AMWA Member Spotlight - Nicola Ryan
Name: Nicola Ryan
Where can we find you online?
Link to your AMWA directory listing:
1. Brief description of what you do
I am a freelance scientific medical writer based in Auckland, New Zealand. I primarily work directly with researchers and key opinion leaders from Asia and Europe, along with one large medical device company. Much of my work involves manuscripts of one sort or another (writing and/or editing), but I love conference work and have experience with a wide variety of medical communications projects. I’ve even worked on patient materials and more “newsy” articles (like a blog for one of AMWA’s ‘COVID-19 Vaccine – Your Questions Answered’ webinar series).
2. What led you to become a medical writer?
Medical writing sort of chose me rather than the other way around. I got a job with a medical information/publication company straight out of university where I studied pharmacology and physiology (mostly because I loved science and needed a job!). However, I soon found I enjoyed the variety of work and getting to learn about new and interesting developments in medicine. I’ve done lots of different jobs within medical writing over the years – but always medical writing.
3. What do you enjoy most about being a medical writer?
As noted above, I enjoy the variety of projects and subject material. I also like that I get to read about the latest therapies. I get a lot of satisfaction out of turning something unpublishable into a manuscript that is accepted for publication. In addition, I’m grateful for the flexibility that freelance provides, even if there always seems to be more “work” than “life” in the “work-life balance”!
4. What has been one of your career highlights as a medical writer and why?
There are a couple that spring to mind. One is being lucky enough to be flown to the US for the unblinding of a pivotal clinical trial, then working with the client right from the start to prepare a manuscript reporting these data – which was accepted and published in NEJM. Also, I’ve had a long-standing relationship with a researcher in Vietnam who was struggling to get local observational research published when we first started working together but is now a widely published author. We have collaborated on many manuscripts, again including one that made it into NEJM. For both of these examples, it’s been really rewarding to be part of things right from the start and contribute to their success.
5. What has been one of the greatest challenges for you as a medical writer and how have you addressed this?
As a freelancer now, my biggest challenge is dealing with demanding clients (not many thankfully) who don’t seem to appreciate that I’m only one person and there’s only so many hours in the day, and don’t want to take no for an answer! Although I did get some good tips for managing these people from the AMWA “Challenging Communication” Virtual Conference at the end of 2021.
6. What advice would you give fellow writers or people considering a career in medical writing?
Go for it! It’s a great career that has taken me from university graduate through many phases of my life. I’d recommend agency experience, especially early in your career, to get exposure to a wide range of different projects and have the opportunity to learn and develop your skills. A passion for the content you are writing about is also helpful, along with self motivation and attention to detail.
7. What led you to join the AMWA exec committee?
I’ve always valued what AMWA is doing and got a lot out of things like the annual conference and webinars. I’m also keen to ensure that NZ has a voice – it is the Australasian (not Australian) Medical Writers Association after all! ☺