as a political refugee in India.
  3. Siddhartha Mukherjee
    Mukherjee is a distinguished oncologist and author. This bestselling book ‘The Emperor of all Maladies’ won him a Pulitzer in 2011. His illustrious career has him working as a faculty of medicine at the Columbia University Medical Centre.
  4. Amit Majumdar
    Indian-American novelist and poet Amit Majumdar is a novelist, essayist and nuclear radiologist who has paved the way for a lot of poet laureates. His books include ‘Partitions’ and ‘The Abundance: A novel’.
  5. Atul Gawande
    Globally renowned surgeon and writer Gawande is also a professor at Harvard Medical School and is the author of 4 New York Times bestseller books. Atul Gawande has also been a staff writer for The New Yorker since the late ’90s.
  6. Gyan Chaturvedi
    Satirist Gyan Chaturvedi is an Indian writer who was awarded the Padma Shri in the year 2015. The celebrated Indian writer trained intensely in cardiology and went on to work in the field for 30 long years before beginning his authoring career.
  7. Anton Chekhov
    The Russian playwright is considered to be one of the greatest writers in the history of short fiction. What is not common knowledge is that Chekhov first completed his medical education from the Moscow State Medical University prior to embarking on a long career of short-story writing.

Conclusion

It has been commonly thought that the quality that makes doctors good writers and novelists is that they are in the unique position that allows them to observe the miracles of life and the inevitability of our mortality. Using narration and writing in the field of medicine also helps physicians understand their patients better.

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