KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf
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Monday, October 22, 2012

When Opportunity Knocks

As an editor, you don't always know exactly what your authors think of you. On the few occasions that they make quite clear their view of you and your work, take such revelations as the gifts that they are and relish them.

I work with a lot of physician–researchers from around the world for whom remaining competitive in their profession means that they must always be working to get their research published in English-language medical journals. In addition to doing ESL (English as a second language) or EFL (English as a foreign language) editing for them, I always take special care with these authors to treat them with great respect, because not only do they have to be proficient in medicine and research but they also must deal with the sometimes frustrating US peer review and publication system. In addition, they must do all of that in English, which is their second or third language. I can't help but admire their perseverance a great deal.

Yixin Zhou, MD, PhD
Yixin Zhou, MD, PhD
One of my longtime authors is Yixin Zhou, MD, PhD, whose journal articles on orthopedic surgery I've been editing since 2005. He is the chairman of the Department of Adult Joint Reconstructive Surgery of Beijing Jishuitan Hospital, where the number of joint-replacement procedures performed increases annually by 20% to 30%. I will soon start editing number 15 in the steady march of articles I have polished for him. He tells me that my name is well known at his hospital; it is common knowledge, he says, that when I edit a manuscript for any surgeon, it usually gets published.

Being told that, after having corresponded with him by e-mail for years, was wonderful enough. But recently, Yixin e-mailed me to say that he was traveling to New York City for a medical conference and would like to meet with me. So on Saturday, October 20, I took a 1.5-hour ride on the Long Island Rail Road to Penn Station and then walked just over 1 mile to the Sheraton Hotel at 52nd Street and 7th Avenue, where Yixin and his colleagues were staying.

I was prepared to show Yixin and his colleagues my great respect for them by saying a few phrases in Mandarin. My colleague Jim Jones, a technical editor and Chinese-to-English translator, created an mp3 file for me so that I could listen to him saying the phrases and could then practice them. But once Yixin and I were talking, I remembered only to say, "Ni hao" ("hello"). He told me that my Chinese was good. But I know he was just being kind.

A gift of tea
A gift of tea
Yixin and I had drinks at the hotel's restaurant and chatted about the paths each of us had taken to get where we are in our respective professions. He had planned for us to have dinner with several of the younger surgeons in his department whom he is training, but they got stuck in Manhattan traffic. So Yixin and I went on to a nearby seafood restaurant, where we dined with several others who were in town for the same medical conference. One of them is a surgeon at another hospital (not Yixin's hospital), and three are sales representatives for Zimmer, a major supplier of orthopedic prosthetics (for the hip, shoulder, and knee) for surgeons around the world. They were all quite interested to hear that I am Yixin's editor, and he told me that he was telling them all about what good care I take of him and his manuscripts.

Yixin knows how much I love Chinese and Japanese whole-leaf teas, so during our meeting he presented me with a magnificently packaged gift of Chinese pi lo chun green tea, sometimes called biluochun. According to the one English sentence that appears amidst the Chinese characters on each wrapper, the tea will "pick you up, help you lose weight, break down cholesterin, as well as benefit those with blood pressure and heart problems." This is in line with what Yixin said to me when we were making our farewells later, at the end of the evening: "Please take good care of yourself, because you are important to us. Smile often, eat good food, and take care of your health."

But the highlight of the evening was this: Because the Chinese government is throwing money at its researchers, there is a big push for every specialist physician to do research and get it published in English-language journals. Yixin is training his younger colleagues in scientific writing, but he wants to pay my way to Beijing sometime within the next year so that I can teach them, working with the aid of an interpreter. Many of my international authors live in Asia, so it has long been my dream to meet them in person and talk with them.

But even in my most creative dreams, I never pictured myself traveling to Asia to teach physician–researchers! So even though I am an introvert and a homebody, I will take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity if it does indeed finally present itself. Why? Because, as it says on the "About" page of my business web site,

It is enormously satisfying to help authors who are non-native English speakers communicate their research to their peers worldwide. I like to believe that what I do makes at least a small difference in the world in two ways:

  • Helping physicians communicate research that will enable other physicians to treat their patients more effectively
  • Increasing cross-cultural cooperation and communication one pair of people (an author and me) at a time

It is a privilege to be entrusted with polishing an author's work, one for which I am always deeply grateful. I can often be found drinking a cup of tea brewed using fresh tea leaves from China, Japan, Taiwan, or India in honor of my authors' publishing successes.

The most obvious benefit of Yixin's plan is that will I get to teach young researchers how to write for an English-language audience, which means that they will be able to communicate to a much wider group of readers the scientific advances they make, thus potentially helping many more patients around the world. But the best benefit, one that is quite humbling, is that I will have the chance to learn by immersion about another culture, one that I greatly admire. I hope that how I work with those researchers will, at least in a very small way, enhance Chinese–American communication, to make the world a friendlier place.

As events take place to make the possibility of my teaching in Beijing a reality, I will keep everyone posted through this blog.







7 comments:

Juliette said...

This is so exciting! What a fun opportunity! I think you're going to have a ball with this project.

I'm so glad you had a chance to meet up with a client. I live close to many of my clients and have met many only once, some never. Some I've met before they became my clients -when they were students in my writing class! ;-) I'm always pleasantly surprised at how grateful people are in person.

I really enjoy the two writing classes I teach. It's fantastic to be able to see people motivated to learn and improve over time. As an introvert myself, I can honestly say these two aspects make it worth the effort. Better still is when they later tell me I gave them the skills to accomplish a goal.

I'm so excited for you!!

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Thanks, Juliette. I am so excited that I'm finding it hard to concentrate!

Yes, it is a joy to watch people learn and put their new knowledge to work.

Emily said...

Thanks for sharing your story, Katharine -- how exciting!

LyzzyBee said...

This is SO EXCITING and I'm so pleased for you. Really looking forward to hearing how your plans for this go!

Liz

Yvette said...

Hi,
I'm new to your blog and new to editing in general. I'm at the point where I absolutely know this is what I want to do and after training and research, have not actually been able to do much of it. I do a bit of technical proofreading for my full-time job, but it just makes me incredibly aware that proofreading and copyediting are tasks I'd really like to do as a career.
I was thinking about aiming for medical editing because I think it would be interesting and it's a large industry here in Spokane. Do you have any advice on how I might be able to break into medical editing and how I might approach possible clients?
Thank you for taking the time to help those of us who continue to struggle.

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Yvette, here are some suggestions for getting training as a medical editor:

1. Takes courses from the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA):

http://www.amwa.org/education

2. Read this good AMWA article:

http://www.amwa.org/toolkit_new_med_writers

3. Periodically, the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) offers a course on a particular aspect of medical editing. Back in the spring of 2007, the EFA offered "AMA Style for Beginners"; see http://www.the-efa.org/eve/catalog_2007spring.php. So you'll want to regularly check the EFA web site's listings of educational programs, at http://www.the-efa.org/eve/catalog.php. Some are online; some are in person.

4. The Drug Information Association sometimes offers courses in medical editing and/or writing; some are online and some are in person. See this page:

http://www.diahome.org/en-US/Meetings-and-Training/About-our-offerings.aspx

5. Medical publisher Thieme offers internships for those wanting to learn about medical publishing:

http://www.thieme.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=98&Itemid=55

6. Earn a degree or certificate in medical writing and/or editing from any of the colleges and universities listed under the headings "Undergraduate Programs in Medical/Health Communication/Writing/Journalism" and "Graduate Programs in Medical/Health Communication/Writing/Journalism" on this page:

http://www.amwa.org/toolkit_new_med_writers

7. Buy CDs of past or upcoming audio conferences or sign up to participate in upcoming audio conferences on medical and science editing topics sponsored by Copyediting newsletter. Full disclosure: I'm an occasional conference presenter for Copyediting; I did an audio conference on "Common Problems in Medical Editing." See http://cpestore.mcmurry.com/?controller=product&path=4_14&product_id=70&sourcecode=STNDRD. Peruse the list of conferences that begins on this page to find the conferences you're interested in:

http://cpestore.mcmurry.com/?controller=category&path=4_14

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

In addition, Yvette, here is information on how to get medical editing projects:

http://editor-mom.blogspot.com/2011/09/how-to-find-medical-editing-freelance.html

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