Old Dog, New Tricks
On October 1, 2012 I was thrilled to accept reassignment as Public Health Outreach Coordinator for the Pacific Northwest Region. I had served as the Consumer Health Outreach Coordinator since January of 2003, and was ready to take the skill set and relationships I have built in that position in a new direction. I have always had a heart for Public Health. While in library school I took a Health Services class as an elective from the School of Public health and found it fascinating.
I also did my Directed Fieldwork experience with Neil Rambo while he was on leave from the NN/LM PNR and working at the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice. My project was to contribute web pages (a new-ish concept at the time!) to a portal site that contained information about commonly-encoutered infectious diseases. I was hooked! Another experience I had was to take the Medical Informatics Short Course at Stanford University where several of the attendees were participants in the Public Health Informatics Fellowship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was great to interact with them and hear about their experiences – their enthusiasm certainly rubbed off on me.
Upon graduating from library school, however, I decided to focus on general medical librarianship to start. I had worked as a social worker in long-term care for 15 years and determined that it made sense to apply my background in the health care environment to my new career. I worked in a temporary appointment here at the University of Washington Health Sciences Library and served as co-liaison with Janet Schnall to the School of Nursing and also was liaison to the OB/GYN and Nutrition departments. But, the appointment was temporary, so I had to move on and landed next at Highline Community College Library where I was the Director of Circulation Services for a year and a half. Medical librarianship was calling me back, though, and I saw the opportunity at NN/LM for the Consumer Health Coordinator position. It was a perfect fit for me! I have developed wonderful relationships in the position and have learned so much about outreach to a variety of audiences who need access to quality health information and to improve health literacy in their communities.
Fast forward to the present (well, almost!). Earlier this year, I had the privilege of attending the Biomedical Informatics Course at the Marine Biological Lab at Woods Hole. What a treat to hear from experts from across the country about current projects and trends in Informatics. I was smitten by hearing about Public Health Informatics and about Semantic MEDLINE in particular. My enthusiasm about Public Health and Informatics was re-fueled!
Thanks to the responsiveness of Cathy Burroughs and Tania Bardyn, we were able to craft a plan for me to step into this new role. I will be reaching out to some new audiences (such as the Washington State Public Health Association where I was just exhibiting earlier this week), but also working with groups with which I have interacted in my Consumer Health role too. The Northwest Parish Nurse Ministries is one example. I will also carry forward my lead role in Emergency Preparedness and Response activities in the Pacific Northwest Region, which will entail reaching out the Public Health Responders. And, of course, I would love to hear from you, our Network Members, about any ideas you have!