The Geoff Hall Scholarships (GHSs) are given in honour of a former President of EMWA. Geoff was a very special person, an extremely valued member of EMWA, and a very good friend to many EMWA members. He firmly believed that the future of EMWA lies in our new and potential members, and so it's a very fitting legacy that we have the Scholarship Awards in his memory.
The Scholarships are awarded annually on the basis of an essay competition, and the title of this year's essay was ‘Are medical writers ghostwriters?’. There was a record number of entries, and although it sounds like a cliché, it's genuinely true that the essays caused a lot of debate and discussion among the GHS committee and it was not an easy task to choose just two winning entries. However, two were eventually chosen, and the very worthy winners were Andreas Sakka and Nicholas Churton.
Andreas Sakka has worked as a professional medical writer at Caudex Medical since June 2014. After graduating from Imperial College London with a BSc in Biochemistry, Andreas moved into industry. He has worked for a number of companies, including Smiths Detection and GE Healthcare, primarily developing in vitro and in vivo diagnostic technologies for various diseases. Following redundancy, Andreas decided to leave the lab to join the world of medical communications.
Nicholas Churton works as a medical writer at ICON Plc involved in medical writing projects concerning clinical study reports, patient narratives, safety documentation such as developmental safety update reports, editorial reviews and book reviews. Before this, Nicholas was a student at the University of Bath, UK, where he studied for a MSc in Biology. After this he moved to the University of Southampton, UK, to study for a PhD in microbiology. He is currently awaiting examination.
Andreas' and Nicholas' winning essays are presented below, and we wish them the very best at the start of their very promising medical writing careers.
By Andreas Sakka
Are medical writers ghostwriters? Yes.
At least they may appear to be to the layperson. Ostensibly, medical writers and ghostwriters are professional writers, providing a service to paying clients, creating literature that is published under somebody else's name. This much is true and, with such a concise and unambiguous description, one may think that there is little to dispute regarding the difference between the two. However, a deeper look at the subject reveals a crucial difference that clearly separates medical writers and ghostwriters.
The fundamental distinction between medical writers and ghostwriters is that of visibility. Ghostwriters are typically paid to create literature, in whole or in part, on behalf of an author but their own identity and contribution is never revealed. Without insider knowledge, it would be impossible to recognise that an author did not create a piece of work on their own or what level of assistance was given. The ghosts are invisible, and the invisible cannot be held to account.
Ghostwriting -along with the associated practices of ghost authorship and non-declaration of funding sources or conflicts of interest- has, in the past, contributed to incomplete and misleading publications of scientific data pertaining to various therapies. Ultimately, this caused harm to patients prescribed inappropriate drugs. Two of several such scandals involved Merck's drug Vioxx and Wyeth's hormone therapy drugs. Between these two ca
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