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Project Spotlight: Vaccines, Epidemics and Ethics

Guest author: Kate Krause, Digital Projects and Institutional Repository Coordinator, Texas Medical Center Library, Houston, Texas

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The Texas Medical Center Library received the Regional Symposium Award from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, South Central Region (NN/LM SCR) in 2012 to expand our annual Medical Ethics lecture series.

The Regional Symposium Award enabled us to expand from one lecture in one auditorium to a year-long series of six lectures at four venues. The series was on Vaccines, Epidemics, and Ethics, a very pertinent topic in Texas right now with many new research programs and faculty. The award allowed us to attract national speakers, host an archival exhibit, and advertise the events. We also were able to promote a fun interactive quiz for students to learn how to use National Library of Medicine (NLM) databases.

Rear Admiral Anne Schuchat, M.D.One of the speakers was Rear Admiral Anne Schuchat, M.D. Acting director of the CDC’s Center for Global Health. National Center for Immunization and Diseases.  Actress Kate Winslet’s Oscar-winning character in the film Contagion is modeled after Schuchat.

We learned a lot during the course of the year. Our main take-aways were:

  • It’s difficult to plan a year-long event. Airfare and other prices change, lecturers change jobs and locations and have to cancel, media contacts change, other campus events are scheduled that compete with our events.
  • One of our speakers changed jobs and cancelled at the last moment. We had to scramble to find a replacement speaker for him and change all our advertisements. From now on we will create lists of B-list speakers and other back-up plans.
  • Because a speaker cancelled, we had to recalculate our costs and submit a revised budget to the NN/LM SCR. Luckily this happened only half-way through the award period and we had plenty of time to develop new plans. The NN/LM SCR was very understanding and helpful.
  • Speakers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are free! They pay their own way and are not allowed to accept honoraria. They are also very good speakers with interesting stories to tell. We will definitely be inviting them again in the future.
  • Emailing students directly and reaching out to faculty and research groups involved in our topic really bolstered attendance. These advertising approaches were much more worthwhile than the money we spent on traditional advertisements in newsletters and other media.
  • As expected, location played a very large part in attendance. For example, when we did a presentation on the south side of campus most of our audience came from institutions nearby on the south side.

We very much appreciate the opportunity the NN/LM SCR gave us to expand our lecture series and learn how to give better ones in the future.

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