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Information Treasure Hunt: Supporting Evidence-Based Practice @ Your Institution

This one-day symposium was held on March 2, 2012, at the newly renovated UCLA Library Conference Center, at the Charles E. Young Research Library. Funded by NN/LM PSR to enhance the role of librarians in supporting evidence-based medicine education and practice for health care practitioners, the symposium was organized by the Medical Library Group of Southern California and Arizona (MLGSCA), in cooperation with the Northern California and Nevada Medical Library Group (NCNMLG) and the Hawaii Pacific Chapter, Medical Library Association (HPCMLA). The symposium planning committee was chaired by Lisa Marks, Library Services Supervisor, Providence St. Joseph Medical Center, Burbank. Roughly sixty enthusiastic attendees came to hear featured speaker Connie Schardt’s presentation highlighting the key types of clinical study designs, along with their strengths and weaknesses. She also thoroughly explained the terminology used to describe the results of clinical trials, as well as the criteria for judging the validity of therapy studies and systematic reviews. Ms. Schardt, who holds the position of Associate Director for Public Services at the Medical Center Library at Duke University, is a nationally recognized expert in the field. Other invited speakers included Cheryl Bartel, former UCLA librarian and current nurse for the Lake Elsinore School District, and Robert Johnson, clinical services librarian at the USC Norris Medical Library.

Image of class at the 2012 MLGSCA Symposium

The session began with an examination of the “evidence pyramid,” a hierarchy of study design methods, such as case reports, case control studies, cohort studies, and randomized controlled trials. Ms. Schardt reviewed the methodological rigor of each study design, and whether the timeline used to measure outcomes looked forward or backwards. This was followed by an interactive discussion highlighting tips for searching PubMed for particular study types using either MeSH or the “publication type” indicator. Ms. Schardt suggested ways to tailor search techniques in our own libraries to obtain the best clinical evidence, by customizing PubMed filters and utilizing clues in citations, such as the “JC” designation, indicating that the reference is from the ACP Journal Club, which summarizes the best new evidence for internal medicine from over 130 clinical journals. The discussion was followed by small group exercises, providing attendees the opportunity to review selected articles and critically appraise the effectiveness of the type of study design used to conduct the research. Ms. Schardt then covered statistical analysis in the context of searching for and evaluating systematic reviews, presenting criteria for appraising articles that attendees then used in small group discussions of selected articles. This technique was very effective in pushing symposium attendees to think critically about the types of research questions asked and whether or not the study methodology was appropriate.

Image of Connie Schardt and class at the 2012 MLGSCA Symposium

The next part of the symposium featured Ms. Bartel and Mr. Johnson leading a discussion of using qualitative techniques in research design. This session emphasized the subjectivity of human nature and how qualitative theoretical frameworks necessitate constant evaluation of study results. We again used small groups as a way to discuss selected articles, to provide an analysis of the context of the study, the research design, the demographics of the study population and whether or not the study conclusions were valid. At the end of the day, the three presenters provided a joint summary of the practical applications of evidence-based practice. The information-packed day gave attendees many take-home points, including a better understanding of research projects and study designs, techniques for better filtering of search results, and the importance of a comprehensive reference interview so the research question can be effectively and readily analyzed.

To expand the scope and relevance of the event for attendees, the symposium also featured a Virtual Poster presentation, possibly the first time an MLA chapter has conducted such a session. Poster proposals were submitted in advance of the symposium to a selection committee of eleven people, who then selected eight posters, which were looped together in a PowerPoint display, and shown during breaks and over lunch. PDF versions of the posters are available for viewing and commentary with the authors on the MLGSCA Link newsletter. An additional account of the entire day’s proceedings, written by MLGSCA member Ellen Aaronson, was published in the August 2012 issue of the MLA News.

Thanks are due to everyone involved in the planning and implementation of this program! It was an overwhelming success, and will hopefully lead to additional similar events, which will continue to benefit the NN/LM Pacific Southwest Region.

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