Award Winners Have SO Much to Teach Us

By Kelly Schrank posted 05-24-2017 15:04


As Lori Alexander wrote in her blog post a couple of weeks ago, the AMWA Award speakers are “the highlight of every AMWA Medical Writing & Communication Conference.” But this is not just because of the information they provide during their Award Address. We can learn so much about their respective areas of expertise if we take the time to research them (and Lori and I have done some of the work for you!). It’s kind of like when you armchair travel to a location before your vacation; you get so much more out of a location that way. And we think the same is true of our Award-winning speakers!

Alvarez Award Winner

As fellow Executive Committee member Theresa Singleton said when we first mentioned Helen Osborne, MEd, OTR/L,  as a potential award winner, Ms. Osborne “has done a lot of work to put health literacy on the map.” Indeed, Ms. Osborne has been an outspoken advocate for health literacy and improving health communications for over 20 years. Her work is well-deserving of the Walter C. Alvarez Award, which serves to honor “excellence in communicating health care developments and concepts to the public.”

Ms. Osborne has spoken at local AMWA chapter events and the annual conference, as well as events around the world on the importance of health literacy. Her award-winning book, Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition, is one of the foremost books on the subject. She founded Health Literacy Month in 1999, a holiday which continues annually on a worldwide basis to “promote the importance of understandable health information.”  

Ms. Osborne’s Health Literacy Out Loud podcasts  are important conversations with journalists, professors, health care providers, and a wide variety of people working in all areas of health literacy. The podcasts cover topics such as clinical practice, communication strategy, health care policy, and more. The podcasts page of her website provides not just the podcast (an audio file of the interview), but also a bio of the interviewees, a summary of the points discussed, a written transcript, and a list of resources to further your education on the topic (called “More Ways to Learn”). For someone new to this area of medical communication, the opportunity to listen to more than 160 monthly podcasts is pretty overwhelming and is an education in itself!

Related Sessions

The AMWA Annual Conference often offers opportunities for medical communicators to learn about plain language and health literacy, and this year is no exception. We have 2 workshops that cover related topics: WS-25, simply called “Plain Language,” will be led by Sharon Nancekivell, MA, MWC®, Freelance Medical Editor, Writer, Educator, and Plain Language Consultant, from Guelph, ON, Canada, and WS-53, “Writing and Designing Materials for Patient Education,” also led by Ms. Nancekivell.

In addition to her Award Address, Ms. Osborne will be leading an open session on podcasting (“A Conversation About Podcasting”), where she plans to talk about practical elements, such as equipment, costs, and time, as well as the skills needed to interview others. Her session description invites attendees to bring their questions; with her experience and her openness to having a conversation about why podcasting matters and how to get started, this is bound to be an informative and interactive session.

Schedule of Award Addresses

At this year’s conference, your first taste of our award winners will be at the General Session with Alvarez Award Address on Thursday morning, starting at 9 am.  

The full schedule of award addresses (and entire conference program) is in the conference brochure, but to give you a quick overview:

  • Thursday morning: Alvarez Award Address
  • Thursday mid-day: Swanberg Award Address (with networking lunch)
  • Friday afternoon: McGovern Award Address

These award winners are experts in their fields and will discuss topics of interest to medical communicators. Take some time to get to know them before the conference to expand your knowledge base and to better enjoy the experience of attending their speeches. Keep an eye out for blog posts from the award winners themselves in the coming months, too.