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The Future of NLM’s Biomedical Informatics Course

Posted by on October 17th, 2017 Posted in: NLM Products, Training


For 24 years, since the creation of the cutting edge, week-long NLM Biomedical Informatics Course in 1992, its instructional staff offered an immersion into an initially new, yet still rapidly growing research area that blended library, engineering, computer, and biomedical sciences and had real-life applications, such as clinical decision support. But after a quarter century of progress, NLM is re-imagining the course’s future and envisioning new ways to educate librarians and informaticists, considering the Library’s increasing work with data science and biomedicine.

When the course began, there were few options for people interested in the nexus of health and computing. Recognizing the gap, Donald A. B. Lindberg, MD, then-director of the National Library of Medicine, conceived the course, bringing together professionals to learn about medical informatics from experts in the field. Initially offered once a year, the course later expanded to two times each year to accommodate growing interest. It was first hosted by the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and then moved to Young Harris, Georgia, in 2014, where it was hosted by the faculty and staff of Augusta University.

Over the years, NLM and its partners introduced more than 1,600 participants—librarians, physicians, nurses, dieticians, and educators—to biomedical informatics. The course altered participants’ career directions, expanded their ability to impact their own institutions, and changed the field of biomedical informatics itself. One study found the course influenced participants’ engagement with information technology-related activities, such as selection and training; shaped their development of undergraduate and graduate informatics curricula; and encouraged their own continuing education. Participants also found their own credibility in the field changed for the better at their home institution.

Over two decades, an established biomedical informatics community took root, with formal coursework, self-study, continuing education, and other professional development options, largely due to the seeds planted by the course and other NLM training efforts. Now Rex Robison, head of the Training and Outreach Unit in Library Operations at NLM, is leading a group to shape a successor to the NLM Biomedical Informatics Course. The restructuring process will take into account NLM’s strengths and goals, as well as the needs of the biomedical library and informatics communities.

The group is looking forward to developing the next iteration of this legendary course, while preserving at least one of its key characteristics. Robison, a 2013 alumnus of the course, hopes to maintain its collegial aspects so students can establish connections with each other and with NLM.

How would you like to see the course evolve? To submit comments and feedback, visit this NLM in Focus posting.

Image of the author ABOUT Alan Carr
Alan Carr is the Associate Director, National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Pacific Southwest Region, based at UCLA.

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This project is funded by the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, under Cooperative Agreement Number UG4LM012341 with the UCLA Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library.

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