Saturday, June 14, 2008

Top Ten Pearls

This is a shameless plug for an excellent writing conference that I attended this spring in Boston. Publishing Books, Memoirs and other Creative Nonfiction (aka Harvard Writers) is a classy conference directed by tireless and enthusiastic Julie Silver, MD. Authors, agents, editors, and publicists gather to teach the medically minded about the publishing world. I even got 25 CME credits for attending!

One of the standout presentations, and there were many, was Pauline Chen, MD. Dr. Chen's first book, Final Exam: A Surgeon's Reflections on Mortality, is a New York Times Bestseller. She shared with us her Top 10 Pearls about writing in David Letterman style.

  • 10. Study for your boards - attend writing programs and conferences. Dr. Chen went to the UCLA writing program

  • 9. Practice your knots - write. write, write

  • 8. Go through rotations with an open mind - be prepared to be surprised about where this writing journey takes you

  • 7. See a donut/Eat a donut - Eat for free - Read as much and as widely as possible especially in your own genre

  • 6. Better is the enemy of good (Voltaire) - Make the jump! Sometimes you have to stop writing and try to publish

  • 5. Don't apply to just one program - Find someone with similar interests and meet them (personal thank yous to Fat Doctor and KC for getting me started)

  • 4. Make a list of 10 most important things in life - sometimes it takes reestablishing priorities to write/blog - For Dr. Chen: Sleep when you can, eat when you can, write when you can and don't mess with the pancreas applies

  • 3. Remember your residency - You survived/are surviving residency - you can write a book/blog

  • 2. A good senior resident is a good team player - publishing requires same set of skills: be polite (give credit where credit is due), be prepared, be punctual

  • 1. Trust no one - trust only your voice and find it by reading and lots of writing.

And in case you think I've lost my mind and forgotten that this blog is supposed to be about mothers in medicine, writing makes me a better parent and I hope a better physician. Maybe it's the political climate, maybe it's too much JennyMcCarthy's rant on vaccines and autism, but medicine seems to be taking a beating. It's important for those of us in the medical trenches to have an outlet to be heard. Honor and integrity still exist in medicine, and we are uniquely positioned to tell that part of the story by wearing our mom and doc hats simultaneously. Write with abandon!


  1. As the mother of an autistic son I feel obligated to say, Jenny McCarthy may feel free to kiss my wide white ass.
    Our doctors and therapists are so much a part of our journey with the J-man, and they love him as much as someone not family can possibly do. We think the world of them.

  2. Off-topic, but a great topic too :) I've been journaling for years with the thought that Someday I will publish memoirs, but I'm sort of losing hope in that regard.

    How do you find out about writing conferences (when/where)?

  3. As a mother of a partially-vaccinated child, I would love to hear some of the doctors on this list post their feelings about vaccinations. Do all of you believe that every vaccine made should be made mandatory? Should parents be able to set their own schedule? Is it right for a doctor to reject patients if they choose not to vaccinate? And lastly, beyond personal feelings, what are some of the statistics from your own practice (high fevers, seizures, e.r. visits, hospitalizations etc), and do you report them to the vaccine reaction database?

    I applaud people like Jenny M. and other's who have the courage to step forward and risk ridicule as they try to educate unsuspecting parents of some of the risks associated with vaccines.

    My doctor has pretty much left it up to me, and I appreciate that. I believe that vaccines do prevent disease, however, I am critically aware they are not 100% safe. The VAERS database is a scary place to visit and brings new meaning to the phrase 'severe reactions rarely occur'.

    My personal belief? Parents should have the right to accept or refuse vaccines for their children. If you believe they work, then get them, but don't make my child get vaccinated for a mild disease like chicken pox, or an adult disease like Hep B just because the CDC puts it in their schedule.

  4. just remember, anonymous, that although "severe reactions DO rarely occur" they occur with a much lower frequency than severe/fatal outcomes from even MILD childhood diseases. I've seen children/babies die from chicken pox or from your so-called adult hepatitis B.

    Vaccines will never be perfectly safe, but if you do the math, the vaccines much safer than the childhood diseases they prevent.

  5. There are stories to tell, and then there is the evidence, doing what's best for your patients, and public health concerns. Narrative comments will come on another day, but for now...

    From the AAP;115/5/1428.pdf

    From the CDC

    And then


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