I am a lifelong writer and reporter, published since age 15. I’m currently working on my 32nd year as a happily self-employed med/sci writer specializing in neurosciences and mental health AND my first year as a happily part-time/remote-employed science writer for Harvard Catalyst, the NIH-funded clinical and translational research center at Harvard.
I founded my consultancy, ScienceWRITE Medical Communications, in 1989. Before that, I survived a decade in New York City Big-Agency public relations, managing marketing campaigns in pharmaceutical and nutritional clients. Those years laid a groundwork for appreciating the science, if you will, of truly strategic communications, knowledge that informs my writing to this day, nearly four decades later.
Tackling big, complex subjects in neuroscience in a news-you-can-use way has been a mainstay of my writing over three decades.
The Brain Beat is a new venture, and I hope you will follow along as we follow the science that is unraveling the deepest mysteries of the brain.
I am a reporter.
I am a journalist.
I am a science writer.
I am a blogger.
I am a translator of complex medical and science subjects into news you can use to better your life.
I am an editor.
I am a wordsmith.
I am a fact-checker.
I am a grammarphile.
I am a strategic communicator of health and medical information for lay and professional audiences.
I am a writer.
Among these interwoven roles, when someone asks me what I do, I mostly say I’m a freelance science writer. Boiling it down more, I’m a writer. Period.
I’ve always been a writer. My first job, at 15, was writing a high school events column for The Weekly News, the local community newspaper in the remote Northeast Kingdom of Vermont where I grew up. I worked my way through the journalism program at St. Michael’s College by writing press releases and fluff for the alumni magazine in the college’s Public Information office and interning at the local Catholic newspaper (my parents loved that).
I studied journalism and poli sci because I fancied being a political reporter or even a war correspondent. But it was the 80’s and the ERA failed to pass, so instead I got married and took a job as a secretary at a big ad agency in New York City. I cut my teeth in the dog-eat-dog world of Madison Avenue advertising and then settled into a career in strategic communications, managing promotional campaigns for mostly food and pharma clients, including a few big ones, over 10 years. (C.V here)
I eventually extracted myself from the cat-eat-cat world of NYC P.R. and gratefully settled into science writing full time. Those years immersed in marketing, while not always fondly remembered, taught me a lot. Among them: how the right communications directed at the right people can profoundly influence behavior – or not! I also gained a solid grounding in being able to analyze a project’s goals, figure out who needed to get what message in order to move toward those goals, and do it.
Perhaps most importantly, it gave me an inside view into the world of food and pharmaceutical marketing: the good, the bad, and the ugly ways that “influencers” are targeted, tracked and, well, influenced. These learnings have been very informative in my years since as a science writer and shrewd reporter.
Over 30 years, I’ve covered a lot of territory, from menopause to mindfulness, from stem cell frauds to aging successfully, to staying sexually active when you are paralyzed. News writing, backgrounders, investigative pieces, patient information, briefing papers, websites, reports…I am the content person for all of these. Original articles under my own byline are my bread and butter.
Go ahead, google me. Here, let me help. Brenda Patoine
Through it all, neuroscience writing has been a mainstay. I’ve been reporting on neuroscience research for exactly 31 years – since before anyone knew what neuroplasticity was. I’ve interviewed a couple hundred leading neuroscientists, even a few Nobel Laureates. I tend toward tackling big subjects in neuroscience – like consciousness or the mental health impact of Covid – and try to translate complex science into writings for the general public that center the question of “what does this mean to me?”
I never intended to be a neuroscience writer, but I find the field fascinating in myriad ways. And, I think there is value in understanding how the brain works and develops and ages and what happens when something goes wrong and how we can maximize our brain fitness and…so much more. Don’t you?
The Brain Beat, introduced here, is a new venture. In a nutshell, it’s a seasoned neuroscience reporter’s take on the brain news of the day. Along with that will be new writings from across the web, musings, hot topics, Q&A’s and more. Follow along here.