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Year : 2009  |  Volume : 55  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 237-238

The art and craft of medical writing: Report on JPGM writecon 2009

1 Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Seth GS Medical College and KEM Hospital, Parel, Mumbai - 400 012, India
2 Department of Anesthesiology, Seth GS Medical College and KEM Hospital, Parel, Mumbai - 400 012, India

Date of Web Publication14-Jan-2010

Correspondence Address:
N J Gogtay
Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Seth GS Medical College and KEM Hospital, Parel, Mumbai - 400 012
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0022-3859.58922

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How to cite this article:
Gogtay N J, Sarkar M S. The art and craft of medical writing: Report on JPGM writecon 2009. J Postgrad Med 2009;55:237-8

How to cite this URL:
Gogtay N J, Sarkar M S. The art and craft of medical writing: Report on JPGM writecon 2009. J Postgrad Med [serial online] 2009 [cited 2023 Feb 7];55:237-8. Available from:

The English novelist Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) said "we don't write because we want to; we write because we have to". As medical professionals, we have an obligatory duty to write. This not just helps advance science and improve patient care, but is also today inextricably linked with peer recognition, extramural funding, institutional recognition and career advancement including promotions. It also ensures that we leave behind a documented legacy of our findings and accomplishments for generations to come. [1] Despite this, a review by Scherer showed that of 29,729 abstracts presented at scientific meetings, less than half of all studies and only about 60% of randomized or controlled trials were ever published. [2] One of the reasons for this could be lack of time. [3] Another could be lack of training (at least in this country) and thus towards this end, Journal of Postgraduate Medicine (JPGM) organized a conference on medical writing, which was held at Seth GS Medical College and KEM Hospital, Mumbai on 3 and 4 December 2009.

The conference was attended by 130 delegates from all over India and neighboring countries. The earlier writing conferences in 2004 and 2007 were targeted towards both authors and editors, but this conference primarily focused on young postgraduates and junior faculty beginning their careers in research and medical writing. The two-day meeting covered a wide range of topics beginning from why write to writing case reports, letters to the editor, the IMRAD format, structured discussion, writing references, the process of peer review, instructions to authors, reporting statistics, impact factor and editorial misconduct. The last talk on "I wish I had written that paper" presented a philosophical view of medical writing with examples from medicine that altered the way in which it was practiced. All sessions were followed by interactive discussions between the speakers and participants and the meeting also received excellent feedback. Most felt that they too were capable of "scholarly writing" and didn't feel intimidated anymore to pick up the pen and write. To facilitate the writing process, all presentations made have been uploaded on and we are grateful to all speakers for making this possible.

Why did so many delegates attend a medical writing meeting? One hopes primarily to learn. Facilitating the development of writing skills and an understanding of the writing process can improve writing productivity among faculty. [4] However, the fact also remains that the certificate awarded at the end is an important stepping stone to interviews and job prospects in India and outside, of having been trained in medical writing during postgraduation. Is two-day training really adequate? How should the editors measure the success of this meeting? A paper by Reisman et al., addressed the issue of training physicians to become writers with a training program conducted by Dr Abraham Verghese. [5] According to Dr. Verghese, joy, fascination, and empathy stem from the right brain's capacity for imagination, whereas medical training generally focuses on the left brain. Learning the craft of writing is one way to develop skills of observation and empathetic projection. The objective of the workshop was to help participants become better physicians by reflecting on their experiences and on what gives meaning to life and work. This workshop got excellent feedback although the authors were unsure as to whether it would help residents write or become better writers. If we were to compare this with JPGM Writecon 2009, ours was a left brain-centric workshop. So then, how do we measure its impact?

A two-day meeting with classroom lectures is not likely to result in a sea change in attitude towards writing or an abundance of publications from the delegates in the next year. What we hope is that delegates would come to appreciate that scientific writing entails a fair amount of discipline, which begins with performing a thorough literature search, collating and applying the right statistics, and drafting, redrafting and perfecting the manuscript. Acceptance does not come easy and having written and had success, one is more likely to appreciate what is written in journals as well as an appreciation of the labor involved in writing, reviewing and editing and critically reading and evaluating articles. [1] We hope that this meeting would have sensitized young researchers that writing is an important aspect of both research and practice and with a little will, grit and help they can easily find the time to become authors themselves.

 :: Acknowledgment Top

Dr Sanjay Oak, Director, Medical Education, and Major Hospitals for help and support in the organization of JPGM Writecon 2009.

 :: References Top

1.Peh WC, Ng KH. Why write? Singapore Med Jr 2008;49:433-4.  Back to cited text no. 1      
2.Scherer PW, Langenberg P, von Elm E. Full publication of results initially presented in abstracts. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2007;18:MR000005.  Back to cited text no. 2      
3.Woolley KL, Ely JA, Wolley MJ, Findley L, Lynch FA, Choi Y, et al. Declaration of medical writing assistance in international peer reviewed publications. Jr Am Med Assoc 2006;296:932-34.  Back to cited text no. 3      
4.Neuhauser D, McEachern E, Zyzanski S, Focke S, Williams RI. Continuous quality improvement and the process of writing for academic publication. Qual Manage Health Care 2000;8:65-73.  Back to cited text no. 4      
5.Reisman AB, Hansen H, Rastegar A. The craft of writing: A physician-writer's workshop for resident physicians. J Gen Intern Med 2006;21:1109-11.  Back to cited text no. 5  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  

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