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NLM Director’s Comments Transcript
Joye Patterson – Pioneer in Teaching Science Journalism: 05/07/2012

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D. senior staff National Library of Medicine for Donald Lindberg, M.D, the Director of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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We say goodbye and send our sincerest condolences to the friends and family of Joye Patterson Ph.D., a pioneer in teaching science journalism, who helped inspire NLM’s Director’s Comments podcast.

Dr. Patterson, 86, was a professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism from 1969-1989 and a frequent consultant to the National Science Foundation and the National Library of Medicine. Dr. Patterson died recently in Columbia, MO., where she lived for more than 50 years. 

Dr. Patterson (among others) encouraged the launch of Director’s Comments in 2006 by noting a need for NLM to put biomedical research findings in context and simultaneously help listeners use MedlinePlus.gov.

Joye’s interest to improve everyone’s understanding of medical research—as well as to help you become more resourceful—were an extension of the pedagogical skills and leadership that distinguished her career.

Dr. Patterson reinvented science and medical journalism university courses in the 1970s by integrating three topics within the same class. In her science journalism courses, students learned different styles of reporting (such as hard news and profiles of scientists), how to find evidence-based resources and appropriate sources quickly, as well as exposure to the latest research about communicating science to non-scientists.

Although the science writing classes Carl Sagan taught at Cornell University in the 1980s often are ascribed as a contemporary pedagogical model, Dr. Sagan said he drew heavily on Dr. Patterson’s syllabi and experiences to develop his courses and teaching approach.

Dr. Sagan also often credited Dr. Patterson for her efforts to elevate the professional development of science journalists. Both the late Dr. Sagan and Dr. Patterson were active in the National Association of Science Writers, an organization that enhances journalistic standards.

During a session at the 2012 Association of Health Care Journalists meeting just after her death, Dr. Patterson additionally was remembered for her efforts to help journalists gain access to research and scientists, and use quality resources (such as MedlinePlus.gov) to find information quickly.

In addition, Joye was way ahead of her time in fostering what today is called ‘health literacy.’ As the public information director for Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis, TN. from 1950-1960, she revamped the public affairs office to cooperate with area journalists, trained physicians and researchers how to speak to the press and public, and changed some of the signage into plain English so patients could find treatment services.

Dr. Patterson also excelled as a mentor. Professor Janet Hopson, a veteran science writer who teaches at San Francisco State University, recently told the Columbia Missourian (and we quote): ‘(Dr. Patterson) held everyone to high standards but she was so supportive’ (end of quote).

Hopson also told the Missourian how Joye’s concern about the social responsibilities of writers and educators to foster the public understanding of science, medicine, and health influenced all those who knew her.

Fittingly, the Missouri School of Journalism’s Smith-Patterson Fellowship & Lecture Series (that provides scholarships and programs about the public understanding of science and biomedicine) is co-named for Joye.

Dr. Patterson was a friend of Dr. Lindberg and his family --  and was a role model to me. We salute the character, career, and legacy of an innovator who helped so many of us better understand science, health, and medicine.

MedlinePlus.gov’s evaluating health information health topic page especially reflects one of Dr. Patterson’s enthusiasms. A link in the ‘overviews’ section (from the Medical Library Association) helps you understand how to find and evaluate medical information. A video tutorial from NLM (in the ‘tutorials’ section) helps you evaluate the credibility of web-based health resources.

MedlinePlus.gov’s evaluating health information health topic page additionally contains links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. From the evaluating health information health topic page, you can sign up to receive email updates with links to new information as it becomes available on MedlinePlus.

To find MedlinePlus.gov’s evaluating health information health topic page, type ‘evaluating health information’ in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov’s home page, then, click on ‘Evaluating Health Information (National Library of Medicine).’

MedlinePlus.gov also contains related health topic pages on health literacy, and understanding medical research (that also reflect Dr. Patterson’s diverse interests).

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We encourage you to use MedlinePlus and please recommend it to your friends. MedlinePlus is available in English and Spanish. Some medical information is available in 43 other languages.

Your comments about this or any of our podcasts are always welcome. We welcome suggestions about future topics too!

Please email Dr. Lindberg anytime at: NLMDirector@nlm.nih.gov

That's NLMDirector (one word) @nlm.nih.gov

A written transcript of recent podcasts is available by typing 'Director's comments' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page.

The National Library of Medicine is one of 27 institutes and centers within the National Institutes of Health. The National Institutes of Health is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

A disclaimer – the information presented in this program should not replace the medical advice of your physician. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease without first consulting with your physician or other health care provider. I want to take the opportunity to wish you a very happy holiday season and a healthy New Year. The National Library of Medicine and the 'Director's Comments' podcast staff, including Dr. Lindberg, appreciate your interest and company – and we hope to find new ways to serve you in 2012.

I look forward to meeting you here next week.