Managed by NetworkPharma

Managed by

Facilitating Networking and Information Sharing amongst Pharmaceutical and MedComms, Medical Communications, Medical Education and Medical Publishing Specialists

This global initiative facilitates networking and dialogue amongst individuals working in and around the pharmaceutical industry and MedComms, focusing on specialist medical education, medical communications and medical publishing activities.
Why not sign up to our weekly newsletter and please, help spread the word amongst all relevant others.


  • Home
  • About us
  • Testimonials
  • Events
  • Useful Reading
  • In the News
  • Companies
  • Independents
  • Services
  • Training Room
  • Job Adverts
  • Webcasts
  • Podcasts
  • Starting out
  • Weekly Newsletter
  • Weekly Comment
  • Survey data
  • Sponsors

  • MedComms Networking on Linkedin

    MedComms Networking on YouTube

    MedComms Networking is sponsored by:

    Many thanks to all the Sponsors of MedComms Networking


    Optimising training for medical writers

    We had a packed room for this opportunity to tackle an important, ongoing topic for the MedComms community. It was an opportunity to relax with peers, to celebrate the year that is ending and to look forward to the year to come. The aim was to explore aspects of training for new writers and advanced practitioners who are seeking to progress and diversify. The event was free to attend thanks to the generosity of the sponsors, Stgilesmedical.

    Scroll down for presentation slides, pictures and a summary report, prepared by the Stgilesmedical team

    Date: 18 December 2018

    Venue: Stgilesmedical, Vestry House, 60 St Giles High Street London WC2H 8LG


    13:00-14:00 Sandwich lunch

    14:00 Welcome and setting the scene
    Peter Llewellyn, NetworkPharma. The challenges of training medical writers

    14:15 Training for newbies - two perspectives
    John Matthew, AMICULUM and Christine McCann, Prime Global



    14:45 Enhancing professional skills in the medical writing team
    Diane Sutherland, Fishawack Group. Supporting the development of medical writers in an agency environment - approaches to training


    15:00 The views of a new medical writer from Spain and an experienced writer/editor from Germany
    Angela Garcia-Perez and Gerhard Pappert, Dr Pappert Berlin. Angela is a junior, non-native speaker working in Spain, Gerhard is an experienced Berlin-based writer/editor.



    15:15 'So, you want to be a regulatory writer? A training programme for the uninitiated in India'
    Jim Newman, PAREXEL. Jim will describe their company's experience in India


    15:30 Oxford debate: Can online learning fill the training gap?
    Tim Hardman, Niche Science and Technology vs Steven Walker, Stgilesmedical. Each will speak for 3 minutes and then both will take questions. The audience will then vote a winner

    15:45 An industry perspective
    Jesse Alderson, Merck. Jesse has worked in agencies and now industry. He will provide a personal view as to the skills both sectors need both from inhouse writers and external suppliers.


    16:00 The role of EMWA in training writers
    Alison Rapley, EMWA ambassador and past president


    16:15 Panel discussion

    16:30-17:00: Christmas quiz with prizes led by Claire Hawksworth, Stgilesmedical

    17:00-18:00: Homemade mince pies and champagne



    Summary report, prepared by the Stgilesmedical team


    Some 62 delegates attended the Stgilesmedical offices to explore aspects of training for new writers and advanced practitioners who are seeking to progress and diversify. A further aim was to afford members of the MedComms community an opportunity to network and enjoy homemade mince pies washed down with a glass of champagne.

    Introduction: Peter Llewellyn from NetworkPharma set the scene by discussing some of the issues faced by individuals wanting to become medical writers and trying to find suitable jobs and training. He also touched on the difficulty’s companies have in recruiting and training new colleagues.

    Session 1: John Matthew (Amiculum) and Christine McCann (Prime Global) presented their perspective on 'Training for newbies.'.

    John started off by highlighting how difficult it is to get into medical writing. He then noted the considerations for training should include 'Why', 'When', 'How' and 'What' to teach. It must be relevant and timely, engaging, accessible and collaborative. Also, agencies are not academic seats of learning and any training needs to be aligned with the needs of the business.

    John suggested that training during the first 6-months should likely encompass industry awareness, therapy area knowledge, medical writing skills, developing content with impact, learning to organise and prioritise, building relationships and become commercially aware. By using a blended approach, the training will move from being a dependent to an independent practitioner. Finally, John shared a typical learning path at Amiculum.

    Christine expanded on John's presentation. Training is essential to develop a skilled workforce, enhance recruitment, ensure consistency in approach, succession planning and to get ready for new projects. She stressed the importance of good and timely feedback, tailored training and support from a mentor. In her role as People Development Director across the group, she has developed a 'New Starter Charter' which emphasises the need for support, exposure to a variety of projects, protected training time and staff commitment. Additional elements of tailored training include personalised development plans and refreshers.

    Finally, Christine reminded us about Confucius' wise words: "Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn." This approach is clearly working for Prime Global where the company has taken on 14 Associate Medical Writers since 2017, and all have successfully completed their midterm review.

    Session 2: Diane Sutherland, Professional Development Director at Fishawack Group spoke about 'Enhancing professional skills in the medical writing team.'

    After briefly describing her own journey, Diane further emphasised the benefits of training for the individual and for the business. She added some new elements to what John and Christine had raised earlier, including enhance motivation through a feeling of being invested in, staff retention, ensuring the delivery of quality work in a rapidly changing environment and maintain agency reputation. Options for training include internal and external courses, possibly with support from a mentor, as well as self-directed learning. Diane completed her presentation by providing examples of targeted training driven by individual need, specialist training driven by client need and training driven by business needs.

    Session 3: We heard the views of a new medical writer from Spain and an experienced writer/editor from Berlin, two non-native English speakers - Angela Garcia-Perez and Gerhard Pappert.

    Both started off by describing their medical writing journey. Angela was involved in several courses, placements and business experience, including time at Stgilesmedical in London. Areas of current need include exposure to digital projects, templates/guidelines for standardised documents and optimisation of data using graphs and figures. She reported some challenges including problems with technical and scientific terminology, public speaking and her experience that some employers only appoint native speakers.

    Gerhard's journey was less structured involving academic education, editorial experience at a publishing house, on the job training, collaboration with other writers and a great deal of self-directed reading. He acknowledges that he still has difficulties with the subtleties of the English language and advises new writers to find on-site work experience. He now wishes his training had encompassed more medical and pharma regulatory training and clinical trial management.

    Both speakers addressed the controversial question of whether medical writing should be an academic discipline overseen by a university arriving at a mixed answer.

    Session 4: Jim Newman from Parexel delivered an entertaining presentation: 'So you want to be a regulatory writer? A training programme for the uninitiated in India.'

    Jim described how he and colleagues distilled the essentials of regulatory writing and then delivered a successful training course for 10 novice Indian writers over a 4-month period. Elements included writing skills, technical skills and soft/project management skills delivered according to a structured lesson plan. The object was to train recruits to be clear, precise, concise, consistent and objective.

    Jim's presentation contained examples of where poor communication could lead to misunderstanding, redundant phrases to look out for and roundabout expressions to avoid. He finished by reminding us that good medical writing should be 'invisible.'

    Session 5: Next up was an Oxford-style debate with the title: 'Web-based learning is an effective educational tool for medical writers.' Steven Walker from Stgilesmedical spoke for the motion and Tim Hardman from Niche Science and Technology against.

    Steven pointed out that every aspect of our lives was now digital, many writers work from home needing education at the point of need, online training is cheaper in the long term and is challenging but fun to develop. Tim fought back by saying that 'learning is not knowing', writers cannot be cloned, mentoring is essential and fun/cheap does not equate with quality. Steven believes that he won the debate!

    Session 6: Having heard from agencies and individual writers, it was now the turn of industry. Jesse Alderson, Associate Director, Global Medical Communications at Merck Group presented the results of a short survey of his colleagues. He acknowledges that this was highly unscientific!

    Key attributes for a good medical writer were suggested to include: being able to write (including contextual writing) , attention to detail, disease area knowledge, a scientific background, understanding and being able to display data, communication and client skills, on-time delivery of accurate, organised and creative documents for appropriate audiences and being a native speaker.

    Varied views were expressed regarding the qualifications a writer should possess including the value the ISMPP CMPP certificate. Most would prefer experience over qualifications. Jesse concluded by presenting the mixed views of his participants as to what role industry should play in training writers and where this should be an academic discipline.

    Session 7: Our final presentation of the afternoon was from Alison Rapley, EMWA Ambassador and Past President of the society.

    Alison provided an overview of what the society does and some of the ways they support newbies and experienced writers seeking to progress. Two central themes were the importance of the courses they run as part of the two annual meetings and the many useful articles appearing in the journal Medical Writing.

    Session 8: The afternoon finished with an entertaining Christmas quiz presided over by Claire Hawksworth from Stgilesmedical.

    Several participants left the building with some exciting prizes (from Lidl!). The champagne went down (too) well and many delicious mince pies were consumed.

    An interesting educational afternoon. We are grateful to all who made it a success. Happy New Year.

    To make sure you're included in announcements about future events just email Peter Llewellyn, if you haven't already done so, to register your interest.


    This meeting was free to attend thanks to the generosity of the event sponsors, Stgilesmedical


    Companies attending included:

    90TEN Group
    Bioscript Group
    Cello Health MedErgy
    Delta Kn
    ECHO Medical Communications
    Envision Pharma Group
    Fishawack Communications
    inScience Communications
    InterComm International
    McCann Health Medical Communications
    Publicis Resolute
    Real Science Communications

    This web site and associated activities are being managed by NetworkPharma Ltd, Magdalen Centre, The Oxford Science Park, Oxford, OX4 4GA, UK
    Telephone +44 (0) 1865 784390 Email: