You may be perusing this site looking for a medical or health writer.   Here I’ll share a little about my background, my career path, and my goals, all of which impact how and what I write.  Quality medical writers are plentiful, all of us having distinctive expertise and experience.   I hope to help show the strengths and perspectives I can bring to a particular project, in addition to my enthusiasm, my love of science, my dedication, and my vision.  

I came to medical writing through a sort of back door.   Synthesizing my passions and abilities in this way took some time, but now I know this is exactly where my strengths most shine.   All my experience and training have helped make me a better writer about health, science, and medicine.   All of it motivates me, shapes me, gives me my edge.

Growing up, I didn’t think of myself as much of a science person.  I found the arts much more appealing, much more alive:  I thrived on great stories.  In college, I studied anthropology, psychology, religion, literature, and philosophy, delving deep into the human experience.  With my philosophy major I learned how to question assumptions, how to structure an argument, how to come to a topic with fresh and open eyes.  Through the study of philosophy I also uncovered a latent interest in science, especially neuroscience and biology.  I became fascinated by the scientific structure that underlies our everyday existence.   I found, to my surprise, that science was bursting with stories, no less than the humanities.   I discovered a richness and depth in looking at the world this way, one that was unique to the sciences.

Since then science has always been a part of my professional life.  I enjoy reading everything from popular science to primary scientific research, scoping out the new details uncovered by researchers and clinicians.  This was my favorite part of working in biomedical research labs, which I did for several years after college.  While it was often interesting to get the data, I thought it was more satisfying to interpret the data, to scan the literature broadly and deeply and perhaps find new ways to connect data sets and ideas.    Performing lab research firsthand gave me a valuable perspective on the whole scientific process.  Now when I read about a technique in a research paper, I’ve either done it myself, or I can easily familiarize myself with it.  Just as importantly, I better understand how researchers think and how scientific progress is made.

Eventually I decided to meld my love of science and my interest in the humanities through a medical career.    I was drawn to the drama of medicine, its reliance on human stories of real significance.     I knew I wanted to write about science—science relating to medicine in particular—and I thought I might emulate the amazing clinician/writers I so admire.

Though I found patient care extremely rewarding, in the end I decided to pursue medical writing and health and science education in lieu of a clinical career.   I deeply respect health care providers of all vocations, but I realized that being an excellent clinician would not give me the time I really wanted to pursue writing.  It was a difficult decision, but not one I regret.    My writing is richer and more nuanced due to my clinical experience, and I can tackle many topics with great depth due to the rigor and breadth of the medical school curriculum.  During medical school I became skilled at educating patients about their conditions, breaking down concepts without oversimplifying them, providing patients the right level of detail.  I came to believe that most people are undereducated about most medical topics, even when education could dramatically increase health and wellness.  I knew that I wanted to focus on education, and as a medical writer, I specialize in writing educational material for patients and health science students.

I feel fortunate to have found such a fascinating and stimulating career.  There is so much to write about, so much to learn!   Medicine intersects with deeply personal narratives, it intersects with the social and psychological, with public health, with basic scientific research, and all of this is important and worth writing about.  It’s interesting and it’s alive.   It is all connected, one cause pulling on many causes together.

And because I find it all so compelling, I hope this comes across in what and how I write.  I want people to know more than they do—I want them to know about the causes of heart attacks, about disorders of the kidney, about neurology.   I want them to know more about child development, more about basic physiology, more about how drugs work, more about health problems they or their loved ones might encounter.  I want people to understand more, partly because this empowers all of us to take greater responsibility for our own health.    I also want people to understand more about what isn’t known or understood in medicine.   I want people to understand more about what you can take away from a research study and what you can’t.    I want to help synthesize new information and translate it for the layman.  The more we learn, the more our science progresses, the more important it is to increase the public’s basic biomedical science knowledge, to put these new discoveries in context.

These are some of the reasons I am the kind of health and medical writer I am. I hope to understand and to explain, to work with and learn from health care providers, researchers, patients, and other medical writers, to research, dig deep, and put it all together.   I hope, most of all, to write clearly and coherently about complex medical concepts.  I work every day to improve my skills, shore up my knowledge base, and produce the highest quality of writing.

Ruth Jessen Hickman, MD

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