Thoughts on medical writing (and Covid-19)

I love my job as a medical writer. I also really loved research and I am so grateful that I had that opportunity, but often I found that I became far too easily blinkered. I was blinded to the rest of science by being absorbed completely into the current project. 

Now, I must take a wider view. Projects tend to last weeks -rather than years- and I have found a type of freedom in being able to research many completely different fields. I didn't know before I became a medical writer that this was something I'd enjoy but now after more than ten years I still relish this liberation. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed the importance of science into the public eye. As a medical writer, to me it was clear quite early that the situation in China was serious. I edited some manuscripts in January and February 2020, and I was shocked to find that relatively young medics had developed severe disease with the biggest risk factor being high BMI. Here in the UK, there was a general view that it was only likely to impact the elderly. 

Typical of my job, I had a few days to become a coronavirus expert. I was writing and editing reviews and studies as the world slowly became more interested. Then a pandemic was declared. Suddenly I became concerned that I was getting too involved and blinkered by Covid-19. I guess that it took over the world in a similar way. My work had also become day to day life for everyone.  In particular, those early studies made me really worry for health-workers on the front-line. 

Fortunately for me, other important areas of research continued, and I could take moments away from the pandemic. Many researchers were temporarily away from the lab and pushed forward publications that had been on hold. So, everything became very busy. This was a blessing, because while I was fascinated with the science of the pandemic, some information was quite frightening. Looming large was the concern over whether a vaccine would work. 

Happily, we now know several vaccines are effective. From my view it seems we have a massive debt to pay to the studies into SARS and MERS that helped scientists target the spike protein. That research was undertaken worldwide, much of it in areas of Asia that had been affected most by these previous coronavirus outbreaks. Something I think we should all remember, especially now, when it seems that the UK is coping quite well with the pandemic, in large part because of a successful vaccination programme.