By Robert Hand ([email protected])

Under the title “Setting the Pace,” the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) held its 68th Annual Conference on October 23–25 in horse country, Louisville , Kentucky . More than 1000 medical communicators with a wide range of expertise and interests attended. This year, AMWA offered a full programme of 97 certificate and non-certificate workshops, as well as 38 open sessions in which panels of experts addressed issues of concern to present and potential medical writers.

The Walter C. Alvarez Award, for excellence in communicating healthcare developments and concepts to the public, went to T.L. (Tedd) Mitchell , MD , President and Medical Director, The Cooper Clinic, Dallas Texas . His witty and entertaining address was, “Move Yourself: Getting Americans Back on the Path to Good Health.” Mitchell tweaked the host state for the conference, noting that it has the highest tobacco consumption in the United States . In an illustration of absurdity, he showed a picture of men using the escalator rather than the stairs on their way to a gym, ostensibly for exercise. Another showed before-and-after pictures of Michelangelo’s David; “before” was the familiar slim young man, and “after” was an electronically altered image showing a chubby, middle-aged man with voluminous love handles. Mitchell presented a series of charts documenting the epidemic of obesity and other health problems. His message was clear: we all need to take individual action to maintain our physical fitness and reduce the risk of serious, preventable health problems.

AMWA’s highest award, the Harold Swanberg Distinguished Service Award, for major contributions to medical communication and the medical profession, went to Norman Grossblatt, the man behind the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences (BELS) exam for editors. Grossblatt’s speech was a reminiscence called, “A Life in the Day of a Manuscript Editor” (no, that’s not a typo!) that recounted the many technological changes that have advanced the editing process over recent decades. From the days of handwritten mark-ups of paper manuscripts he recalled the development of early copy machines yielding pages that were of questionable quality and quickly became brittle and discoloured. (And how many people remember the purple mimeograph?) Since those days, tremendous technological advances, such as the replacement of typewriters by computers, have eliminated much of the paper and speeded the review process, with reviewers able to review manuscripts entirely on screen and circulate their comments instantly via e-mail. The result is a process that is vastly different from that of a few decades ago. On the other hand, the current process still requires real human beings to do the actual editing.

Further information about AMWA can be found at www.amwa.org .

Editors note: Robert Hand is a former president of the Delaware Valley Chapter of AMWA.