In NLM news from the Conference…
NIH, NLM, and NN/LM staff and funded research were well represented during the first poster session, with projects running the gamut from high school outreach to disaster management. In Sunday’s first poster session, there were 13 NLM funded projects on display.
Of particular interest was the poster “Contributing to History: Our Role in the Work of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues,” authored by Alicia A. Livinski and Nancy Lee Terry of the NIH Library, National Institutes of Health. In 2010, President Obama tasked the PCSBI with looking into a 1946-48 NIH-funded study which infected “undesirable” Guatemalans with STDs in order to test the efficacy of cures. Ultimately, 83 people died.
The STD inoculation study was an incidental discovery in papers associated with Dr John Cutler – also notable for his ethically dubious syphilis studies with the Tuskegee airmen. Both Livinski and Terry performed literature review and research to assist with the NIH’s review, published in 2011: http://bioethics.gov/sites/default/files/Ethically-Impossible_PCSBI.pdf.
The research is particularly pertinent given the heavy use of foreign clinical testing sites by modern pharmaceutical companies (80% in 2008), with very little auditing by the FDA (0.7% in 2008) (Levinson). These historical scandals are mirrored in cases like Pfizer’s Trovan (Nigeria) or Depo-Provera (Zimbabwe).
On a lighter, but equally important note, the NLM also funded “Project Share: Empowering Student Community Health Advocates” at the University of Maryland’s Health and Human Services Library. The project, spearheaded by Anna Tatro, Alexa Mayo, and M.J. Tooey worked to empower high school students at Vivien T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy by training them to become health advocates. The students were chosen based on interest, rather than academic merit, with a retention rate of 58% in the first cohort and an amazing 91% in the second cohort. The first two phases were so successful that they were able to secure funding for the third phase – establishing a curriculum – through a SE/A RML grant.
Tatro, Mayo, and Tooey were not only able to successfully establish fledgling health advocates. Through the mentor/mentee relationship, they were also able to impact the lives of the students they worked with.