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Entries in Harvard Physician Writing Course (6)


The Harvard Physicians Writers Course Is Time Well Spent  

The 2012 Harvard Writers Course Starts Today.

Guest post by Diane Radford MD

Today marks the beginning of the 2012 Harvard Writers’ Course ( organized and led by Julie Silver MD ( 

Entitled Improving Healthcare Leadership, Communication and Outcomes Through Writing & Publishing, the course spans three days and enriches the attendee through lectures and workshops. Designed for physicians and allied healthcare professionals who write or aspire to write, the topics covered are wide in scope: understanding the publishing industry, how to write a book proposal, how to hone a “pitch” for your book, the art of storytelling, and how to make English move, and platform-building, being a few.

I have attended the course twice before and always learn something new. Ample opportunity is given to network with other writers, agents and editors. A highlight of the course is the oral book pitches, when authors each have 70 seconds to present their book idea to the audience, and receive immediate feedback form a panel of agents, editors and book coaches on its strengths and weaknesses. Alumni of the course, who have now seen their books in print — such as Jill Grimes MD (Seductive Delusions: How Everyday People Catch STDs), Jeff Szymanski PhD (The Perfectionist’s Handbook), and Julia Schlam Edelman MD (Menopause Matters: Your Guide to Living a Long and Healthy Life) — give personal insights into their respective publishing journeys.

Three- hour advanced workshops are given on social media (RustyShelton,, writing a book proposal (Julie Silver MD), maximizing creativity (Shelley Carson PhD), Memoir Writing (Leah Hagan Cohen), writing for your reader (Lisa Tener and Martha Murphy), and the craft of writing (Susan Aiello DVM,ELS).

I can highly recommend this course for any physician or health-care professional who wants to write or who writes but is unclear of the next step in the publishing process. Lessons I learned from attending last year I was able to put into practice leading to the development of my website and a presence on social media — platform, platform, platform.

About: Dr. Diane Radford is a Surgical Oncologist and Breast Surgeon at Mercy Clinic St. Louis Cancer & Breast Institute. Learn more about Dr. Radford at


Physician Writing & Publishing


An Interview With Physician & Author Ken Cohn

A Conversation With Physician-Author Ken Cohn

Ken Cohn first came to my publishing course many years ago. Eager to learn everything he could about writing and publishing his ideas, he soaked up the information and shook as many hands as possible. Today, he's a successful surgeon, consultant and author with a new book out titled "Getting It Done: Experienced Healthcare Leaders Reveal Field-Tested Strategies for Clinical and Financial Success". 

When did you start writing and publishing?

Although I had published scientific articles, my first systematic approach to writing and publishing occurred in 2003 when I took the SEAK course on nonfiction writing.  That course helped understand the principles of market-driven writing, of striving to meet and exceed the needs of my readers.  Before, I had viewed writing as a product of scientific investigation.

Why did you write your first book? 

In 2004, I received a call from the editor of Health Administration Press, the publishing arm of the American College of Healthcare Executives.  She said that she was working on a series of books for busy healthcare executives and asked me if I thought that the material from my 2-day seminar, Practical Strategies for Engaging Physicians, could fit into an Executive Essentials format.  When I said that I believed so, she warned me, “Just because you have published articles does not mean that it will be easy.  Writing a book is different.”

My first book, "Better Communication for Better Care: Mastering Physician-Administrator Collaboration", was published March 2005.  Comments from healthcare leaders gave rise to my 2nd book, "Collaborate for Success! Breakthrough Strategies for Engaging Physicians, Nurses, and Hospital Executives", which was published September 2006.  After publication, my editor bragged, “I launched you!”

How has writing and publishing helped you with your work mission?

To quote Francis Bacon, “Writing maketh an exact man.”  Writing has helped me clarify principles of healthcare collaboration, especially its implementation.  It has also brought me into contact with truly dedicated healthcare leaders throughout the US, which has lead to numerous opportunities to speak and consult on challenging issues.  John Eggen, who taught me about book marketing, states that the words “author” and “authority” have the same root.  Especially with the rise in Internet searches, writing a book establishes one as someone who has mastered a body of knowledge.  I recommend writing to all physicians who are considering career transitions.  One can begin by writing essays in a blog and seeing how the writing evolves.

Why did you publish your new book?

"Getting It Done" is a compilation of 16 heroes’ journeys about healthcare professionals who broke down barriers to improve care for their communities.  For example, Dr. Jeff Fried is a medical ICU director who felt that too many people were dying from overwhelming bacterial infection, or sepsis.  By working with healthcare professionals at his hospital to improve diagnosis and institute earlier treatment, he cut the death rate from sepsis by over 50%, without changing or adding a single drug.  Over 200 lives have been saved over the past 5 years as a result of his work.

I have worked in 41 states in the US.  As I traveled around the country and witnessed triumphs like Dr. Fried’s, I became convinced that their results, which were published in journals like Critical Care Medicine, needed to be included in a book which healthcare leaders would read.    

For more information (including chapter summaries) about Dr. Cohn's new book, "Getting It Done: Experienced Healthcare Leaders Reveal Field-Tested Strategies for Clinical and Financial Success", visit


The Value Of Cross-Semination

This is a great place for me, since I've been Freelance for 40 years. and can speak to its freedoms, but also its foibles.

While it's fresh -- so fresh it's only been over for an hour -- I'd like to write about the value of cross-semination & fertilization of medical (and other) creative and productive minds, all with goal-directed drive and enthusiasm both to further their own interests and to make the world a better place.

I'm talking about the excellent Harvard Writers course put on by Julie Silver and her team in Boston. 3 days of intense learning, exchanging, and re-invigorating.

I have just finished responding to today's front-page article in the New York Times with a letter I hope they'll print, that is on the very subject for which I enrolled in the excellent conference from which I have just emerged, my head spinning with ideas. I was looking for an agent or publisher for my book which is about the life of a generalist and deals with the coming extinction of the true generalist physician.

The article in the NYT was about a daughter with a new family negating her father and grandfather's generalist career, which for them was all-consuming, and opting for ER medicine which she believed was "more challenging" but shorter hours.  I wonder how many read that article in the NYT and what their "take" on it was. This was mine:

"As a female Family Physician,with 3 children and 7 grandchildren, practicing solo for 40 years I must congratulate Gardiner Harris but also respond to "More doctors reject long hours.”

One can pace oneself for family, limit one's hours with creative arrangements and still render quality generalist care to one’s own patients over years. That includes caring for them when they are sickest in hospital, where there is no real proof that hospitalists deliver "more proficient" care than one’s own generalist. The management of ongoing and acute problems daily are just as creative and challenging, if not more so, than emergency work.

With true generalists extinct, we are all at peril. Everyone needs a physician, broadly trained, who knows and cares about the patient as an individual. Patients know that doctors are far from interchangeable. Hospitals and insurance companies wish they were, to facilitate what is becoming the "widgetization" of Medicine."

I am also very interested in other physicians', (generalist or specialist or superspecialist) opinions on what I call the coming extinction of the true generalist (not the recreated triage officer/midlevel "primary care"persons that are being equated w/ a serious, broadly-trained generalist physician, whether in Family Medicine, Internal Medicine or Pediatrics.).

About: Pepi Granat, MD is a Family Physician, Board Certified in practice in South Miami, Florida, and Clinical Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Miami.

Submit a guest post and be heard.


Your Book & Its Niche

By Julia Schlam Edelman MD, FACOG, NCMP

Ten years ago, I set out to write a book for women 35 and over, with a focus on menopausal issues.

Not long ago, open discussion of menopause was taboo. Much has changed in the modern information era, and today women are inundated with facts and recommendations. All too often, the recommendations are contradictory. Women who try to keep up with the latest medical developments may become overwhelmed, frustrated, or even fearful.

My goal was to help women be informed and reassured, while enhancing their ability to manage their health. Based on my experience with patients, I expected that women who learned how their bodies change during midlife and beyond, would be positioned to make healthier choices.

Publishers did not find this compelling. They said I needed to have a stronger “platform.” This, I learned, is code for: “You are not a household name.” “You are not a famous actress whose cover photo will prompt women to follow your advice.” “You have not discovered a new cure for hot flashes, low sex drive, or aging.” Finally, “you have not been on Oprah.” As a board certified gynecologist and certified menopause practitioner with more than 25 years of experience caring for women, I watched with dismay as a dozen rejection letters from top publishers rolled in.

The breakthrough came when my literary agent suggested submitting the book proposal to Johns Hopkins University Press (JHUP). While I had heard the JHUP Executive Editor of Consumer Health speak at the Harvard CME Publishing Course for physicians, I had crossed JHUP off my list. After all, they had recently published “The Only Menopause Book You Will Ever Need.” Despite this, the JHUP editor and its physician board accepted the proposal and published Menopause Matters: Your Guide to a Long and Healthy Life in January, 2010.

Here are two examples of features that distinguish Menopause Matters from its competition. Perhaps they will help catalyze your thinking about positioning your book:

Discussing the rationale behind the medical recommendations

When discussing evidence regarding the use of natural and alternative remedies, prescription medications, and lifestyle changes, I provide a broad range of options. For example, readers are exposed to the risks and benefits of taking prescription hormones compared to taking bioidentical hormones, as well as discussing the implications of their lifestyle choices. There is no “one size fits all approach.” As readers, and their medical providers, are aware, “one size fits all” does not work when shopping for shoes, clothes, or medical advice.

Case Studies

Menopause Matters contains more than 50 short stories or “cases” that depict women with hot flashes, heart disease, breast lumps, thin bones, poor sleep, worse moods or low sex drive, and shows how these women make decisions with their physicians. This demonstrates how doctors and patients can work effectively together, and makes MM livelier and easier to read.

I hope that these examples help you with your book. If you would like to read a chapter of Menopause Matters: Your Guide to a Long and Healthy Life to see for yourself if I met my goals, please go to, where the first chapter is posted, as well as the table of contents and four professional reviews.

About: Julia Schlam Edelman MD, FACOG, NCMP is a board certified gynecologist and certified menopause clinician with a private practice in Massachusetts. The North American Menopause Society selected her as their "2010 Menopause Practitioner of the Year".

Submit a guest post and be heard.


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.

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