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EMWA 2022: Berlin

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Emily writes:

Last week my Alchemy colleague, @Sherwin Barretto, and I travelled to Berlin for the 53rd conference of the European Medical Writer’s Association (EMWA). The conference provides an opportunity for medical writers from Europe and beyond to come together to learn, network and socialise. This was my first in-person EMWA conference and, despite the 6am flight, I was excited to have a few days away from my laptop with the chance to meet some new people from the world of medical writing.

Having only visited Berlin once before on a student rugby tour, my memories of the city were somewhat hazy! It was therefore a great opportunity for some sightseeing. Sherwin and I hit the tourist trail, visiting Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie, as well as paying our respects at the Holocaust memorial. There were also several evening tours of Berlin organised by EMWA. Being someone who always thinks of their stomach first, choosing the ‘fork and walk’ tour was a no-brainer. Unusually, our hosts started the evening with desert - a vegan version of traditional German doughnuts. This was followed by Turkish pizza, fried chicken and some very naughty loaded French fries, all enjoyed as we toured the trendy Kreuzberg area. Unlike Scotland, drinking alcohol on the street is legal in Germany so we were able to keep hydrated as we walked without the need for a brown paper bag. It was a fabulous evening and a great opportunity to network and have fun.

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Another social highlight was the conference dinner, a gift to delegates to celebrate EMWA’s 30th anniversary. There is a dedicated bunch of ‘old timers’ (their words, not mine) who have been organising and attending the conference for many years. They were encouraged to mingle with the newcomers, a much-appreciated gesture in keeping with the inclusive and friendly feel of the conference. It was also great to meet some of our clients in-person. As the wine flowed, so did the banter and an excellent night was had by all.

The superb hospitality did not end there. With a near constant supply of food throughout the conference, I have to admit my trousers felt more than little tight on the flight home!

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You would be forgiven for thinking it’s all fun and games at EMWA, but it’s probably about time I mention my main reason for attending the conference: the opportunity to expand my writing skills. Delegates can attend several small-group workshops on various aspects of medical writing. Over time writers can gain EMWA accreditation by gaining enough credit through successful completion of these workshops. I opted for two advanced courses: a brand new workshop entitled ‘Graphical Abstracts’ and, having already completed the introductory course on editing, I also chose ‘Beyond Simple Editing’. The workshops were engaging, informative and, much to my delight, took a low-tech approach with paper, pen and Pritt stick favoured over laptops for creating our abstract and editing masterpieces.

I was also able to attend the conference’s symposium. This took an in-depth look at the best ways to communicate scientific information with the public, and explored the current issues with the spread of misinformation (or the “infodemic” as I now know it).

Overall, the EMWA conference was a fantastic trip and an event I would highly recommend it to any aspiring or established medical writers. A big thank you must go to the organisers for a job well done. Thanks also to @Alchemy Medical Writing for the chance to attend, I hope there will many more!

Sherwin writes:

Last week, my Alchemy colleague, Emily Atkinson, and I travelled to Berlin for the 53rd EMWA conference. It was an amazing experience – a good mix of education, networking and fun. I took the ‘Advanced Epidemiology’ and ‘Public Clinical Trial Registries’ workshops, as well as various symposium sessions. The sessions were informative and engaging, and got me to assess and fill my own knowledge gaps.

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It was amazing to meet other medical writers from all over Europe and beyond, with diverse skillsets, across various therapy areas and content types. There were plenty of opportunities for networking and socialising – breakfast, coffee breaks, walking tours, and the legendary EMWA’s 30th anniversary dinner! It was great to meet old friends and new (especially Akhil Bansal, Joana Osorio, Adeline Rosenberg, Graham Buttrick, Julia Forjanic Klapproth). Great times and great company!

As well as learning and networking, there was plenty of time for sightseeing. Berlin is a city awash with history and stories, but at the same time, a very modern, fun, buzzing city. On our first day, Emily and I explored the city, visiting Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, and stopping to reflect at the Holocaust Memorial.

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On the Thursday, I joined the ‘Divided City’ walking tour with some other EMWA delegates. We explored the old Communist buildings of East Berlin, and were reminded just how recent the East-West Berlin divide was. We finished at the East Side Gallery, a section of the Berlin Wall that’s still standing, painted with colourful murals, a symbol of hope and unity. Our tour guide explained how the Wall fell, and told us tragic stories from the time of the divide. We heard how the events of 1989 were driven largely by ordinary people, a message that is particularly relevant today, given current events in Ukraine. We were pleased to hear, from our tour guide, that after a turbulent recent history under the Nazis and Communists, Berlin has moved on to being a world-class, unified, cosmopolitan city.

After the conference, I had a few hours to kill before my flight back to London, so I explored the world-famous Museum Island, while taking in the Instagram-worthy sights. A perfect end to an amazing trip, and an experience that will remain with me for life.

 

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