Writing in the Health Professions writing in health and medicine

ENC 3453: Dr. Shannon Butts

Course Description

In the health professions, the well being of human lives depends on clear and accurate communication - whether the audience is a patient, colleague, staff member, or caregiver. To better prepare students for the challenge of successful professional communication, Writing in the Health Professions targets three main groups: health providers, patients and clients, and the public. For each audience, writers will learn techniques and practices that best ensure their messages are understood. We will read and dissect examples of published writing and students will compose their own medical reviews, surveys, and public health media. The course will cover advanced literacy skills for medical practitioners and use medical databases to research health issues, evaluate medical reports, review current literature and case studies, synthesize data, compose public health campaigns, and present medical research to professionals and lay audiences. The goal of the course is to prepare students for coursework in their specialities and to build a foundation for work in their professional communities.

Course Materials

  • Readings are available on Canvas or through our PubMed repository
  • Students will also conduct individual research and create a digital archive of course materials based on their health field

Course Objectives

  • Analyze and interpret health communication methods
  • Research, plan, draft, and revise documents for use in the medical sciences
  • Adapt writing to different health audiences, purposes, and contexts
  • Synthesize and report on the literature of health and medicine - including case studies, treatment and training plans, medical review papers, and public health messages
  • Practice document design, data analysis, and writing for diverse health situations
  • Develop a public health campaign to raise community awareness and practice effective communication strategies

Major Assignments

This course focuses on three main audiences - covered in three distinct units. Unit one emphasizes writing for other medical professionals and includes assignments such as a synthesis paper and a medical review. Unit two focuses on academic writing for medicine and students will profile medical schools, hospitals, and providers while drafting materials for medical school applications. Unit three examines professional communication with patients and the general public and includes an IMRAD style report and public health campaign with multimedia resources.

Unit One: Communicating with Health Professionals

Synthesis Paper

The synthesis series of assignments focuses on researching and analyzing published medical literature. Students begin by reading and reporting on several medical case studies regarding the use of mobile health apps by expecting and new mothers (Text4Baby). Students then create a series of "bullet analysis" papers that detail the research questions, findings, demographics, scientific validity, and research gaps of each article. Pulling from the existing literature while also researching the local demographics of Gainesville, Florida, students will then compose a comprehensive synthesis paper that evaluates the benefits and limitations of mobile health apps and offers an evidence-based recommendation for use in the local area. Overall, the synthesis series of papers helps familiarize students with medical literature and how to make evidence-based decisions about care.

Review Paper and Annotated Bibliography

Medical Review Papers help other health professionals gather knowledge and make decisions. Most often, medical reviews offer a comprehensive evaluation of the most recent studies relating to a specific treatment or procedure. For example, an author might look at what is currently known about the advantages and disadvantages of a particular surgical method for mastectomy, or a particular chemotherapy regime in the treatment of breast cancer. Through a systematic review, students will present an up to date synthesis of the medical knowledge on a chosen subject or issue - focusing on the most recent literature available through PubMed and other peer-reviewed repositories. Writers will organize, integrate, and evaluate existing research reports to consider the progress of current research towards clinical improvement. The review paper will:

  • Define and clarify the problem/topic, and/or forecast clinical improvements desired
  • Summarize previous investigations in order to inform the reader of the state of current research
  • Identify relations, contradictions, gaps, and inconsistencies in the literature
  • Suggest the next step or steps in solving the problem

As part of the review, students will also compose an Annotated Bibliography detailing the 8-10 specific sources used.

Informative Presentation

In addition to research and writing, medical professionals often have to present findings and detail information clearly and concisely. After researching and writing the review paper, students will present their work in a short 4-5 minute presentation. The presentation should address fellow students as medical professionals while also clearly defining key terms or technical vocabulary. Presenters will organize information to capture reader attention while also presenting empirical data. The informative presentation creates an opportunity for students to practice translating health information to diverse audiences and in spoken dialogue.

Unit Two: Writing for Career Development

Personal Statement

As students look towards graduate degrees and medical school, the personal statement unit will help them understand how to write for career development. Students begin by evaluating medical schools, health programs, specialty research areas, and career requirements. Since this is an upper division course, students have already expressed interest in medicine or other health occupations. However, many are still unsure how to pick a program, identify specialty areas, or compose application materials. After narrowing down program options, students will read about the personal statement for medical professions, interview health professionals, and compose a draft of their own personal statement. The personal statement creates an opportunity to consider unique genre requirements, strong narrative skills, and diverse writing styles - all while paying attention to concision, clarity, and detail.

Unit Three: Public Health Communication

Public Health Campaign

Doctors and patients are only part of writing for health professions. Most often, communicating health information happens in public settings - to educate groups of people about health issues, gather information about specific problems, or share media and facts that might help diverse groups of people better understand health literacy. Working with a small team, the final assignment series of this course picks a public health issue and crafts information designed to educate a specific audience. The chosen public health topic should relate to issues in our local area and build on the information you already understand about Florida regions and demographics. For example, you might focus on the need for men to wear sunscreen, scooter drivers to wear helmets, or the dangers of vaping. However, instead of addressing the general public or giving a simple summary of issues, the public health campaign should focus on specific audiences and health details. Each group will research current medical reports, reviews, and studies, propose a topic, craft a survey to extend existing research, collect and compile data, report findings, and create educational media materials for a specific public. Overall, the public health campaign should compose and communicate medical information to patients, increase health literacy for a specific group, offer actionable strategies for changing social/health behaviors, and practice translating health information into accessible multimedia forms.


Once your group has chosen and researched a topic, you will compose and submit a short proposal. The proposal should make a case for why your topic needs a public health campaign in Gainesville, Florida (or a surrounding area). Remember to research and use sources to support claims and to define key terms and ideas to ensure clarity.


Groups will also create a short (8-10 questions) survey related to their public health topic of choice. For example, if you are addressing the need to wear sunscreen, you might create a survey that asks users how often they apply or what SPFs are most used, in addition to questions about skin care or cancer. The survey should help groups understand what the public already knows - the level of health literacy and general knowledge about a topic. The survey should target a specific group or demographic to help craft focused media later in the project. Once surveys are complete, each group will analyze the data and compare results with existing research. The surveys alongside the current research will help groups create targeted media for a specific market. Understanding who you are talking to and what patients know (or don't) will shape what and how you present educational materials.

Research Report

The research report will combine survey results with existing, published studies related to the public health issue. By incorporating survey data, the report will not only detail current research in the field, but also highlight the current state of health literacy about a topic. Much like the earlier medical review, the research report will summarize current findings, synthesize data, and offer insight into research gaps or opportunities for intervention. The research report will follow IMRAD format and help groups understand the clinical data and medical research while also evaluating public concerns, knowledge levels, or misinformation circulating in the public sphere.


Drawing from the research report, groups will identify a gap in the public knowledge about a health concern. Then each group will create an infographic designed to address the misinformation or gap in knowledge.

Multimedia Campaign

Each team will choose a specific media form (video, podcast, social media campaign, etc) and create a public text educating the local population about the chosen health issue. Multimedia campaigns should consider the nuances of the targeted population and decide which media will work best rhetorically. In addition, media content should clearly present information, compose compelling visuals, incorporate survey data and research, and prioritize accessibility.

Created By
Shannon Butts


Course content created by Mickey Schafer and Shannon Butts