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Austin Van Niel

Advanced Writing
Dr. Suzanne Richard

Portfolio Reflection

This semester has been an experience in shifting from writing for a grade, to writing as a
member of my scientific medical community. There was a transition in thought process that was
facilitated by the outline of this course as well as the eleven learning goals expected in this
course. Once the transition from thinking like a student to thinking like a new member in my field
there was exponential growth in my work as a writer. Specifically, biology as it pertains to
medicine, and in my case emergency medicine. I took this class as an opportunity to contribute
and examine this field and grow as a future advocate within this discourse community. Through
my portfolio I was able to expand upon research topics that interested me while enumerating my
learning goals and growing as a writer through this experience.

The first learning goal was that I as a student would write both to learn and to
communicate what I had learned. This was tricky when I first started because previously I had
only written lab reports in college which is a much different style than the literature review that
we worked on in class. Once I had read some of the sample literature reviews that were posted
from previous students something just clicked and I was able to realize that I was not writing a
report on a topic, I was adding to the conversation on the topic. I was able to contribute my
personal experience as an EMT treating patients with supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), which
was my chosen topic of the literature review. From over ten sources I gathered information and
pointed out the shortcomings and presented where the research needs to go for the benefit of
the patients. Through this even I was learning things that I was able to do should my standard
method not give the desired results. It did not feel like I was reporting compiled findings in this
paper. It felt like I was presenting and asserting my knowledge to peers in the field who could
contribute their own findings and we could solve a problem in the medical community that is
fairly common.

I was no longer in the role of the student, I was a transitional member of science as a
whole representing medicine to a wider audience of colleagues. I was learning about the
underlying pharmacology behind some of the drugs that I had seen used in the emergency
department fairly frequently like adenosine which is a transient calcium channel blocker used to
stop SVT rhythms. Since adenosine is such a commonly used drug for this condition I was able
to use the research gathered to contend that it may not always be the best choice without being
accusatory or argumentative. I was able to present my reasoning for when other drugs have a
place. Through this assertion I was able to negotiate the goals of the paper by adhering to the
conventions of a medical text. The goal of this paper was to present options and when they
were best applicable to the treatment of SVT.
I was able to formulate this stance by presenting how other drugs work and how they
may work better for some patients in particular. The caveat for this argument was that there
would be a significant time investment into proper dosing by the nursing staff assigned to the
case and that they should not be used as a primary treatment. While making this stance it was
important to properly cite all of my sources so that none of the information would get confused.
This was also important when formulating where there needs to be further research. There was
a discontinuity between two of the sources as to when patients should be taken off Adenosine
and something else should be tried. This difference allowed me to suggest that more research
should be done in the future to check this discrepancy since it was not the purpose of these
papers but merely mentioned in the discussion whereas in the literature review that purpose
was to expose the differences between these published documents. I took a contentious topic
and engaged it through dialogue between sources to present an informed perspective on the

These sources were all peer reviewed documents specifically pertaining to cardiology
studies or pharmacology from The Journal of Pediatrics, The New England Journal of Medicine,
or similar well respected sources published in the past six months to a year for the most part.
The main source I used to look further into the topic was from The Journal of Pediatrics that
examined unstable SVT in pediatric patients because it showed what the various treatment
plans for most of the patients in the data set. This lead me to my other sources that looked at a
similar topic in the adult population and the differential diagnoses that lead to the specific
choices in drugs. These findings directed me from journal articles to case studies so that I could
get a much more in depth look at the thought processes behind why certain drugs were used
over others. From these different perspective I was able to add nuance to my position because
now I had specific examples where the typical treatments were not working, and had access to
the differential treatments used along with their effectiveness in one particular case, rather than
a grouping of cases with different patients.

These sources were very dense in medical terminology and information that those who
are new to the field need to do a lot of background reading in. In order to use my sources for the
literature review I needed to do a lot of extracurricular reading on the processes and data
gathering techniques that were used in order to better present the information in the most
knowledgeable fashion. Once this was completed I could look at the sources and extract the
necessary information from the figures and statistical analysis and present them as someone
with my level of skill being a novice would understand them.

In the process of my writing for this course I was able to employ a peer editing process
that helped me dissect how best to improve my writing from an initial draft to a final product.
This was particularly evident in the literature review. At first I revised my own work by creating
the initial draft and then changing a few things for clarity but I really got some of the best
feedback on my work from one of my peers. Professor Richard gave me some feedback on the
draft that said the thoughts presented did not feel linear or in a way that read confusingly. My
peer reviewer actually went through each and every paragraph and gave a one line summation
of what she felt that every paragraph was saying and then color coded it and gave suggestions
at to what order she felt that she wanted the information so that it would make the most sense to
her in a color coded paragraph. From this I was able to see what an unbiased and unfamiliar
reader would see and how I could restructure the paragraphs and the overall order to give a
more unhampered presentation. I also modeled my paper off of one of the articles that I sourced
at her suggestion by putting in section headings and upon doing this I could see more clearly
where the reader would organize their thoughts and makes for an easier reading experience.
The information is disseminated into categories that the reader can use as a mental checklist
that permits better recognition of the presented information.

In return for this much needed perspective I was able to provide them with some
assistance on a later paper where they wanted to start bridging the gap between Christianity
and the scientific community. She felt like she needed more specific examples to use when
presenting her paper but did not really know where. Upon reading I felt that the lack of examples
really spoke to how the issue is not ready for open discussion of specific examples as the
audience will only find contention in these points which will only hurt the cause that she was
trying to bring attention to. Instead I suggested on using this platform to open a dialogue by
demonstrating how these two viewpoints are not in opposition but are different spokes on a

The peer review process also opened up conversations between myself and those
whom I was sharing my papers with. We came from vastly different regions and backgrounds
and both had a lot to offer in terms of perspective. From working in emergency medicine I have
had the wonderful opportunity to meet and talk with many different people in immensely different
walks and parts of life. I was able to offer my experiences and they were able to offer theirs.
This helped both of us grow as writers as we are limited by what we know and can read about,
having a conversation with another person is how I feel we can best grow. This course allowed
for a lot of open conversation with my peers and a healthy dialogue with Professor Richard that
really fostered my development as a writer.

This course really helped me to take a step back and reflect on all that I have done with
my education. I am now a member of the scientific community that can actively contribute. I am
not only a student who can report what I found in an article, but someone who can draw
conclusions based on evidence and point out where I feel the research should be headed. I
found that my strengths come in presenting complicated scientific information in a way that can
easily be read. My op ed about vaccines demonstrated this by taking ingredients and journal
articles and showing the main points, while still remaining accurate, to parents of newborns
trying to make the choice of whether or not to vaccinate their children. As I progress as a writer I
need to continue to develop my own scientific voice to gain more knowledge and clinical
credibility which will come with time. In the meantime this course has taught me where to find
articles that will continue to develop me as a writer and I will continue to read these throughout
my professional career in order to constantly shape my voice in writing.