Family Doctor Turned Writer: A True Story

Posted on Thursday, September 12, 2019

By: Dr. Liezl Duff

Dr. Liezl Duff

Dr. Liezl Duff

People say, “the beginning is always the hardest part.” 

This quote has proven true many times in my life: the time I played guitar, the time I rode a bicycle, the time I traveled alone, the first day of medical school, the first patient in the emergency room, the first 24-hour duty in the hospital, the first winter in Canada and the first time I tried medical writing.

My name is Liezl Duff and I am a doctor turned writer.

A few years back, after I passed the medical board exam, I worked as a volunteer community doctor for the homeless people in the Philippines. It was (and is) my lifelong passion to work for the underprivileged through medical missions. But life is always full of surprises; sometimes you might end up where you never thought you would be.

When I met Dr. Kevin Pottie, after migrating to Canada, I found an instant connection with his work on refugees and homeless populations. Not only did I find a work that lines up with my original intention, but I also found a new aspiration: to write and edit medical articles.

Writing, for me, is like talking to a patient; you want to write in a way that people can understand. Arthur E. Rowes said, “What matters nowadays is no longer whether people speak or write correctly; it’s whether they make sense and are understood." As a doctor, you have to explain medical diagnosis and treatment to your patients in a way that they can appreciate. In Medical Writing, you talk about the same things, but only in a written format.

To find the perfect tone, to get the right syntax, and to arrange multiple ideas, are tricky. There are many rules and formats you must be aware of—active and passive voice, subject-verb tenses, dangling modifiers, punctuations, phrasing, and citations. It's like seeing surgical instruments for the first time—you have to know its names and its uses—so when the surgeon asks—you will know which one to pick up.

I may still be at the beginning of my journey to finding my niche, but I am looking forward hopefully to making an impact through writing.

Dr. Liezl Duff is a Medical Writer and Editor-in-training at the Bruyère Research Institute.

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