First Become a Full-Time Medical Writer
Andrew Wilner has always been a dedicated writer. He has also been passionate about medicine. And he wanted to pursue both.
Writing has been a part of his life since high school. After medical school and internship, Andrew became an emergency room doctor while trying to decide the next steps for his career.
Using the flexibility that came with the ER job, Andrew continued to write. And that temporary ER job “was actually locum tenens. I never knew of it as such,” said Andrew.
It not only allowed him to write books and continue his clinical work, but it helped him discover an interest in neurology. This led to his applying for a neurology residency at McGill University in Montreal. He was later accepted to the program and eventually completed an epilepsy fellowship at McGill.
Medical Writing vs. Scientific Literature
In Andrew's opinion, there's not much “literature” in the scientific literature. Writing a scientific paper is just a skill and “pure drudgery.” It’s not a creative endeavor. But writing for online journals, news outlets and blogs requires a creative mind, and satisfied Andrew's need to write.
This podcast is made possible by the University of Tennessee Physician Executive MBA Program offered by the Haslam College of Business. You’ll remember that I interviewed Dr. Kate Atchley, the Executive Director of the program, in Episode #25 of this podcast.
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Writing About Epilepsy
As an epilepsy expert, he wanted to write a book about epilepsy, so he published Epilepsy 199 Answers: A Doctor Responds to His Patients' Questions, in 1996.
- What is epilepsy?
- Is it contagious?
- What's an EEG?
- Can I drive a car?
Later, he wrote a book for clinicians, Epilepsy in Clinical Practice: A Case Study Approach.
While between jobs, he started doing interviews at conferences writing news articles for written publications. He found he was quite good at it, sometimes turning a 3-day conference into twenty or more published articles.
He developed relationships with editors. As the Internet exploded, he wrote blog articles and news stories for online publications such as Medscape, KevinMD and Neurology Times. He had to hustle and write a lot but was able to earn a living writing.
He transformed his blog posts into his first non-epilepsy book, Bullets and Brains. It opens with an essay about the impact of a brain injury on the life and career of a very capable, high-performing congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords. She was shot in the brain. And Andrew explored the idea that “bullets and brains (obviously) don't mix.”
Andrew’s Attempt at Work-Life Balance
With the growth of the Internet and the ability to work remotely as a writer, Andrew decided to travel. “One of my passions is scuba diving, so I went off to the Philippines. I discovered that I could sit there with my little laptop and I could write my articles,” said Andrew.
However, he had to consider whether he wanted to “retire” from clinical work permanently. He found that as he distanced himself from the clinic and seeing patients, his knowledge became less relevant, and he became less desirable as a speaker.
So he decided to give clinical practice another shot. After writing for a living for ten years, he made a decision to return to clinical practice. It wasn’t easy, not because he had forgotten anything, but because the system wasn't flexible.
“It was very difficult. I was a little rusty. But, it's like riding a bike. I think if you've been a dedicated clinician, taking some time off is only a good thing,” said Andrew.
He had difficulty obtaining malpractice coverage. But a small hospital desperate for neurology coverage helped him return to clinical medicine by arranging temporary supervision that demonstrated his competence to practice.
He then sought to balance his clinical work and medical writing. He started by pursuing locum tenens positions. In the process, he began a whole new chapter of his life. And it eventually led to publishing another book.
That's the first half of my interview with Andrew Wilner. Next week we'll pick up here and talk about his experiences living the “locum life,” and how those experiences inspired him to write his latest book The Locum Life: A Physician's Guide to Locum Tenens.
Links for today's episode:
Dr. Andrew Wilner
Epilepsy 199 Answers
Epilepsy in Clinical Practice
Bullets and Brains
American Academy of Neurology
American Epilepsy Society
Montreal Neurological Institute
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Thanks to our sponsor…
Thanks to the UT Physician Executive MBA program for sponsoring the show. It’s an outstanding, highly rated, MBA program designed for working physicians. It might be just what you need to prepare for that joyful, well-paying career. You can find out more at vitalpe.net/physicianmba.
I hope to see you next time on the PNC Podcast.
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Podcast Editing & Production Services are provided by Oscar Hamilton.
The opinions expressed here are mine and my guest’s. While the information provided on the podcast is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge, there is no express or implied guarantee that using the methods discussed here will lead to success in your career, life or business.
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