Lessons from the 10th National Medical Writing Workshop

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Participants and Mentors for the 10th National Medical Writing Workshop in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan (c) Dr. Ces Maramba-Lazarte

Most people say that they hate doing research. A lot of medical students only do research because it's part of the medical curriculum. I don't know why research is underappreciated here in the Philippines. There must be some barriers that inhibit students from realizing and witnessing the beauty of doing research in the country (this topic deserves another blog entry). The end goal of health research is to be translated to a diagnostic method, therapy or even health policy. To achieve this, there is a need to share the results to the scientific community and to the rest of the world. Thus, researchers need to write and publish their researches. One major hindrance is that a lot of researchers do not know how to write research for publication. This is why the Philippine Association of Medical Journal Editors organizes medical writing workshop every year to encourage and teach healthcare professionals about the basic skills in medical writing.


I have no intention of joining the 10th National Medical Writing Workshop & 3rd Writeshop for Young Researchers organized by PAMJE. I saw the posters and announcements in the Facebook page of DOST PCHRD but I just ignored it. The main reason is because I was preoccupied with finishing my research on leptospirosis when they announced their call for application for the workshop. But few days before the workshop, DOST PCRHD announced that they will open four more slots for the workshop. During that time, I am already finished with my research and manuscript on leptospirosis. I am also almost finished with the manuscript of my other research in ethnobotany. I consulted my MD/PhD adviser, Dr. Nina Gloriani about the workshop and she encouraged me to apply for the workshop since it will really help me in publishing our research. I also talked to our mentor in UP College of Medicine, Dr. Joey Lapena, who is also the president of PAMJE. He also encouraged me to apply for the workshop. I tried applying for the workshop and lo and behold, I was accepted.

The hotel accommodation, food and registration for the workshop are free. The only thing that I need to pay for is the airfare. I asked for financial support from UP College of Medicine and I am glad that the administration accepted my request. I am just waiting for final approval if the college can reimburse the cost of my airfare to Palawan. I am also blessed because the lectures that I will miss during the time that I am in the workshop is Microbiology module. We have discussed all of the lectures during our PhD coursework in UP College of Medicine. I talked to the course coordinator and she allowed me to be excused for two days. 

I arrived in Puerto Princesa airport at around 5PM, August 7. I travelled to Citystate Asturias Hotel to leave my things and joined the rest of the participants and organizers for the welcoming dinner at Ka Lui Restaurant. It was my second time to go to Ka Lui, the first time was last June 2016 during the medical mission of UP Agape. Most of the participants in the workshop were all health professionals. I believe I was one of the youngest in our group. When I got back to the hotel, I met my roommate and he's also a Christian.

With Dr. Josie Lapena

The next day was the start of the medical writing workshop. During breakfast, I met my mentors in UPCM Doc Joey and Doc Josie Lapena. I ate breakfast with them and one of the speakers for the workshop, Dr. Wilfred Peh. I almost cried (tears of joy) because they said they're proud of me and they even shared my achievements to Dr. Peh. Last week before the workshop, I was awarded Outstanding Student Research Publication Award by the UP College of Medicine. Doc Josie was there during the awarding and she hugged me and congratulated after the awarding. Doc Joey and Doc Josie are like parents to me and the rest of our mentoring group. We meet almost once a month in UP College of Medicine for mentoring session. I we have problems in whatever aspect of our life, we just go to them and they are more than willing to help us. We share our achievements and victories with them and they are always there during times of grief and pain. I am very thankful because they became my parents in UPCM. 

From L to R: Dr. Joey Lapena, Dr. Cecilia Maramba-Lazarte and Dr. Wilfred Pe. Mentors for the 10th National Medical Writing Workshop. (c) Dr. Ces Maramba-Lazarte

I learned a lot from all the speakers of the National Medical Writing Workshop. Dr. Joey Lapena, Dr. Cecilia Maramba-Lazarte and Dr. Wilfred Peh discussed the basics in writing a manuscript for research publication. They encouraged us to keep on writing and do not be discouraged when we experience difficulty in publishing. They talked about the structure of a research publication, the do's and dont's and they even talked about the process of peer review and how to deal with the comments of reviewers. I also learned about the criteria for authorship which a lot of professors in the university still do not follow. I like what Dr. Joey Lapena said: "It does not follow that if you are the adviser, you are also a co-author when the research was published. You still have to meet the ICJME criteria for authorship". It was just 1.5 days of workshop but I learned a lot from the speakers. 

I was inspired by the experience of Dr. Ces as the editor-in-chief of the journal of the Philippine Infectious Diseases Society of the Philippines. She shared to us the humble beginning of the journal. At first they have to ask and invite researchers to submit manuscripts to their journal. Then she decided to organize research competition and winners get to publish their research in PIDSP journal. Now, the journal is more well-known, they no longer need to ask researchers to submit their researches because they voluntarily submit to their journal. Their researches are also being cited by other international journals. It reminded me that success is never achieved overnight. It takes time, perseverance, passion and dedication. 

Another takeaway from Dr. Ces is to publish negative results. There are actually journals that cater to researches with negative results. Dr. Paul Medina, professor in UPCM even told me that researches with negative results can be published in any journal as long as it is written well. We need to publish negative results so that other researchers can learn from our research and so other researchers do not waste their time and resources repeating our experiments and they will just end up with negative results.

With Dr. Wilfred Peh

Dr. Peh gave us a copy of his book about medical writing. He carried all the books from Singapore because the books that he sent for the workshop was not released from customs. Dr. Peh is a diagnostic radiologist from National University of Singapore. He is a well-published researcher. I was inspired to do more research and publish more researches after seeing his publications.

With Dr. Joey Lapena

I was also inspired by the dedication of Doc Joey to teach healthcare professionals about medical writing. I remember I talked to Doc Joey before that I want to organize a medical writing workshop for medical students and he immediately agreed to be the resource person for the writing workshop. It is my dream to do workshops like this in the future. I want to inspire healthcare professionals and researchers to continue doing research and publish it so that results can be shared and can be used by other researchers or even by legislators to create health policy.

Group 5 for the 10th National Medical Writing Workshop

During the workshop all of the participants were divided into groups. We were assigned to one mentor who will help us in refining our manuscript so that it will be better and acceptable for publication. After several lectures, there were small group activity and our mentor guide us in applying everything that we learned from the lectures to our research paper. Sir Ivan Lawag of Adamson University was assigned as our mentor. During the workshop, Sir Ivan gave us our manuscript with his comments. I am so thankful to Sir Ivan because his comments were very helpful. He really devoted time to check and scrutinize our papers. He even performed a plagiarism check to assure that we did not plagiarize anything in our manuscript. He also taught us an online program of Elsevier which helps researchers find the most suitable journal for their researches. He also shared Mendeley which is a free reference manager. I also learned a lot from my groupmates. Their insights and comments are all very helpful.

The challenge of the medical writing workshop is to be able to submit the manuscript within three months after the workshop. With all the lessons that I learned from the workshop, I am confident that I will finish my manuscript and be able to submit for publication within three months. I am currently editing the two manuscript and I am planning to submit them to Elsevier journals soon. 

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