Andrew N. Wilner, MD; Orly Avitzur, MD, MBA


June 12, 2012

Editor's Note:

Orly Avitzur, MD, MBA, is a practicing neurologist, a successful medical writer and editor for Neurology Today, and an advisor to Consumer Reports. On behalf of Medscape Neurology, Andrew Wilner, MD, spoke with Dr. Avitzur at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology about what inspires her in her writing and advocacy roles, and where consumer education fits into the healthcare paradigm.

A Glimpse Into Medical Reporting

Andrew Wilner, MD: Dr. Avitzur, how do you decide which topics to write about? What constitutes medical news?

Orly Avitzur, MD, MBA: I read a lot of journals, consumer magazines, and newspapers and get ideas from those, but essentially I write about what inspires me. I am fortunate because I am given a lot of leeway over those choices by both Neurology Today, which I write for, and Consumer Reports, where I work as medical advisor twice a week.

Dr. Wilner: Your audience includes both physicians and the lay public. At a meeting such as the 2012 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, well over 2000 research studies may be newsworthy. How do you decide which ones you will investigate and write about?

Dr. Avitzur: Often the choice comes from my own experience. If I have seen a particularly interesting or complicated patient and I hear news related to that [patient's problem], I may decide to write about it. The choice is difficult, though, with so much information. There are a lot of great consumer pieces that are driven by the information that the American Academy of Neurology releases as well. Generally, I choose what strikes me as either a topic that affects a lot of people -- which is I think is more valuable than something that only affects a few from the readership standpoint -- or something I have seen that I think will interest others.

Dr. Wilner: A significant amount of medical information is available now on the Internet and in books, particularly for patients. It used to be difficult for patients to find information about their illnesses and diseases, but now it is very easy. Do you find that your patients are more educated about their problems? Is this helpful or not?

Dr. Avitzur: I never underestimate patients. I think they are extremely knowledgeable in general about their conditions. They are able to find information now in a way that is not just driven by the physician. Some of the health Websites are excellent, and patients can get a lot of very sophisticated information. Some of the chat rooms and patient communities actually exchange the original scientific literature. I think patients are quite sophisticated and are more and more ready to participate in their healthcare and to help in the decision-making.

Dr. Wilner: Several thousand neurologists are here in New Orleans at this meeting. For those who did not attend, what would be the most time-efficient way for them to find out what happened in terms of neurology news that is important to them?

Dr. Avitzur: All the neurology publications will provide some select information about what has happened this week. As an associate editor of Neurology Today, I know we will publish an issue with stories about [research] award winners here, and more information [about the meeting] will be forthcoming. In addition, Websites like Medscape Neurology will certainly offer information. I do not think it will be difficult to find out what has been going on.

Dr. Wilner: Which publications do you enjoy writing for the most?

Dr. Avitzur: That is a tricky question. The first publication that gave me an opportunity was Neurology Today. I was not a writer back then. I had to take a lot of time with those articles, and I also took several writing classes, including one on the personal essay. It is difficult to move from scientific writing to writing in the first-person voice and consumer writing, but eventually, over the years, that is what I've come to enjoy the most. I love writing articles for Consumer Reports and Consumer Reports Online. I do some work for CBS News, which is incredibly fun because those are generally lighter subjects and I enjoy the variety.

Dr. Wilner: What will you be writing about from this meeting?

Dr. Avitzur: I have picked up a few ideas for an article on iPad technology. Every day as I go through the meeting I have ideas; even a conversation with a colleague will inspire an idea. The ideas don't necessarily come from a poster or from speaking or attending a session.

Dr. Wilner: Dr. Avitzur, thank you very much for sharing your enthusiasm for medical writing with us here at the American Academy of Neurology meeting in New Orleans.


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