It all started on the playground
I remember it like yesterday. I was swinging precariously from the slippery metal bars of the jungle gym during a grey and bleak lunch recess hour. Fat raindrops went splat every few seconds, but it wasn’t enough to call off recess and haul us kids off to the gym.
My friends and I were giggling about something—probably a boy—when the conversation suddenly took an unfortunate turn. “That’s not what he told her and I,” spat one of the girls. Oh, no. She did not.
Actually, I said, in my most authoritative 7-year old tone, I think you mean ‘her and me,’ or maybe just ‘us.’
I had not yet learned the explanation for the correct use of personal pronouns, but English grammar was instinctive to me. I’ve always been able to “feel” the rules of language in my bones.
What I did not have as a child was an innate knowledge of how to win friends and influence people. My sincere attempt at being helpful was answered by a complimentary flight into a growing mud puddle. So my grammar super power did not make me popular—or waterproof.
How I became passionate about health literacy
Passion is a funny thing. Some people are still waiting for the skies to open and the angels to sing while their intended life passion is delivered on a tiny cloud of perfection, complete with instructions (written in plain language, of course). I’ve found that passion results from action, learning, a huge degree of curiosity, lots of personal experiences, roadblocks, a few happy coincidences, and even the odd dashes of dissatisfaction and boredom.
Living through a serious health condition made me even more passionate about health literacy. It gave me a no-nonsense perspective on the frame of mind many people are in when they receive a health message. Every time I write about health, I remember how it feels. I believe it makes me work harder, be more compassionate, and better advocate for members and patients. Shouldn’t we always be asking,
How can we do better for patients and members—for ourselves—because we’re all patients and members at some point?”
Why I can help you write words for health
Today I help health care organizations create messages people can understand and act on for better health. When we succeed at this, we impact lives beyond measure, not to mention saving health care dollars.
I’ve been writing and editing health information for the lay audience for the better part of 2 decades. A master’s degree in writing from Carnegie Mellon University taught me the reasons behind those quarrelsome grammar rules. Much later I learned when to ignore some of them to meet big goals, like understanding and action.
I am not a clinical person, but I do know how to research and use evidence-based guidelines and other appropriate clinical sources. Clinical experts are incredibly valuable in the development of health content. That’s why I work closely with doctors, nurses, and pharmacists for content reviews, resources, and good advice. These partnerships work beautifully because clinical and health literacy expertise are both needed and call for very different skill sets.
Medical marketing and benefit design topics round out my work. I have mild obsessions with health literacy, plain language, rhetoric, persuasion, behavioral health, and the psychology of change—but these obsessions are completely in control. Really. They are.
I have earned Basic and Advanced certifications from the American Medical Writers Association, as well as the ELS designation from the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences. Finally, I am a stalwart defender of the serial comma and a fangirl of the Apostrophe Protection Society.
The fun stuff that doesn’t usually come up
I’m both a cat and a dog person—because sometimes you need intelligent conversation and sometimes you just need love, respectively.
I’m lucky to participate on the board of a small nonprofit that prioritizes giggling. To date, our volunteer work has raised over 6 figures, enabling thousands of Arizona children to experience the joy and drama of live theatre.
I live in the desert, so when it rains, I run to the window (just like all the other weirdos) and watch in awe and wonder. In a place where it’s always sunny, rain is a small miracle. I continue to look for these daily.