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Entries in Harvard Health Publications (8)


New Media Boot Camp For Doctors

Harvard Medical School and the Discovery Channel have teamed up to offer first-of-its-kind media training conference for physicians.

About a year ago, John Whyte, MD, vice president for continuing medical education at Discovery Channel, introduced himself to me and said, "Discovery Channel and Harvard Health Publications should host a joint conference for doctors who want to take their careers to the next level."

What seemed like a bit of a wild idea at first has become a reality, and the conference titled Creating the Brand Called Dr. You: Media Training Boot Camp for Doctors will be held at the Discovery Channel global headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. When I visited John at Discovery Channel, it was truly an amazing place to be, and I think it's the perfect location for this course!

nonclinical media training conference for physicians

Doctors (and other professionals) who take this all-inclusive course will come away with:

  • Live TV training
  • Teleprompter experience
  • Radio coaching
  • Professional headshot
  • Video/reel
  • Strategies to improve an online platform
  • And much more!

This is a first time ever offering, and we're not sure if we'll do it again. There are only 100 slots for attendees, so we expect it to fill up fast. Therefore, if you are interested in attending, check out the website, and I hope to see you there!

Learn more about this conference here.


I'll Bet You Know a Few Almost Psychopaths!

Almost a Psychopath?

One of the things that I've been spending a lot of time working on this past year is a series of books on subclinical symptoms in mental and behavioral health. This series, called The Almost Effect is already changing the way a lot of people think about mental health. The idea is based in solid science and an understanding of how both physical and mental abnormalities occur on a spectrum--from nearly imperceptible to quite severe.

The first book, Almost Alcoholic, has been adopted by colleges and universities in peer to peer substance abuse training and many other programs. It has also been the topic of a lot of buzz on the internet with people wondering just how much alcohol is too much. (Answer: read the book!)

The second book, Almost a Psychopath, has been getting a lot of press with many of the reporters saying that they didn't realize just how many "almost psychopaths" they knew. (Hint: the number of subclinical psychopaths in the U.S. is approximately equal to the combined populations of Texas and New York!!). An easy way to consider whether you might be dealing with one is if you've been asking yourself, "What was THAT about?!"

In an interview with the authors, Emily Rooney of WGBH asked them some questions about the infamous Clark Rockefeller who is on trial for murder in California. The authors elegantly side stepped these questions (Consider: ethical issues are important if you are a physician who publishes a book--to see how these authors handled Rooney's questions, watch this TV clip of the Greater Boston).

This is an exciting new series of books, and definitively demonstrates why publishing is not dead. In fact, there are many doctors with incredible expertise and extremely important information to impart. If you are one of them, consider how your work and your message might be published as a book.


Traditional Book Publishing is Not Dead

I'm going to a book signing tonight at a local bookstore for one of our new releases Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life.  

This is a neuroscience book with a coaching approach--not surprisingly written by a psychiatrist and coach team.  It was released as part of book publishing's traditional campaign that begins annually in January, "New Year, New You." 

Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life has come out of the gate with a bang, and people are quickly snapping up the exisiting copies.  I hear it's going to be standing room only.  The event was announced in advance, and people signed up for seats.  Aren't bookstore events dead?  Mostly, but not completely. 

Why all the buzz about this book?  Two reasons:

  1. the BOOK, and
  2. the AUTHORS. 

Let's start with the BOOK.

Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life is a book for smart people about how to do more in less time by first getting your "house" (that would be your brain) in order.  It's the "one-two punch" with first understanding the neuroscience and then having simple but effective tools to implement.  Frankly, it's the book that every CEO should be giving to his or her employees to increase efficiency and productivity.  In book publishing, we call this a great "hook".  Great hooks usually develop when the content is superb and combined with a fascinating concept that is new.  Not surprisingly, people are buzzing about this book (read the early reviews on Amazon).

Now, let's turn to the AUTHORS.

I suspect that these authors, Paul Hammerness, MD (a psychiatrist and researcher at Harvard Medical School) and Margaret Moore (aka Coach Meg who is co-founder of the Institute of Coaching at Harvard Medical School) are a lot like the people that come to  They are smart and cutting edge and focused on trying to make an impact in their chosen fields psychiatry and coaching, respectively.  They have a wide network of friends and colleagues who are very supportive of their work.  This is the first book for both of them, and this wide network is helping them to get the word out.  If you happen to know someone who knows these authors let's call her Mary at some point in the near future, you'll likely see that Mary has posted something about this book on her Facebook page, tweeted about the book on Twitter, shared info about it on LinkedIn, blogged about it, or at the very least, the good old fashioned way of getting the word out actually mentioned the book in live conversation.  Mary is one of hundreds of people who are helping them to get the word out.  I'm sure I'll meet some "Mary's" tonight people who are connected to these authors and will help make up the standing room only crowd.

It's been less than two weeks since Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life was released, and after just a few days of being "real authors", Margaret Moore and Paul Hammerness can tell you--books are not dead!


Physician Writing & Publishing


Harvard Study: Most Physicians Will Be Sued

physician malpractice lawsuits

New England Journal of Medicine: Most doctors in America will be sued at some point during their career.

A Harvard study released yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that physicians who perform high-risk procedures, including neurosurgeons,  obstetricians, and thoracic surgeons, face a near certainty of being named in a malpractice case before they reach age 65.

Yet a relatively small number of claims, about 22 percent, result in payments to patients or their families.

Authors of the study, which examined 15 years of data, said it highlights the need for changes in malpractice law so that doctors and patients can resolve disputes before they resort to litigation, which often costs both parties money and heartache.

“Doctors get sued far more frequently than anyone would have thought, and in some specialties, it’s extremely high,’’ said Amitabh Chandra, an economist and professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and an author of the study. “In some sense, the payment is the least important part, because you can insure against it, but you can’t insure against the hassle cost.’’

The study looked at malpractice claims data for nearly 41,000 physicians from 1991 to 2005. The researchers found that 7.4% of physicians had a malpractice claim against them each year and that 1.6% had a claim that led to a payment each year.

Chandra and his coauthor, Dr. Anupam B. Jena of Mass. General, said they hope their study will dispel the fear that many doctors have of big payouts. Their study found just 66 claims that resulted in payments exceeding $1 million. Average claims by specialty ranged from $117,832 in dermatology to $520,923 in pediatrics.

So how can you lessen your chances of being sued by an unhappy patient even further?

Previous studies have shown that patients are less likely to sue when they receive an apology and explanation from their doctor.

Brian Rosman, research director of Health Care for All, said everyone will benefit if patient- doctor communication is divorced from legal proceedings and could actually inprove the quality of care. That would allow doctors and hospitals to deal more directly with the root cause of an error.

One medical society has been working with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, using a $273,782 federal grant, to design a plan for a system that would encourage apologies and compensation, when justified, in Massachusetts. The plan is set to be released this fall.

It seems that nearly universal support exists for a system that encourages doctors to apologize and prevent the escalation of an unwanted outcome into a malpractice lawsuit.

Of course, this wall of scilence goes up on both sides. As soon as an unhappy patient contacts a lawyer they're instructed to have no further contact with the doctor to prevent anything that might mitigate damages or obstruct the lawsuit, like an admission to the doctor that they didn't follow instructions or a 'softening' of their stance as the identify with the physician as a person.

When I was running Surface Medical we ran in to this very problem many times.

Have you been in a lawsuit? Have you ever appologized to a patient?


Harvard Writers: March 31 - April 2, 2011

For physicians wanting to learn to write and publish, the Harvard Writers course is the best place to begin.

For physicians wanting challenging and fun new career opportunities, there is no better way than to write and publish--from blogs to books, the opportunities are endless.  There is no better way to jump-start or advance your publishing objectives than the CME course offered by Harvard Medical School titled "Publishing Books Memoirs and Other Creative Nonfiction."

I've been directing national medical conferences for the past five years. Because of my involvement in the medical conference industry, I have reviewed many, many courses and spoken to numerous people about the ones that they've found the most helpful and enjoyable.  The Harvard publishing course is at the top of the list for both criteria.

The truth about medical conferences is that most are, at best, mediocre and some are simply a waste of time. There's really no reason to travel to another city, pay hundreds of dollars, and review the same, mundane material you could easily obtain online.

Because I'm a physician who designs medical conferences and not simply a business person marketing a product to physicians, I look at the medical conference industry with the eyes of a consumer. I like learning about excellent courses, because I want to know where the best teaching is taking place--not only as a conference organizer but also as a potential participant.

A couple of years ago a colleague brought to my attention the Harvard publishing course. I was skeptical at first, but as I learned more about the event I became more and more excited about it. Here was an event that allowed physicians to meet other physicians who had authored books, submit manuscripts to editors, and connect with literary agents.

I was impressed.

When my team and I were organizing the first Medical Fusion Conference in 2009, one of the first people I recruited for the course was Dr. Julie Silver, director of the Harvard publishing course and Chief Editor of Books at Harvard Health Publications. Dr. Silver is a very inspiring person-- a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and an award-winning author. As a physiatrist, her clinical and research work focuses on healing from serious injuries and illnesses (  Dr. Silver is also a cancer survivor who is creating a "best practices" model for hospitals and cancer centers to implement survivorship services that include cancer rehab (

My hope for our Medical Fusion Conference was that Dr. Silver could give some basic tips on writing to our audience and maybe a few pointers about opportunities in the publishing world.

What took place at that first Medical Fusion Conference, however, totally blew me away.

Dr. Silver gave two lectures that year, both of which were two of the most highly rated talks ever at our Medical Fusion Conferences. Her speaking style was very easy to follow and she communicated a tremendous amount of quality information in her two hours at the podium. Many in our audience commented on their evaluation forms that she was their favorite faculty member that year and felt that she was one of the best presenters they had ever heard at a medical conference.

Dr. Silver is still one of our most requested faculty members at our Medical Fusion events (and we're excited to say that she's coming back for our 2011 Medical Fusion Event this November).

If you browse through our Freelance MD archives, you'll find blogs by many of the successful physican-authors who attended the Harvard publishing course:

 -Dr. Richard C. Senelick attended the course and is now blogging on The Huffington Post

 -Dr. Jon Wolston credits the course as a catalyst for helping further his writing as a poet

 -Dr. Victoria McEvoy partnered with a professional writer through the course and published The 24/7 Baby Doctor

 -Dr. Yvonne Thornton attended the course and is now a best-selling author of multiple books

If you're a physician who's been interested in writing on any level, the Harvard publishing course is a great place to start, and as this list demonstrates, they've had more than a few success stories.  In fact, Dr. Silver highlights Success Stories every year at the course, and these range from past attendees who have published op-ed pieces in major newspapers, now blog on heavily trafficked websites, published books, been interviewed by Oprah, received a job promotion, landed an unexpected consulting opportunity, become a highly requested speaker, and many other exciting new opportunities--made possible by the content and connections from the course.

So go ahead...

Check out the Harvard Writers website. Read through the list of former attendees who are now published authors. Allow yourself to dream a little, but put feet to those dreams and attend the course in March.

There are few courses that will provide you as much quality information in as short a time, and with a little nudge like this, exciting new career opportunities will become a reality.


Getting Great Publishing Advice

As the Chief Editor of Books at Harvard Health Publications (the consumer health branch of Harvard Medical School), I am constantly seeking out great publishing advice. 

Daily I am talking to literary agents, editors, publicists and authors.  And, while the publishing industry changes almost as fast as my conversations with these folks occur, the good news is that despite the many changes, there are lots of fantastic opportunities for doctors who like to write.

In this blog, I'll share many publishing tips--some new and some tried and true. I'll answer your questions (if I can!) and help guide you with your publishing endeavors.  I will also invite some guest bloggers who are physician authors to share their stories.  Finally, I invite you to share yours. 

The physician-author community is one that I'm proud to support and to be a part of. Helping patients to heal can be done in many ways and writing/publishing is an important part of medicine. 

If you'd like to see more about my work in both publishing and healing, check out my website at  I'm looking forward to hearing from you, so tell me about what you are doing!

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