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Volume 34 No 2

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51         RESEARCH

Worst Practices for Writing CME Needs Assessments: Results From a Survey of Practitioners
Donald Harting, MA, MS, ELS, CHCP, and Andrew Bowser, ELS, CHCP

This original research article examines ways to improve the quality and clarity of Needs Assessments (NAs). Using a survey primarily targeted toward individuals who develop NAs, the authors seek to evaluate poor or unprofessional practices that may compromise their value or validity.

Background and Aims: Needs assessments (NAs) are commonly developed to identify gaps in the knowledge, competence, performance, and confidence of health care providers and to guide the development of continuing education activities designed to remedy these deficiencies. Although best practices of NA development have been thoroughly described, little work has been done to evaluate poor or unprofessional practices that may compromise their value or validity. We sought to describe these practices with a survey primarily targeted toward individuals who develop NAs.

Respondents to an annual survey were prompted to describe unprofessional or poor practices that they had observed in NAs developed by other writers. Responses were categorized by 2 independent reviewers.

A total of 104 individuals submitted responses to the survey. Of those, 67 included write-in responses describing poor practices. The most common poor practices were related to sources and referencing (19 responses), whereas other commonly cited poor practices included irrelevance or poor focus; organization, coherence, and readability issues; and plagiarism, fabrication, or bias. Specific quotations from write-in responses are provided in this article.

Despite available resources that outline and teach best practices in writing CME NAs, writers continue to struggle with referencing, organization, coherence, and readability. This may present an opportunity for the industry to consider new best practices that would encourage standardization and eliminate some of the poor practices described here.


Lori L. Alexander, MTPW, ELS, MWC

Harting & Bowser’s original research article is being simultaneously published with by the Alliance for Continuing Education in the Health Professions (Alliance) in the Almanac. In order to provide context and interpretation, of the research results pertinent to their respective readers, both publications have solicited commentaries from their audience to accompany the main article.



Gene Therapy and Gene Editing: Where Are We?
Elise Eller, PhD

An in-depth discussion of gene editing and gene therapy, potential problems, current policies, and the benefits for a variety of diseases.

CRISPR and chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cells are frequently mentioned in the news, but what are they? CAR T-cell therapy is a type of gene therapy, while CRISPR is a gene editing tool. To put CRISPR and CAR T-cell therapy into context, we need to understand the fundamentals of gene therapy and gene editing. While gene therapy is used to augment a defective gene, gene editing changes DNA in its native location. Both gene therapy and gene editing require delivery mechanisms such as viral vectors to deliver the therapeutic elements to target cells, and delivery can occur either in vivo or ex vivo. To date, a handful of gene therapies are approved in the world, including 3 gene therapies approved in the United States (2 of which are CAR T-cell therapies). No gene editing–based therapies have been approved anywhere in the world, although research is ongoing in preclinical studies, animal models, and clinical trials. There are potential problems with both gene therapy and gene editing. In particular, a major concern for CRISPR-based approaches is the potential for off-target effects. There are also ethical concerns regarding gene editing of germline cells, which would affect the DNA of an individual’s progeny. In spite of the problems with gene therapy and gene editing, both gene therapy and gene editing offer potential solutions for a variety of diseases.



Ancestry DNA Testing and Privacy
Haifa Kassis, MD, and Deborah A. Ferguson, PhD

Ancestry DNA testing has become increasingly popular in recent years. This rapid expansion has prompted many questions about the accuracy of these tests and their impact on consumers’ privacy. To address these questions, Dr. Sheldon Krimsky, Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University, gave a presentation on “Ancestry DNA Testing and Privacy” to AMWA members and guests at the New England Chapter meeting on September 24, 2018.

Intro to Members Matters Editor



So, You Think You Know About Medical Devices?
Shepard Bentley, Melory Johnson, VN, and  Shara N. Pantry, PhD

Looking for a preliminary understanding of medical devices? Experts weigh in on what medical devices are and what they are not, classification details, premarket approvals, and regulations.


72         SOCIAL MEDIA

Social Media and the DNA of Health Care

Lee Aase

Lee Aase, Director of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network, discusses Mayo Clinic’s social media initiatives, the Mayo Clinic’s progressive approach, and why Mayo was such an early adopter of social media.




75         MEDIA REVIEWS

Big Squeeze: A Social and Political History of the Controversial Mammogram
Stefanie Howard, MA

The 21st Century Guide to Writing Articles in the Biomedical Sciences
Mark Youssef



How to Build a Medical Writer: Medical Writing Apprenticeships—New Training for a New Breed
Julia Forjanic Klapproth, PhD and Lisa Chamberlain James, PhD

What does training look like for medical writers? Klapproth and James examine apprenticeships, what they look like for medical writers, and how to develop a professional standard of excellence.

Writing the Basic-Science Hypothesis: A Practical Guide for Medical Writers
Kerry L. Evans, PhD

An in depth discussion on how to evaluate and improve a hypothesis. This skill can go a long way in helping authors report clear, robust research to their audience.



Brian Bass, Melissa S. Bogen, Cathryn D. Evans, Lori De Milto, Gail Flores

What is your strategy for approaching a potential new client when you don’t know anyone in the organization, even when no ad or opening has been posted?

Is there an ideal number of regular clients for a freelance? In balancing regular client work with the occasional project, what is the best mix?

How do you tell a good freelance writing or editing opportunity from a bad one? What are some “red flags” to look for in a new opportunity?


86         AMWA NEWS

From the President: We’re on a Mission
Cynthia L. Kryder, MS

Annual Financial Report, 2017-2018
Julie L. Phelan, MD, MBA

De-myth-tifying the MWC
The Medical Writing Certification Commission

It's Going to be Sunny in San Diego  
R. Michelle Sauer, PhD, ELS, CRA

Daniel J. Siegel, MD, 2019 Alvarez Award Recipient
R. Michelle Sauer, PhD, ELS, CRA

A Conversation with Paul Offit, MD, 2019 McGovern Award Recipient
Cynthia L. Kryder, MS





Supplement to Worst Practices for Writing CME Needs Assessments: Results From a Survey of Practitioners

67 Responses Describing Poor NA Writing Practices

Postconference Content

2018 Walter C. Alvarez Award Presentation by Robert M. Califf, MD, MACC


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