AMWA Member Spotlight - Ian Harrison, Current AMWA President

Ian Harrison

Where can we find you online? 
Ian Harrison - Medical Manager - CSL | LinkedIn

Brief description of what you do
Currently, I am a Medical Manager for CSL Seqirus, based in Melbourne. I look after the eyecare portfolio for the in-licensed division of the business, which means that I am responsible for the medical strategy of the brands. In this function, I do a lot of external engagement with HCPs and academics, including training and communications, the latter of which has, of course, a large written component! In my previous role, I managed scientific communications and clinical trials for Ego Pharmaceuticals, which included a lot of external communications to both consumers and HCPs, specifically in the dermatology space.

What led you to become a medical writer?
I have always loved writing, and really developed a passion for medical writing during my PhD. When I left academia I spent some time as a Grants Officer, which really helped to hone my skills in not only effective medical writing but also effective editing to ensure that what you write is engaging and effective, in as short a space as possible. Once I entered industry with Ego, I continued to write wherever I could. Ego at that time didn’t have a dedicated scientific or medical writing team or even person, so I took the task on until eventually I was given the chance to create a dedicated scientific communications team in 2019.

What do you enjoy most about being a medical writer?
The process of distilling the key findings of a trial or experiment or gathering all of the relevant information in a given area for a review, was and is a very exciting and satisfying process for me. I also love to publish! Seeing your work in-press or following the metrics to see how your work is tracking, is almost intoxicating! I really think that effective communication really is key, especially in the medical and pharmaceutical professions; it doesn’t matter how good your research is, or how effective a therapeutic or treatment is if clinicians and researchers are not aware of it or are unconvinced by a lacklustre or poorly framed piece of writing.

What has been one of your career highlights as a medical writer and why?
It might sound cliched but the highlight for me really is seeing the final, complete version of a manuscript or a particularly challenging or time-consuming article or information piece! It is immensely satisfying each and every time. Seeing all the hard work come together, and then seeing the impact it has on the audience, is fantastic. This also extends to argument writing, which I do a fair bit of. Collecting all of the information from the literature, and then formulating a succinct, engaging and convincing argument is a very satisfying process.

What has been one of the greatest challenges for you as a medical writer and how have you addressed this?
For me, the greatest challenge has been convincing others of not only the need for high quality medical writing but also the hugely significant impact it has on the success of a project. This can be especially true in a commercial setting. I haven’t found a way to address this easily or with 100% success, the key is just to be patient and persevere.

What advice would you give fellow writers or people considering a career in medical writing?
You really have to have a passion for writing and communication in general, and also be tenacious and resilient. There can obviously be a fair amount of rejection in medical writing (especially if you are trying to publish in peer-reviewed journals) but you may also find people to be intransigent about the benefits of medical writing if cost is an issue, or dismissive of the skills and talent required to be an effective medical writer- I have on occasion found people without a scientific or medical background suggest that they could easily do the work! Stick to your guns and don’t give up, and your love of the craft will see you through the difficult days.

What led you to join the AMWA exec committee?
The call went out for potential committee members, and I wanted to do my part to try and help the association! It is such a lovely group, and medical writing is so near and dear to my heart, that I felt I needed to put my hand up. I am honoured to be part of the committee, and I will do my best to elevate the association and the profession in whatever ways I can. Networking is so vitally important in every industry, but especially in ours given how small it is in this part of the world. I’m looking forward to meeting as many members as I can!

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