Tara Beers Gibson, Ph.D.
Associate Director, Gastrointestinal Malignancies
The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Good afternoon, can you guys hear me? On behalf of the Post Doctoral Association we would like to welcome you and we as an association, we have developed a series of seminars that are targeted towards some of the needs that we have beyond being on the bench in research. And one of the topics that we were asked to address is what can we do with our PhD, what are some of the alternative careers that we could approach or we could do as people who hold a PhD and have that scientific knowledge. And we are very happy to have here Dr. Terry Gibson. Dr. Gibson is currently the Associate Director of gastrointestinal malignancies and urinary malignancies, sorry about my accent, and she's currently working, she studied as a medical writer and she has moved up and currently she serves as a liaison with faculty and provide criticism, she looks at the scientific accuracy of grants and newsletters and she develops agendas for meetings in educational objectives and many other things and she'll tell us a lot more about it.
And Dr. Gibson actually did her bachelor degree at Wellesley College in Massachusetts and she has a degree in biological chemistry, she did her PhD in the department of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at the University of Pennsylvania and she was the post doctoral fellow in the department of pharmacology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Her advisor was Dr. Cogg and her study was the world of map kinases, insulin like transcription and pancreatic data cells. She has a very impressive list of publications and honors and she has teaching experience, research experience, in the medical world and she will talk about that today and we're looking forward to hearing that. Welcome Dr. Gibson.
Thank you for having me here today. Since there's a few of you here, whenever you have a question please feel free to interrupt and ask. I will talk a little bit more about how I got to where I am in my position today but I'm very glad to be here. Thank you for inviting me. So first thing I wanted to do is, does anybody know what these numbers might represent? Any guesses? Ideas? So what these are is 9 point 1 hours is the average work day for an American, 7 point 6 hours is the average amount of time we sleep each night, and 3 hours is the average amount of quality time that we have in our lives. Of course, you're all post docs and I was a post doc so 9 point 1 hours average does not seem normal, it is more like 10 to 12 at least so that cuts into our sleep time and our quality of life time.
So coming back to the question, why are we working? Why are we doing this? Couple of things, obviously I think the reason a lot of us got into science because we really enjoy it. We really love the research and the environment, so it's very interesting and challenging. But then again, we talk about what's the compensation with benefits, the salary, and I think you're all very aware of those issues. So one thing you have to consider about when you're looking for a career is, is it satisfying? Are you being challenged? How do you like your work environment? And is it supportive? Do you have the opportunity to develop and grow? And I think some of the interesting statistics, I think it's only like 15 percent of PhDs actually go on to research careers which means there's a lot more in alternative careers so it kind of conveys the question, are they really alternative then?
The other issue that kind of came up for me is I think NIH funding is about 8 percent now. Which means it's very competitive out there to get NIH grants and that was part of my decision to move on so I'm just gonna give you background. What do we do? We go to undergrad, we go to grad school, get our PhD, we do our fellowship, and then the next thing we're supposed to do is go out and become a professor. Like I said that's not necessarily the route that everyone goes anymore. So for me personally, I'll tell you a little bit about my story, I did go to Wellesley, graduated in 92, and did a project in molecular biology in sienna bacteria, very different from oncology. Then I went on to the University of Pennsylvania and spent 7 years there in graduate school which was longer than I anticipated. I did work on insulin like growth factor binding proteins and a little bit in breast cancer cells, a little bit in prostate cancer cells, but this was my only cancer experience. And then after graduate school I had the opportunity for a post doctorate fellowship at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center up in Dallas and I did work on map kinasing link pathways and pancreatic beta cells and the pharmacology department and it was a very rewarding experience.
I did apply and receive a grant from my post doc fellowship and during this time also I had two children, so I had a son about a year after I started my post doc and then right towards the end of my grant I was about to have my second child and trying to decide then what do I do. It's a big question mark. So the options were to apply for an academic position, so I started looking around and considering very carefully what I wanted to do. The other option I had was to write a bridge grant and kind of transition between a post doc and an instructor and stay within my lab at UT Southwestern. And this was kind of nice, it gives you a couple more years of money to start working on your own project but personally for me, and I'm not sure if other people are in this position, but the idea of having 2 young children under the age of 5 and working as an assistant professor my first year with no grad students, no post docs, maybe a technician, was a little daunting so I was thinking I need to seek other alternatives.
Also too for me personally, and I'll talk a little bit more about this, I really liked the research, I really liked thinking of the questions, coming up with designs for the experiments, I hated doing the experiments. I did have a technician who was excellent that still I had to get in there and make sure everything was going, spend the long hours in the lab, many more failed experiments than successful experiments, got very frustrated and realized that I didn't know if I wanted to spend the next 20 years doing purely research career. So I was thinking what else is out there? So I do now work for physician's education resource and I'll talk more about that later. But it was a continuing medical education company and they were looking for a medical writing position. This is in Dallas so it's convenient step for me, but it was a very difficult decision because once you kind of get out of academia it's a little bit harder to say, okay what am I going to do, am I going to miss it, is it going to be a mistake, will I be able to go back if I don't? So it was a very labored decision, I spent a lot of time on it but I'm glad to say I'm very happy since the decision I made.
So let's talk about what is medical writing? I will talk specifically about CME positions later on, but I wanted to kind of give you an overview of what medical writing is. Basically what medical writers do is prepare the material for scientific content and medical information for journals, for magazines, newspapers, for CME such as my company, for pharmaceutical companies, writing regulatory documents, they make slides, posters, create websites for different associations or universities and things like that, and they also do advertising copy for companies and for pharmaceutical companies. One of the interesting things I actually did, I freelanced for a while and I did write some ad copy for Citracal. It's interesting because they had a lot of writers writing kind of marketing promotional jargon but it lacked medical accuracy and understanding of, they were trying to look at references and primary resources and translate that to well, what does it mean for the consumer? And there are inaccuracies when they do this so they really need people who have scientific expertise to come in and be able to look at that and say, well these are the important parts of the study that now become bullet points on your ad. And so it's kind of interesting to do something like that.
A lot of newspapers have a science section to the newspaper. We really need people who understand the nuances, the language, be able to write these articles. So there's lots of different opportunities. Also I don't have this up here, but businesses and even Wall Street companies need medical writers to write their business reports, especially if they're analyzing pharmaceutical drugs or something. They need somebody to come in and be able to write these for these little reports for their stock holders in a way that they would understand. So there's just lots of different opportunities. So different signs that a medical writing career could be in your future: one, you enjoy writing manuscripts, grants, and preparing your posters more than you like doing the lab work. This was sort of my experience, I actually liked writing research articles when you could kind of sit down, think about the experiments, how they all fit together, what was the story, I like telling the story instead of being in the lab. Two, you enjoy spending hours in the library reading up on your research subject. This was something I also enjoyed in the sense of being able to just come up with a question and start reading and figure out, okay what kind of experiments do you do, how would you attack this subject and everything. I enjoyed doing that a lot too. Three, you look forward to writing your dissertation as a vacation. I don't think anybody would like doing this, but there are people who just really enjoy writing the story. And also four, that your verbal skills come more naturally than your math or manual skills. And I will say regardless of what you do with your PhD and with your post doc experience, communication is key. You will have to give presentations. You will have to write grants.
You will have to learn how to talk about what you do in the lab to the people who are going to be giving you grant money, or to your colleagues and etc. So you have to be able to communicate well. So here's some other opportunities for science and medical writers. Again, Med Ed companies such as PER, they do lots of different things, we talked about educational programs, we create slide sets, we write abstracts, we make posters, we do content edit reviews of articles, we write monographs, we write articles for journals, we do a whole slew of things. For pharmaceutical companies again, we prepare the regulatory documents and study reports. I actually have a colleague of mine who is a clinical trainer at Genentech and after she finished her post doc she was in a situation of trying to figure out what to do. I talked to her recently and as a clinical trainer, she actually trains the marketing sales force on the drugs; teaches them how the drugs work, what they do, what the diseases are, teaches them all about the diseases and the tumor types, and these are marketing people and sales people and they don't have the science background. So she educates them and that's her job and she's their teacher. So lot's of positions like that as well. Bio Tech companies, again, writing grants, papers, writing advertising or training materials such as I said, academic institutions.
Probably you guys have like a newsletter report here or a newspaper here. I know at Southwestern University Pennsylvania they had a newspaper or they have a magazine and there were several people who started writing small articles, more journal type articles, for the magazines and they really enjoyed that. Again, everybody's got websites now and we put a press release on our website the other day and it still needs to be written by somebody who understands the material and medically reviewed because it's, fact checking and accuracy are such huge parts of the website. We don't want to put any false information, so you really have to have the knowledge to understand what to put on the website and then again, scientific journals, writing the editorials, or writing fact matter, a lot of if you look in front of Science magazine there's a lot of the short blurbs that are written by their staff writers. So these are kind of different examples of what you could do. So how can you prepare for a career in medical writing? Start writing. Keep writing.
What's interesting in my sense for me personally is I wasn't doing freelance writing or anything prior to making my career change, but I did have experience in writing papers, writing some grants and such, reviewing papers, so I was familiar with all that. So I'm sure at this point in your careers you've written papers, you've attempted to write some grants, maybe you've gotten some grants and so you do have experience in writing but it depends on what kind of writing. If you want to do journal style writing, start trying to submit an article to the local paper on a topic or to write for the M. D. Anderson newspaper or something like that. Again, look into maybe taking a class on scientific communications, there are some people at my company that have journal backgrounds, journalism backgrounds, so they have bachelors in science and biology and then went on to journalism school and they really enjoy that. But then we also have some of the other medical writers who've taken writing classes and communication classes as well. There's also professional medical writing organizations.
I have some information on that for you and there's a lot of people doing freelance writing. And again, that's one way I did the copyrighting for the advertising company. We actually hired 2 freelance writers for our company so CME companies do this, pharmaceutical companies, so it's a different avenue and with freelance writing you write on different subjects related to science or medical fields so it's not as specialized. And again, you can keep writing, build up a portfolio, and usually for our company for instance, we do require a writing sample or writing test. So we would give you a poster, raw information, and say write the story. And it would kind of look at your writing style and such so a lot of places you either send in a sample or article you've written and then they'll ask you to do a test, because it's a different type of writing or style of writing than you would for a journal article. It's a little bit different and we can talk more about that in a little bit. Again, other ways to prepare for a career in medical writing; writing your scientific knowledge.
Our company does specialize in oncology but a lot of CME companies will cover different aspects. They'll do immunology, cardiology, infectious diseases, and so they might have different topics, you could be writing on any of these at any time. Also if you want to get more into the kind of lay person writing, read the Discover or Scientific America and National Geographic. These all still require scientific, medically trained people to really give that extra dimension to the writing. Again, just become more educated; watch the science programs, read the science section in the New York Times. Our company as a CME, we're actually writing for physicians, people who are medical oncologists, so they know the lingo and everything like that so those are our specialists in a sense but we also write for Cure magazine and which is the general public, the patient population, so it's a very different style and what you have to be aware of, what's your audiences and how you want to do that. And again, I encourage you if you're very interested, take communication classes.
So here are a couple of resources and I'll be able to leave these here if anybody wants to look at. But probably the primary one is American Medical Writers Association. This is a lot of freelancers join this group because it does provide benefits as an organization and they also provide a lot of information about job opportunities. Again, there are different kinds of things you can do, they talk about the different types of jobs in medical writing, the biomedical communicators, there's writers, there's editors in different levels. They do have conferences that you could talk to other medical writers and then they actually help train you and help you with refresher courses. And again, I think the primary opportunity to joining an organization like this is their networking and job opportunities. There's also National Association of Science Writers, most of the people I know are more involved in the AMWA but again, this is another opportunity to get more information. And again, it's just good to have networking but I know for freelancers they do provide benefits and such for those. And again, here's different websites you can probably get these from Dr. Brewer later. I'll give her a copy of my slides but again, just different websites you can go to for resources.
Well, let me stop here. Does anybody have any just general questions about medical writing at this time? Because I want to move into specifically what I do because it's a little bit more than medical writing and it's actually more than I anticipated and I think that's why I'm so excited about it now. So 2 years ago in January of 2005, I started at a physician's education resource company. It's actually 3 different companies, PER is the CEM portion of the company, Cancer Information Group is the non CEM journal portion of the company and then our Cure Media Group which is the patient portion of the company. We specialize in oncology and I think that's given us some edge and given us a higher quality to our programs that we provide so when I started at the company we were very small, we were about 50 people, we've doubled in size in the last couple of years and we're over a hundred now. And I started as a medical writer and I was just thrown in, started writing on breast cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, hematological malignancies, everything. It's just all growth everyday. And one thing we did, we would go to ASCO or ASH and we'd get the information from the posters and from the lectures and we take their stories and kind of re write them and look at the data and we write a brief introduction, write up the methods that the investigators would use, write up the results, and then give it kind of a clinical relevance.
What does this mean? Why is this trial important? Why is this drug important in breast cancer, etc.? And it's about a 700 word little essay and we get a medical reviewer, would read through it and make sure that it's appropriate because we aren't trained as medical oncologists and we have to make sure everything was okay with it and then it's very interesting and exciting and I think what we decided to do within the company in the past year was then to focus on tumor types. And I think this makes our company unique because we have directors or associate directors for each of the major tumor types. Mine, I actually have many, GI and GU malignancies which covers colorectal, liver, pancreatic, gastric, kidney, bladder, prostate. I also do ovarian cancer and melanoma so I've kind of got a lot of tumor types to cover but I study what's going on in each of these tumor types. What are the treatments in which disease setting? First line metastatic or salvage therapy, adjuvant therapy, and understand what are the active drugs, the cytotoxic agent, all the biologic agents. So I read the journals and it's like if I were doing my post doc, this is my field of study now and I keep up with it, I call up a lot of physicians on a daily basis, call them or email them asking them a lot of questions so the physicians around the country and around the world have become my teachers. And it's really a very rewarding experience because they're very helpful.
If I have a question about a drug or trial or the results of a trial, they're very helpful and this is the way for me, so I keep learning and that's a rewarding part of the job. I'm still learning, I'm still researching in a sense, and I get to then take this knowledge and then apply it to all of our different products that we produce. Also as part of my job I also am the associate managing editor for 2 of our journals; The Clinical Colorectal Journal which comes out every other month and The Clinical Genital Urinary Cancer Journal which comes out quarterly. So there's a lot to do, a lot of different opportunities. I think being here at M. D. Anderson, you guys are very aware of the cancer facts out there but again, there's just a lot of, let's see if I can get the pointer working here. But again, this is a lot of, 27 percent of all deaths in the U. S. are related to cancer. This is amazing. I think this is what interests me, is that most of the drugs approved each year are for oncology treatment, for cancer treatment. And again, it's about 6 to 8 drugs per year that are approved by the FDA. There are over 400 in the pipeline just for oncology alone and compared to other research fields, this is the most active and increasingly the fastest. So there's so much information and so much research out there on oncology treatments, on oncology drugs, there's lots of clinical trials and the challenge that we have as a company and as medical writers in this field is, how do we get that information from the research academic institution to your community oncologist? I mean, they have the big society meetings but not everybody can go to these meetings. There's so much information out there, what does it mean? So we gather all this information and put it in perspective. We do that in several different ways.
Again, our main goal as a CEM company and this is what I like about my job now is that I've become an educator in the sense. So I'm not teaching graduate students or post docs, I am still teaching. So it's still very rewarding for me in that sense. Then again, our mission in this sense is to get this information that's just been published or just been presented on a clinical trial, and get this information out to the doctors so they can make treatment decisions for their patients. Again, because we know why, they don't get a second chance. So the more your physicians know the better. So that's our mission and our goal and here's just a couple examples. One was that FOLFOX proved to be better than 5FU, leucovorin, and adjuvant colorectal cancer. This was presented at ASCO in 2003 but not approved until 2004. So we got this information out right after ASCO, so ASCO's in June, we got it out in July 2003. This made it aware for physicians that they could possibly, for patients that would be eligible, include them in clinical trials to receive FOLFOX therapy.
And again, this would then create a good advantage for people who then, since it wasn't approved until 2004, so they have over a year and a half advantage. Again, sunitinib and panitumumab has also been approved in kidney cancer. This is something we also approved as soon as the preliminary analysis of the clinical trial comes out; we are getting that information out. So it just heightens awareness across the board. So are company's kind of complex, we've got obviously, a marketing group who's job is to make the company money. It's a 70 million dollar business, so there is a business aspect to it. We also have a huge support staff to conduct our meetings, etc. But then we have our scientific affairs team so this is where all the content is generated, process and everything. And we have a hundred and plus people in the company, we've got 12 PhD's. We have a lot to do but it's very exciting, we're hoping to grow our team. And again, we do have 12 PhD's in house but we also have 2 PhD freelance writers.
So there are different types of opportunities. Our teams divided by tumor types and I think that like I said before, the advantage is that then we can study our field. We can become experts in our field and in a kind of honorary med onx. We create our content, any and all aspects of the content, for our CEM conferences, for our newsletters, for our journals, and for Cure magazine. For the conferences this involves creating the agenda and I'll talk about our different types of conferences just to give you an idea of what kinds of things, it's not just medical writing anymore. But we have different kinds of live meetings and then newsletters. We also have websites now that we're creating content for. And again, we reach out to all the medical oncologists in the U. S. and many of the cancer patients as well. So we have 16 multi day conferences. For instance, right now I'm preparing for the prostate cancer congress. It's a 3 day meeting and that we hope to get a lot of medical, surgical, radiation oncologists, researchers and oncologists, to come to our prostate cancer congress. And what the goal is there is that you go to ASCO to get your primary information, here the trial results, and then we have our congress and we kind of help synthesize what's all the new research but then how do we integrate these new ideas into treatment for patients? So part of my job in preparing the congress is figuring out what are the controversial topics in prostate cancer, what are the major themes going on, what are the standard of cares, and I work with the chairs of the congress who are highly acclaimed thought leaders in their field, and start coming up with ideas for the agenda.
We come up with lecture topics and then I have to also be aware of who are the leaders in the field and who can speak and address each of these lecture topics. And so I get to know a lot of physicians, get to know their fields of expertise, and I help build the agendas and then as we get closer to the meeting, I also help the individual speakers with content. So if they request slides, they request information that was presented at ASCO that they might not have access to, we help give them information, we help make them slides in some cases, we review all those slides for medical accuracy for content, for fair balance. And so there's a lot into the process. The other thing we do, our CEM meetings, these are usually 1 day meetings. We have a current trends and GI malignancies; this will kind of highlight what's the current standard of care for treating colorectal cancer in the metastatic setting? What drugs are out there to do this? What are their survival rates and how are we doing? So we prepare all those meetings, we also have sole sponsored meetings. At ASCO this year we have 8 meetings focusing on different aspects of oncology and these will be sponsored by a single pharmaceutical company, but we represent for instance, I'm working on a program that's looking at rash kinase pathway and inhibitors of this pathway but we'll represent all the different drugs that would fall into that category. And so we developed a program based on that.
And again, we have the publications, the newsletters, we write meeting highlights from all the major meetings, and then Multimedia Publications will do slide sets, audio presentations, and also write up a short synopsis or summary of a presentation. Again, this is just an example of one of our meetings, targeted therapies in cancer, I think this is an exciting area especially for me since I'm coming from a signaling background so, I don't have an oncology background, oncology was basically new to me 2 years ago. You guys have a lot more experience in oncology than I did when I started but, it's exciting because all these biologic agents and targeted therapies in cancer. What's interesting is what we're finding a difference with the physician population and education. Only up until recently, physicians are lacking understanding of these signaling pathways, how they work, what the mechanism of action are for these drugs. And so as scientists and the way we learn, we're very keen on these so we have to explain the mechanism accents of these drugs, how they're working on different signaling pathways, what that might mean, why if you target EGFR receptors you get this skin rash. Why are these drugs having different effects? And so it's kind of interesting from our point of view that we're able to explain that and educate. But again, we do have different congresses; these again are multidisciplinary programs for our physicians.
Here's an example of a one day meeting, we do have a current trends in breast cancer series. Again, it's just focusing on updating on the recent changes in the field. What's interesting too is that we have case based learning. So we do case presentations and the audience is able to vote on how they practice medicine. It's kind of interesting, generates a lot of good discussion, that way they also talk to their colleagues from around the area, what is the best practice for their patients. Here's an example of a sole sponsored meeting. And again, there are usually about 4 or 5 lectures, 2 hour program, that will do around ASH or ASCO or such on a specific topic. They're usually CEM accredited, again we work on news meetings, we work on ad boards for companies. We'll provide information and scientific content for ad boards; we also work on investigator meetings for pharmaceutical companies. These are not CME but it's something that we're also involved in and I think in that aspect I get to act more as a medical science liaison. So again, it's not just medical writing.
There's a lot more going on, it's very dynamic and there's just lots of things to do. Here's one of our newsletter samples, our newsletter publication where we'll invite outside authors to write an article. We have to content edit and make sure and verify the references and make sure it's accurate and appropriate. We have to also make sure they're fair and balanced so it's not a promotional piece for one drug company, that it's representative of what's really happening in this disease and in the field. So we do write CME newsletters for that purposes, we'll write updates on abstracts from ASCO, write the meeting highlights, and then we have journals. Journals is interesting, it's kind of fun. It's not CME so it ends up being a journal article that you would submit on your research and what's kind of nice, is that I've been able to still write and get published and get in Pub Med, I'm listed in Pub Med as an author so I keep my writing portfolio up by writing mini reviews and commentary articles along with a physician. And so in a way it keeps my publication record going. So that's kind of nice, and you can write more in depth articles for the journals.
We also have 2 patient magazines, Cure which are for patients currently undergoing therapy and then Heal which is gonna launch in May for survivors. I find this kind of writing challenging. It beats explaining to your grandmother or your mother or your father about oncology treatment and different drugs and you have to use a different tone and that's actually a harder style of writing for me, but some people love it; writing for the patient, writing about why these drugs are important, why these trials are important, etc. And so we do get to write a lot of the little articles in here and then we also review and review the scientific content for the articles that are submitted for these 2 magazines as well. So it's a little bit of editorial kind of work, writing liaison, lots of different styles of, and different opportunities. So it's been a really good experience for me. It was a hard decision to make but I was really excited once I started getting into it. I thought it was gonna be a 40 hour week because I thought of going from post doc where I had these crazy hours, I'd have this nice easy life style and the first few months it was that way. We kind of have a diversity in our company. I think this happens for a lot of med ed companies.
You can go and strictly just write. Go on a medical writing track, just write your articles, go home, have your quality of life, family life. As I got more and more into this and more and more involved and had a subject to study, I became like a post doc again. I've very excited about it. I think what's different for me is that I can see fruits of my labor immediately. I have a meeting, it's successful, we actually have outcome measurements so we can see that we've changed physician's opinions, that they will take the information we've given them and start using it in their clinic. So it's very rewarding in that sense and we get just the positive feedback, people read our newsletters or read our journal articles and say, you know this really helped form my opinion or change my mind on something. And so there's immediate reward and I think as a post doc that was the most frustrating thing for me is just doing experiment after experiment. I think you have to know yourself and know what you like to do and in that sort of aspect. So I think I'll just stop there and take any questions about medical writing, about what I do. The fields open for anything. Thank you.
I have a good question. Right. No it's good to know. So when I started and I know things have changed and I know M. D. Anderson as an institute's probably better for post doc's salaries than for other academic institutions. When I started my post doc in 99 I was getting 26,000. When I finished in under 2004 right before starting this job I was getting 42,000 on an NIH grant. So this is a 5 year post doc and that's where you guys end now. So I'm not sure how much the range has changed. Our medical writers start at 50,000 but a lot of them are coming in right after grad school or with 1 or 2 years of post doc experience. Those who have more post doc experience come in at a medical writing 2 position which is more like 60,000 range.
So we have a medical writing 1, 2, and 3 levels, usually go from medical writing 1 to 2 after about six months or you come in as a medical writer 2 depending on what your experience and background is etc. But again, I think most of the people that we've got, we've had several people come right out of grad school and do this. And so they're going from 20 something to 50, they're so excited so it was really good. But as post docs I had an issue with that because it was more of a lateral change for me in salary than a huge increase. But because of my experience and background I was able to progress very rapidly. I was a content manager and then recently moved up to an associate director and as content manager it ranges from like 65 to 75, as a director it's like 75 to 95, so there's a wide range. It's getting very comfortable, very livable circumstance. I guess system professors are around 65, 75 range now? Depending on where you're going. So it's on track with a real career pathway and everything. And we do have director levels and then we also have director of our scientific affairs group as a whole, we're also looking for directors for our whole journals.
So people who are going to come in and do more management positions and oversee a process. And then we have chief scientific officer and so we have lots of different layers. We're looking for people who want to go into marketing, because what's interesting is our company previously was run by a medical oncologist and he sold off the company to businesses and made it very profitable, we're able to grow a lot now but yet our marketing group was pretty much run by the medical oncologist and now he's not there. We have a marketing team of people who have no experience in science or in medicine, are not trained. So we're looking for PhD's to work in strategic marketing, understanding what the clients want, understanding what the products are and what we can do. So there's lots of different types of opportunities within the company. I think other CME companies are like that. The larger CME companies, you could probably just do medical writing and again, you might go from different cardiology, oncology, different topics. I think even when we get medical writers into our group we focus them and so we're still learning. And the quality of what we can do is a lot better because we're experts in our field now and so we can write something very quickly because we know all the background and we can get that information out there quickly. Any other questions? Yes?
Right. Right, that's a good question. And there is a problem with style in that sense because that's a very subjective quality. And this is where it's a little bit different for the kind of writing we do rather than if you're writing for a journal or a newspaper or a science magazine or something. I think that's where you start learning your style. Like I said, I try to write for Cure, I'm not very good at it. It just is not a style that fits me, where there are other people I've known who have a very easy way of explaining things, very scientific, high detail things, sit down with their grandmother and explain it so they can understand. I can't do that. Some people can do that but if you wrote that as a journal article for submission to JCO, and they'd probably be like no, no, no, this isn't appropriate. So you could be writing well for that kind of media but not necessarily for a journal article. For the kind of writing we do, we're very particular about accuracy, be as how important it is. So it's not quite as dry sometimes as scientific writing, but yet we don't add a lot of interpretation or a lot of opinion. So what we want to do, it almost becomes formula writing if you can get the rhythm of it, it's pretty easy to do.
Basically you would just want to say, there's a clinical trial for instance I don't know if any of you are familiar with the Pace, they just released some of the results of panitumumab in first line metastatic colorectal cancer so and they didn't meet their endpoint of progression free survival. So if got that as an assignment, I'd be like okay, why is this trial important? So it's kind of like writing an article, why is this important, give a couple sentences on relevant background. But just state the facts, don't over interpret, don't put too much into it and then write up how the trial design was done, write the results. For us and for our CME company, getting it right is very important. Not over interpreting information, but putting it in perspective. And that's more of our major criteria, if you can read a poster or read an article on a clinical trial and just take the most pertinent information and put it down accurately, that's kind of what our criteria was. Style is something that kind of comes in later. What we notice between the writers who do well and the writers who don't do well is that they're trying to over interpret or they're trying to make it more than it is and so it becomes inaccurate and to us that's a bigger problem because the numbers and the information and the amount of drug doses are so important because physicians are gonna read this and apply it. So that's kind of where, it's more of a caution kind of writing. Just be able to analyze, we get so many posters or slide sets and we just have to write it and you just look at it, why is this trial important, and we have a little kind of a cheat sheet whenever we start a story.
Why is this important? Were the results important? Were the toxicities significant? What does that mean? And so if we can answer these questions and then just put in the accurate information, our story's done and it's fine. I think in one sense too, if you want to learn about your writing style, don't just give it to one person such as your PI. In my experience, in grad school all of my writing became one style which was a mimic of the PI and in post doc it became the mimic of my PI there. And so because their name's on it, it has to read a certain way that they want it. And so your own style gets hidden a little bit so you kind of would send it to your friend or your colleague; write a fake grant proposal and, like you have time to do that. But you know, write something else and give it to another post doc to read and say, could you understand this? And I think with the American Medical Writing Association, they do a lot of that trading back and forth too. There are little groups that are set up to help, kind of a writing clinic. Most of time, you either get it and you can translate it onto paper or you don't.
That's when we get our writing samples from people. You can see who really, okay we read the data, we understand it, you need to translate it on paper. I think when you try too hard it doesn't work. So that would be my advice. Yes? That's a great question. There are, I should know more about our competitors but I don't, there's other CME companies in the Dallas area, in the New York, New Jersey area as a hotspot. Anywhere you find pharmaceutical companies or CME companies around. There's a group in Atlanta also, trying to thing off the top of my head. A lot of them aren't specific for oncology and they'll deal with lots of different CME and accreditation processes. In terms of travel, for our company it's kind of optional. It's as much as you want to do type of thing and this is where I think it's when you get into a new job or a new career path, you start choosing what you're interested in. For me, I travel about once or twice a month right now over a Friday, Saturday kind of thing. In terms of the scientific affair teams, that's probably more heavy than others. We have other medical writers that have young families that just come in, write, and go home every night and not worry about it.
They're more on a 40 hour work week and when I first started there I had a 3 month old and that's all I did for a while. And that's what I felt comfortable. And as my child has grown, I've gotten more comfortable in terms of expanding opportunities within the company. I think that's been rewarding too, being in a career or in a field where, good lots of different opportunities all the time that you can do as much as you want or in a sense, as little as you want and kind of mold your quality of life to what it is at the time. I think in science, in peer academic setting, what's required of an assistant professor I think, you've all seen them, they look tired all the time, I guess from my experience is that I knew several that had young children starting a lab and I do not know, I gave them all the admiration in the world, do not know how they did it. And it just was not something for me at the time, so you have to pick what quality of life you want and I think a medical writing career, you can free lance and stay at home and work the days you want to work, work the projects you want to work. Or you can do something like I'd done where I'd gotten very heavily involved in my field, well now I'm doing more than just writing and I'm kind of managing a whole group and again, I think as I was saying earlier, it's more of a medical science liaison position. But instead of being a liaison for a pharmaceutical company and promoting a specific drug, I'm just promoting education.
I think that's what I like, I'm not saying you have to use drug X. I'm saying here are the options out there, here's all the drugs being used, here's how successful they are, or how unsuccessful they are. It's more of a teaching role for physicians. I'm teaching all the MD's out there and it's just very rewarding to be able to do that and work with them. But I think you can kind of do the full spectrum. There's a lot of different opportunities and that's what I like about it. It's not limited in that sense; it's more than I thought when I got into it. I didn't even realize that there were these types of jobs out there 2 years ago. So I think you just have to keep your mind open to different opportunities if you're interested. Any other questions or anything? If anybody's interested I do have cards, if you want to email me any questions in the future or anything and then I'll leave my slide set here and some of those websites on there is you want to get more information you can do that. Or even post them on your website and some things, that would be great. Well thank you very much for having me, I appreciate coming in today.
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