When he joined NLM as Director in 1984, Dr. Lindberg predicted that computers would become increasingly useful in biomedical research and patient care, medical informatics would emerge as a formal research field and academic discipline, and progress in cancer research and molecular biology would become a matter of immediate personal concern. A consummate planner, he took a long view by developing long-range plans for NLM that helped him deliver on his predictions. Under his leadership, NLM embraced the Internet, enabling the public, health providers, and scientists gain new or improved access to medical literature via PubMed and PubMed Central; clinical trials and their results via ClinicalTrials.gov; and consumer health information via MedlinePlus. He played an integral role in the establishment of the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a division of NLM that provides access to biomedical and genomic information. He also served as the first director of the government-wide Office of High-Performance Computing and Communications.
Dr. Lindberg was incredibly well read, in medicine and beyond. A discussion about one of NLM’s many products and services would inevitably be informed by insight from the latest book he was reading about history, sailing, or the latest medical breakthrough. His thirst for knowledge made him ideally suited to lead the largest biomedical library in the world. Dr. Lindberg came to NLM after a distinguished career at the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he was a pioneer in applying computer technology to health care. Trained as a pathologist, he reinvented himself to become a leader in the use of computers in medicine. He helped establish the American Medical Informatics Association and became its founding president. He made notable global contributions to information and computer science activities for information used in medical diagnosis, artificial intelligence, and educational programs. The Medical Library Association (MLA) awarded Dr. Lindberg Honorary Membership in 2013 and established the Donald A. B. Lindberg Research Fellowship in 2003. His MLA oral history was published in 2016.
Dr. Lindberg created programs that changed fundamentally the way biomedical information is collected, shared, and analyzed. He will be remembered for his outstanding leadership, his vision and passion for transforming access to medical information, and as a civil servant who was committed to excellence, transparency, integrity, and public trust. Current NLM Director Patti Brennan remembers Dr. Lindberg as a visionary giant with a personal touch.