Posts with category - Plenary Sessions

Plenary Session 4 – Professional Identity Reshaped and Anna Deavere Smith

MLA 2014 has come to close.  I sit at O’Hare awaiting my flight.  The final day is always bittersweet but hats off to the NPC for having a kick-ass final Plenary Session.  Plenary 4 was a two part session this last day of the conference.  I found it inspiring and heartwarming.  (Sorry for the delay of the actual posting of this article – O’Hare does NOT have free wifi and my flight was delayed.)

Plenary Session 4.1 – Professional Identity Reshaped

A four person panel discussion done living room style was the first session this morning.  It was a great venue for this conversation.  Elaine Russo Martin started the conversation and asked her friends to talk about various aspects of change in the profession.  Margo Coletti began the conversation discussing her Knowledge Management Services and how they provide organizational support across the system.  Neil Rambo from NYU discussed what the destruction of the library during Superstorm Sandy did for the awareness of the services of the library in a time of major change.  Finally, Jackie Wirz from OHSU talked about her move from the lab to the library as a PhD in biochemistry working within the library as an informationist.  I couldn’t possible do these fabulous speakers justice in a blog post.  My recommendation is that MLA consider allowing all of the members of MLA to watch this session regardless of going to Chicago or buying the online attendance.  It was great advice for all of us about change and the necessity of it in order to stay relevant in our institutions.

Plenary Session 4.2 – Anna Deavere Smith

Professor, actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith presented the last plenary of MLA 2014.  Her research and work centers around communicating the stories (oral histories if you will) of people around the world.  Her play “Let me down easy” was a collection of personal encounters people had regarding healthcare.  Performing in character, Ms. Smith told the story of a cancer patient at Yale, a resident who was at Charity Hospital during Katrina and the medical battle of former Texas governor Ann Richards among several others.  It was inspiring, it was desperately sad and it was amazing. 

Thank you MLA 2014

Thank you Chicago


No Comments

Plenary 3: Janet Doe Lecture

This year’s Doe Lecturer was Margaret Moylan Bandy, an accomplished and experienced hospital librarian and longtime MLA member.

Though Margaret said she deliberated about whether or how much of her personal journey to share, I’m glad she decided to share about her personal experiences and evolution as a health sciences librarian. After all, hearing about Margaret’s journey IS hearing about the history of our profession since she has lived and experienced so much over the course of her career. We’ve come along way since Margaret had to lug around her 30 pound Texas Instruments Model 725 for MEDLINE searching demonstrations!

Margaret spoke about librarianship as a vocation, not just a profession, a sentiment many in the audience seem to share.

Margaret encouraged us to proactively seek out and maximize opportunities, rather reactively solve problems. Problem solving doesn’t provide results, it prevents issues. Look for those opportunities!

The main crux of her speech was to encourage us to be flexible, be agile and “pivot.” When you pivot, you have the stability and support of the one foot while with the other foot you gain ground. We cannot cling forever to our sacred cows, we have to pivot ourselves into the future to keep relevant (and employed!). Specifically Margaret mentioned two new-ish roles for librarians which she acknowledged aren’t really new, but are taking on ever greater importance and relevance. These roles center around patient safety and health literacy. I thought this was particularly interesting because they echo the recommendations of Dr. Carroll about where there is space for librarians to show their value to their institutions and administrators.

No Comments

A Library Student at MLA ’14 – tweckling, the ACA and other Lessons Learned

Due to my work schedule and family commitments, Sunday was my last day at MLA ’14. Besides being tired from travel and not wanting to write last night, I also put off posting my report on my third day at MLA because I didn’t want to post this right after Kelly Thormodson’s “And it begins!” post. Although I learned a lot and experienced a lot in three packed days, I think my goal for the next MLA will be to take it a bit slower and perhaps spend more time on fewer things.

That being said I guess I have to tackle the Big Issue we all considered yesterday as we listened to Dr. Aaron E. Carroll deliver the John P. McGovern Award lecture, “The Affordable Care Act: Health Care Reform Is Far From Over.” Over the past few years I have learned not to bring up Obamacare on social media unless I am prepared for never-ending and frustrating debates with some guy I went to high school with and my wife’s second cousin’s friend. If my Facebook interactions are even a skewed measure of how people understand and feel about the current state of healthcare in America, then this lecture is still timely even four years after Obamacare became law.

As Dr. Carroll spoke, I began to understand why healthcare is such a big issue. As his graphs showed (and everyone retweeted and tweckled), we don’t have a spending problem or a social security problem we have a healthcare problem. Once again I fell into my MLA ’14 pitfall of trying furiously to understand, take notes and tweet about what I was learning all at the same time.  (Wait, was that smoke coming from the touch screen of my iPad??!!) Finally I sat back and just began to listen to what Dr. Carroll was saying. I agree with Rachel Harrison’s blog entry below, that his explanation of Obamacare was the most clear cut and fact-based explanation I have heard to date. His rule of threes, from the Iron Triangle of Cost, Quality and Access to his Three Legged Stool of Regulations, Individual Mandate and Subsidies helped to make a complex and emotional issue more rational and understandable.  His lecture gave me a clear overview of the challenges we face as healthcare professionals and a new rational voice to listen to.

I wish I could say that after my first experience at MLA ’14 I am now a master at statistics, electronic health records, iPad apps and the Affordable Care Act. Was I too ambitious in my goal setting, perhaps? But what can I say? Like a good librarian I gathered and organized my resources (or I will be this week).  So now I have an answer to the following questions:

Q: Where would I go for a primer on how to assess statistics published in medical journals?
A: Steve Simon’s retro webpage at and his book “Statistical Evidence in Medical Trials: Mountain or Molehill, What Do the Data Really Tell Us?

Q: I want to see what a typical Electronic Health Record System (EHR) looks like, but my hospital won’t give me access. How can I find out what EHRs are all about?
A: Set up a free account and enter some fictitious patients in Practice Fusion and see what functions are common to most EHRs, without worrying about HIPAA or institutional red-tape.

Q: I want to jump on the bandwagon and really use my iPad. What free apps are out there for Medical Professionals?
A: Start with the National Library of Medicine’s “Gallery of Mobile Apps and Sites

Q: My sister’s friend’s uncle says Obamacare will ruin this country. Where can I go to read the latest information from an expert?
A: Try The Incidental Economist blog (Affordable Care Act tag) where Dr. Aaron Carroll is an Editor.

Q: Can you beat @TonyNguyen411 at silly selfies?
A: No!

Q: What is tweckling?

So for all you #medlibs and fellow library students still in Chicago, don’t be afraid to jump into the deep end of the pool with the big kids. Have fun, and learn a lot but remember to pace yourselves. There are more MLA’s coming: Austin, Toronto, Seattle, Atlanta and back in Chi-town in 2019! I know I’ll be there next time!

No Comments

Plenary Session 2: McGovern Lecture

This year’s McGovern Lecturer was Dr. Aaron E. Carroll, a renowned pediatrician and preeminent expert on healthcare economics and healthcare reform.

Dr. Carroll devoted the first half an hour or so of his talk to a stark dose of reality. In the United States, we spend an astronomical sum on healthcare, outspending on a per capita basis every other member country of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), but we still have incredibly poor access to care and, “at best” average outcomes. This means we’re not maximizing any aspect of the “Iron Triangle.”

The Iron Triangle

In the next segment of his talk, Dr. Carroll did an admirable job of explaining the fundamentals of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). For all that I’ve read, watched, listened and heard about the ACA since it was signed into law two years ago, this was by far the most clear cut, reasonably, and fact-based explanation I have heard to date. The three fundamental aspects of the healthcare reform are:

1. Regulation – The requirement that insurance companies must provide insurance to those with pre-existing conditions without charging higher rates for premiums and deductibles.
2. Individual Mandate – The requirement that all individuals purchase health insurance.
3. Subsidies – The requirement that the government will help fund insurance for those who can’t afford it.

Dr. Carroll explains that the three main tenets of the law form a three legged stool, meaning that all three must be present in order for the law to be practical and successful. If any one is removed, the whole thing collapses.

One of the main points emphasized by Dr. Carroll is that everyone–hospitals, medical device companies, physicians and those all throughout the healthcare ecosystem–is increasingly being asked to do more with less. This pressure actually represents an opportunity for medical librarians, since we can play a vital role in saving care providers’ time and informing their patient care decisions.


1 Comment

And it begins!

Hello all – and welcome to MLA 2014 and the Annual Meeting here in Chicago, the windy and sometimes snowy city.  The meeting kicked off this morning with a welcome from our President Dixie Jones.  The theme this year is “Building Our Information Future” a play on the great buildings and architecture of Chicago.  I was excited to hear about a couple of “firsts” at this annual meeting.  This is the first meeting to have a closing Party with a Purpose.  A silent auction ongoing now in the registration area of the conference center will be capped off with a live auction of 5 top donated items at Tuesday evening’s MLA party with the proceeds going to the MLA Scholarship Fund, the Section Project of the Year Fund and the Chicago adult literacy organization Literacy Works.  Another first at this meeting,  a flipped paper session!  The Educational Media and Technologies Section is conducting this experiment on Sunday afternoon with the presenters sending out their presentation in advance to be watched by the attendees and with the full presentation being a discussion of the in actual session.

The welcome address concluded with a nod to retiring execute director Carla Funk, whom received a standing ovation.  Thanks for everything Carla.


No Comments

Plenary Session 1: Welcome and Presidential Address

The opening plenary session this morning did a great job of kicking off the conference and setting the stage for all of the great posters and sessions to come over the next few days. I particularly liked the quote from the Midwest Chapter representative in her welcome speech: “Make no little plans, they have no magic to stir men’s blood.” These next few days are all about dreaming big, thinking big and acting big. That’s the only way we can build a robust information future for ourselves and those we serve. I also loved President Dixie Jones’s description of librarians as, “people who would like to make the world a better place.” Librarianship is, at its very core, a service profession.

For those who were unable to attend the session, here it a list of the 2013-2014 MLA Presidential Priorities:
1. Advocacy
2. Research
3. Education & Mentoring
4. Ethics
5. History

I like that these priorities don’t stand in isolation from one another, but rather are intertwined in interesting ways. For example, the Ethical Awareness Task Force conducted a survey about members’ awareness of the MLA Code of Ethics, the results of which will be published in the October edition of JMLA, thereby interconnecting the Research and Ethics priorities.

Dixie also gave special mention to the first ever flipped program, going on at MLA this year. What I find compelling about the flipped session is that it is analogous to the “flipped classroom” concept that is becoming increasingly common in medical schools across the country. This is a way is creating a shared experience with our users, thereby better understanding and being able to better serve our user communities. (Another example of this is how the medical library community is increasingly focusing on have an evidence basis for our decision making, by, for instance, using instructions techniques that have been proven to be effective or showing the value of medical libraries by relying on studies that prove their effectiveness.)

Thanks to Dixie Jones for her service as MLA’s President. And a special thanks to Carla Funk, Whois retiring this year after serving as MLA’s Executive Director since 1992. Carla received a well deserved standing ovation during the opening plenary session. Thank you, Carla!

No Comments

Planning for the Plenaries

With so many great keynote speakers lined up for this year’s plenary sessions, a little preparation will go a long way towards getting the most out of the plenary sessions.  Here are some suggestions for how you can prepare.

Reading the information available in the conference program and on the conference website is a great start, but that information represents only a selection of the speaker’s career, areas of interest, and accomplishments.  To learn more about the speakers, a simple Google search is a great way to start.  Taking Anna Deavere Smith as an example, there are entries for her in Wikipedia and the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).  Furthermore, Ms. Smith gave a TED Talk in 2007 that is freely available on the web.  Each of this year’s speakers has a similarly rich web presence.

Anna Deavere Smith GoogleSearch

Before you leave Google, be sure to toggle over to the Videos results tab.  While Anna Devere Smith’s TED Talk surfaced on the initial Google results page, Dr. Adam Carroll’s “Colbert Report” appearance only appeared once I clicked over to view the Videos results. Further videos of Dr. Carroll are available on his blog, The Incidental Economist, as part of the Healthcare Triage series of posts.

Your next stop after Google should be PubMed.  Dr. Carroll and MLA’s own Margaret Moylan Bandy have both published fairly extensively. Even if your institution does not license all the journals in which these authors have published, you can still access some of their work, as they both have freely available articles accessible in PubMed Central.

Lastly, the full production of Anna Devere Smith’s play Let Me Down Easy is viewable on the PBS Great Performances site at the following link:

Let Me Down Easy on Great Performances

(A quick note about the link: It seems to be problematic in Firefox, generating a “Plugin not found” message, but works just fine in Internet Explorer and Chrome, so I would recommend using one of those browsers.)

If you don’t have time to watch the full 1:54 performance, several great clips from the performance are available on YouTube.

Happy reading and watching.  See you at the plenaries!

No Comments