Anna Megdell is the Science Writer and Editor at the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center. She joined PAMN in 2022.
What led you to work in cancer communications?
My background is in fiction writing, and I wanted a career that allowed me to use my writing skills to support an organization I believed in wholeheartedly. Creative writing can be very insular, and it was important to me to work with a team where I could be of service to the community. I previously covered the natural sciences for a university alumni magazine, and I fell in love with science writing. After a few years, I wanted to enhance my skills in a more technical and focused way, and a healthcare setting felt particularly meaningful after the last few years.
What do you like most about working in the cancer field?
It’s incredibly exciting, energizing, and rewarding to work with such brilliant, dedicated, and creative people. My favorite part of my job is talking with our members about their research and hearing how their voices change when they get super excited about a study, findings, and the implications for patients. It’s a privilege to hear about their work and to figure out how to tell their stories so that even more people can know about the incredible innovation happening every day. To work in a setting that is meeting an at-times brutal reality with real advancements and change is a gift.
What’s your best advice for someone new to the field?
Be patient with yourself! There is SO much to learn, from the ins-and-outs of research to the audience to writing in a new genre to learning the cancer care vernacular. It can be overwhelming, but you’ll be surprised how quickly you absorb the information. The cancer field contains so much information, and innovations mean that there’s constantly more to learn. Approaching the work from a place of curiosity is super helpful. It’s not your job to know everything, it’s your job to relay information from experts into dynamic storytelling.
How do you balance your career and family/personal life?
I feel lucky to work on a team that recognizes and supports our need to decompress and unwind from work. I take great care to not check email after work hours, and I carve lots of time for exercise, reading, doing projects around my 100-year-old house, and spending time with family and friends. I try to acknowledge when I need a break, and to use our institution’s generous PTO policy. I’m a morning person, and having a long morning to read and drink my coffee before I dive into work is crucial for me.
Do you have a favorite line from a movie?
I can’t think of a favorite line, but my hands-down favorite movie is When Harry Met Sally. I’ve seen it a million times and could watch it a million more. It’s the perfect movie for a rainy day.
What was your favorite vacation?
When I was in high school, my grandmother took me and my sister to Croatia, where she was born and lived until she was 7. We traveled the country together and visited the small town where she grew up, and even saw the house where her family lived. She was in her mid-80s at the time, and her courage and care to take us on such a big trip still moves me to this day.
If you could drink only one beverage for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Unsweetened iced tea
If you had to eat one meal, every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Lately I’ve been relishing my mornings by making a big breakfast. It’s become my favorite meal of the day. So my answer would be really good toast with butter, two eggs over medium, avocado or lox, heirloom tomatoes, and some berries or pineapple. And coffee. Definitely coffee.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
The sound of a fork dragging against teeth makes my skin crawl!
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