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NLM Director’s Comments Transcript
NLM’s Past 30 Years and Future: 06/23/2014

Picture of Dr. Lindberg
Sailboat with the NIH/NLM logo
Photo: Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.

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.

Here is what's new this week in MedlinePlus.listen

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

Here is what’s new this week in MedlinePlus.

Some insights from pioneers about NLM’s key contributions to medical research and practice – as well as products that provide health information to the public - were among the highlights of a recent, day-long symposium at the National Institutes of Health.

A current MedlinePlus staff member told about 250 attendees the original 22 health topics selected for MedlinePlus.gov in 1998 emerged from information requests by users of other NLM services.

Terry Ahmed, NLM’s Public Services Division, said consumer interest in a health information service written and designed for non-experts similarly stimulated MedlinePlus’ growth into the more than 900 health care topics that are now available on the website.

Ahmed added one of MedlinePlus’ current challenges is to customize its services for persons who use mobile devices to access the Internet for health information. Ahmed reported recent national research suggests for the first time that more than half of the traffic on the Internet is derived from mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets.

Catherine DeAngelis M.D., former editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, told the audience how she spearheaded a 2004 effort to encourage researchers and pharmaceutical companies to register trials in NLM’s clinicaltrials.gov. DeAngelis explained she decided to counter the then-glacial pace of trial registration by persuading the editors of ten other major medical journals (the members of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors) to require clinical trial registration (in international trial registries) as a requirement before articles could be considered for peer review and publication. 

DeAngelis told the crowd (and we quote) ’11 editors agreeing on anything is a miracle’ (end of quote). DeAngelis recalled her surprise when all her peers quickly agreed — and even took an unprecedented action. All 11 journals agreed to jointly announce their decision via the same editorial, which was published simultaneously in mid-September 2004.

Incidentally, about three years later the U.S. Congress required researchers to register all trials within clinicaltrials.gov.

In a talk some attendees relished, Anita Jones Ph.D. explained how the contemporary Internet evolved. While today Dr. Jones is a professor emeritus at the University of Virginia, in the 1990s she was an official at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that developed the Internet’s early standards.

Jones explained the Internet as we know it today was created by four events; the transfer of the DARPA Internet service to the National Science Foundation, the creation of the U.S. President’s Initiative on High Performance Computing and Communication in the early 1990s, the latter committee’s recommendation for open, public access to the Internet, and influential, bi-partisan, political support for the idea.

In an overview of NLM’s contributions to health care providers, researchers, and the public, Louis Sullivan M.D., the former director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, called NLM (and we quote): ‘the jewel in the crown of the U.S. public health service’ (end of quote). Dr. Sullivan especially praised MedlinePlus.gov and noted (and we quote): ‘the information on the site is a prescription for good medicine’ (end of quote). 

Sullivan noted NLM’s services for health care providers and researchers, such as PubMed and Entrez Gene, and services for the public, such as MedlinePlus.gov and clinicaltrials.gov, provide a foundation for anyone to find authoritative, commercial free, health and medical information anywhere in the world.

Sullivan warmly thanked and challenged Dr. Lindberg and the NLM staff to match their success in the next three decades. Many of the seminar’s visiting speakers made similar remarks. 

Overall, while the event (which was sponsored by the Friends of the National Library of Medicine, NLM’s Board of Regents, and the Medical Library Association) provided many highlights about NLM’s leadership, products, and services during the past 30 years, some of the discussion provided suggestions about future improvements.

For example, one attendee noted NLM should supplement access to research articles and data about clinical research with topic-pertinent wisdom provided by practicing physicians.

I should add the event’s timing was to celebrate the 30th year of Dr. Lindberg’s tenure as NLM’s director and to kick off NLM’s next long range planning cycle.

While it was inspirational to hear diverse public health and medical leaders praise NLM’s activities, each speaker noted this is no time for NLM to rest on its laurels. As one speaker concluded, NLM’s ongoing challenges are to remain authoritative, nimble, and innovative.

All the talks mentioned here as well as the symposium’s other speeches and discussion are available at NIH’s videocast website. To find it, just type ‘NIH videocast’ in the search box of any web browser, and search for ‘NLM 1984-2014: Voyaging to the future: A symposium.’ NLM also just created a blog for health care professionals, the public, and you to provide input about NLM’s future plans. Blog access is available at: ‘nlmvoyagingtothefuture.org.’

Before I go, this reminder… MedlinePlus.gov is authoritative. It's free. We do not accept advertising …and is written to help you.

To find MedlinePlus.gov, just type in 'MedlinePlus.gov' in any web browser, such as Firefox, Safari, Netscape, Chrome or Explorer. To find Mobile MedlinePlus.gov, just type 'Mobile MedlinePlus' in the same web browsers.

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.

It was nice to be with you. I look forward to meeting you here next week.