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Updated: 4 hours 2 min ago

The Ebola Vaccine: A Race Against Time

Fri, 2020-03-27 14:54

In 1976, near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, the disease known as Ebola was first described. For years afterward, scientists fought a largely fruitless uphill battle toward development of an effective and sustainable vaccine for this disease. After sporadically plaguing parts of Africa for decades, a 2014 widespread outbreak of Ebola sent shockwaves through not only West Africa, but the entire world, finally demanding the attention and scientific research support that it had always so desperately needed. The clinical trials and approval process for the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine, known as Ervebo, were a whirlwind, commonly regarded as a scientific and logistical miracle; however, the road leading to these advancements was littered with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. 

Electron microscopic image of the 1976 isolate of Ebola virus.  Image by CDC

A promising Ebola vaccine backbone was first seriously discussed in the early 1990s – so what took so long to get it developed and approved? It was only through the dogged determination of a few scientists and a laboratory mishap that the vaccine status arrived where it is today.

Barriers on this long road were many. The World Health Organization (WHO) turned down multiple vaccine proposals. Funding was scarce and scant due to lack of interest in working on Ebola prevention and eradication; the pharmaceutical industry brazenly questioned the purpose of pouring resources into research which would largely benefit only poor and rural African communities. Scientists frequently found themselves having to defend their research against persistent scrutiny. Health infrastructure in affected nations was weak. Other more visible widespread health scares such as the SARS virus garnered more attention and therefore more research funding. Urgency simply did not exist. 

In 2009, a German scientist accidentally pricked her finger with a needle containing the Ebola virus, initiating a swift response which would drastically change the course of vaccine development. The unnamed scientist was almost immediately given the vaccine, which was not human grade and completely untested on humans. After several days of quarantine, she was found to be uninfected with Ebola and, more importantly, had not suffered any adverse side effects to the drug. Funding for the Ebola vaccine was eventually secured, but only to the tune of 2 million dollars, small by scientific research standards, from a company focused on biomedical terrorism. The lab in Winnipeg where research was being conducted finally found a development partner, but one who was not specifically interested in the work that was being done, but rather focused on growing its portfolio assets. The lab took the support wherever they could get it.

Then began the now-infamous Ebola outbreak, which likely began in Guinea in 2013 when patients with the disease were misdiagnosed and healthcare professionals contracted the illness from them; it was only then that Ebola was formally diagnosed. In 2014, it began to spread like wildfire in unparalleled ways into urban areas and eventually into other countries. It was declared a global health emergency by the WHO in August 2014.

It was during this time that scientists worked at a fever pitch to accelerate the development of the vaccine they so fervently believed in, often navigating murky ethical waters. Even after the drug was found to be clinically effective, the Food and Drug Administration in the United States expressed no interest in it. Still, researchers pressed on. Out of sheer necessity, complete clinical trials were eventually conducted, taking (from start to finish) fewer than 12 months, an unprecedented timeline in the field. Even after apparent vaccine success, there was substantial backlash doubting whether its efficacy was adequately proven.

Since another outbreak, this time in 2018 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, healthcare workers in the area have agreed to administer the vaccine via a “compassionate care” model. Since then, around 260,000 people have been successfully vaccinated.

At long last, the end of 2019 brought the news that scientists had been waiting for; In November, the European Commission approved Ervebo and in December, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did the same.

Read the full remarkable story here. To learn more about Ebola’s chronology, visit this page maintained by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

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Categories: RML Blogs

A Note from Executive Director Brian Leaf

Fri, 2020-03-20 16:14

The following is a note from NNLM SCR Executive Director Brian Leaf regarding the COVID-19 outbreak and its effect on our office. This was originally distributed via email on March 13. 2020; it is being re-posted here in order to reach all of our network members. As always, feel free to contact us with any concerns or questions. We are committed to your well being and that of our communities.

As COVID-19 continues to impact the nation, our office hopes that you and your loved ones are able to stay safe. The University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth, where our office is based, has encouraged everyone to work remotely from home, and our staff will do so as well beginning Monday, March 16th. We’ll still be available via phone and email.

Given widespread travel restrictions, we have canceled or postponed all of our planned travel as well as events we were hosting through May 2020. We understand that these restrictions have impacted your projects and personal lives. We are continuing to work in conjunction with our national office to explore solutions for those who are currently working or receiving funding from us.

We always want to provide consistent, accurate, and timely information. If you’re looking for information regarding COVID-19, we encourage you to consult the following resources:

If you are on social media, you might consider following these accounts:

  • Twitter: @CDCgov
  • Facebook:
  • Instagram: @CDCgov

And of course, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any program-related issues or just want to let me know how you’re doing. I’m always happy to chat.

Thank you,


Categories: RML Blogs

ICYMI Webinar Recap: Are you Ready? Essential Disaster Health Information Resources

Wed, 2020-03-18 05:20

Over the next several weeks, we will be recapping some of the exceptional webinars that the NNLM SCR has hosted over the course of 2019 and early 2020. If you would like to access an archived version of this webinar and the others we have hosted, please click here.

In January of this year, our Executive Director Brian Leaf presented a webinar entitled “Are you Ready? Essential Disaster Health Information Resources”. After viewing this recording, the learner will be able to:

  • Describe trends and terms used in disaster preparedness
  • Describe factors that impact different audiences and their ability to respond to disasters
  • Brainstorm programming and potential interventions to better educate and prepare older adults for disaster response
  • Identify NLM databases, resources, and apps that can help provide disaster health information to older adults during all parts of the disaster cycle.

Brian begins by introducing and discussing project partnerships, such as a “Stop the Bleeding” event and the SCR CONNECTions emergency management webinar by Bill Inenogle in 2018. Brian also mentioned that funding of $15,000 is available as the Disaster Preparedness and Recovery Award.

It’s vital that communities recognize the very important role that libraries play in times of disaster. FEMA has recognized libraries as essential resources for relocation funding in the event that facilities become unusable. Brian cites the functions libraries have served in t he wake of hurricanes in the past, becoming places of physical shelter and resources for research, bilingual staff, and communication with youth. To help support this role, the NLM and MLA have partnered to offer a Disaster Information Specialization; further information on this is available from both the NLM and MLA.

Diving into the meat of his presentation, Brian outlines and defines the four phases of disaster management:

  1. Mitigation
  2. Preparedness
  3. Response
  4. Recovery

He also goes over some examples of disaster types, both manmade and natural, from terrorism to fires to radiation emergencies. The disaster management cycle is presented in graphic form, which is included in this column.

Where we get our information can make or break our complete understanding of any event or subject. Brian discusses the difference between resources for “scholarly information” and “grey information”, and offers examples and merits of both. He presents an article that discusses how we search for medical advice online and how these habits translate to understanding reputable resources for disaster management information. In addition to being diligent in our search for reliable information, we should also prepare specific plans for ourselves, our families, our groups, or our organizations in the event that a disaster should strike; Brian discusses strategies for this, taking variables such as communication, supplies, contingency plans, and even pets into consideration. It should also be noted that, because our life expectancy is growing, we must  take special measures to ensure the safety of our older populations, including emphasis on physical fitness as an important factor in disaster preparedness. A resource is presented that offers fitness motivation and support for people 55 and older, but Brian emphasizes that this site contains excellent information for any adults looking to become healthier.

The rest of this webinar focuses on valuable resources for information and training on this subject, most of which are listed below. 

Resources for disaster preparedness information:

This webinar is available to watch on YouTube.

Look out for blog posts in the coming weeks which will recap more NNLM SCR webinars.

Remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

Categories: RML Blogs

ICYMI Webinar Recap: Panels as Windows: Graphic Medicine and Empathy, a Tool to Understanding Patients, Caregivers, and Healthcare Professionals

Wed, 2020-03-11 05:00

SCR CONNECTions will be back with new programming later this year, but we still have lots to share with you here on Blogadillo! Over the next several weeks, in case you missed it (ICYMI), we will be recapping some of the exceptional webinars that NNLM SCR has hosted over the course of the past year. If you would like to access an archived version of this webinar along with others we have hosted, please click here.

In case you missed it, our June 12, 2019 webinar was presented by Alice Jaggers, MSLS, (now formerly) Outreach Coordinator at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Library. Alice developed a graphic medicine collection in her library in March 2017, has compiled a preliminary database of graphic medicine titles, maintains a blog on this subject, and co-runs the website She shared with us her passion and her work regarding graphic medicine and the positive impact on empathy it can have for students, patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals.

 Essentially speaking, the term graphic medicine is used to describe comics about health. This communication medium has received an increase in attention over the last decade due in part to findings that these tools are well-suited to honing empathetic communication in healthcare-related populations. This webinar facilitated the discussion on graphic medicine and medical humanities by diving into implications of emotional understanding and recognition of humanity in health. 

Alice started off by defining empathy as the practice of acknowledging another’s perspective and making an effort to improve communication. She shared with the audience several examples of graphic medicine comics by authors MK Czerwiec RN, MA, Meredith Li-Vollmer PhD, MA, Brian Fies, Tom Hart, and others. She went on to discuss applications for this type of literature, stating that it is versatile in nature and applicable to nearly all perspectives involved in medicine and healthcare.

Alice highlighted for the audience a number of valuable resources, including the NLM’s online Graphic Medicine Exhibition Collection which houses digital examples of this type of resource as well as educational resources for students in middle school and beyond. NNLM’s New England Region has spearheaded a graphic medicine initiative that includes access to free book club kits on various topics.

Alice wrapped up this webinar by talking about the workshop she co-hosted at her library, which was not targeted to any specific audience. “Comic Nurse” MK Czerwiec spoke on this subject and participants coming from highly varied perspectives used crayons and paper to make their own comics about healthcare. Alice reported that participants, regardless of their writing or drawing skills, were surprised at how much emotion their creations evoked and how much introspection and empathy this project promoted.

This webinar is available to watch on YouTube, and Alice’s contact information is listed below.

Alice Jaggers, MSLS

Look out for blog posts in the coming weeks which will recap more NNLM SCR webinars.

Remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

Categories: RML Blogs

ICYMI Webinar Recap: Development and Testing of Digital Health Approaches to Promote Health Behavior Change

Wed, 2020-03-04 04:00

SCR CONNECTions will be back with new programming later this year, but we still have lots to share with you here on Blogadillo! Over the next several weeks, in case you missed it (ICYMI), we will be recapping some of the exceptional webinars that NNLM SCR has hosted over the course of the past year. If you would like to access an archived version of this webinar along with others we have hosted, please click here.

In case you missed it, our January 9, 2019 webinar was conducted by Jylana Sheats, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Nutrition at Tulane University. She shared with us her research on health behavior modification and how technology affects chronic illness in select New Orleans, Louisiana communities. Her aim is to reduce obesity and chronic disease-related problems among underserved and vulnerable communities via development of both individual- and community-centered technological resources.

Dr. Sheats began by introducing mHealth, a term which broadly describes mobile health devices and programs such as wearable trackers and apps. Mobile phone use is pervasive in most American communities, so Dr. Sheats is focused on meeting people where they are by promoting health via mobile devices. Mobile intervention research is underrepresented in racial/ethnic minority groups; in her studies, she examined how these mobile devices and programs could be beneficial to personal and community health, and how they could be used to encourage “health behavior change”. 

Two separate studies were outlined in this presentation.

Photo by Arek Adeoye, 2017, accessed via Unsplash

The first study used a survey to examine obesity-related health perceptions and behaviors of African American/Black communities in New Orleans in order to “inform the development of a mHeath diet intervention”. Based on responses from survey, Dr. Sheats developed and adapted mobile health intervention text messages and videos based on criteria outlined by respondents. She worked with an African American chef to create “cooking videos to model healthy cooking practices” for the target population. After these resources were created, feedback from members of this population was used to revise messaging, tailor-making it to increase overall efficacy of health behavior change communication. After refining this content, a feasibility study was conducted to assess the resources created as a result of this research.

Study number two, OurVoice NOLA, conducted in conjunction with the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Second Harvest Food Bank, and Stanford Medicine, used the Health Neighborhood Discovery Tool mobile app to help “Citizen Scientists” in New Orleans identify areas of their neighborhoods which either helped or hindered positive health behavior. Participants took a 20-30 minute walk and recorded, via photos and audio, their impressions of neighborhood features which could potentially affect healthy behavior. The walks were mapped; the maps and impressions were recorded in hopes that community stakeholders and representatives could visualize problem areas and enact policy change to improve their respective jurisdictions. Use of the Health Neighborhood Discovery Tool aims to empower community members to report issues and suggest actionable changes which affect community health and to facilitate communication among neighbors about the areas in which they live. OurVoice research is being conducted internationally.

Moving forward, Dr. Sheats plans to share her research with the communities where it was conducted, develop resources to address findings, increase awareness of community resource availability, and communicate with peers how to continue programs and projects like these in New Orleans. 

To learn more about OurVoice research, click here.

This webinar is available to watch on YouTube, and Dr. Sheats’ contact information is listed below.

Jylana L. Sheats, PhD, MPH

Look out for blog posts in the coming weeks which will recap more NNLM SCR webinars.

Remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

Categories: RML Blogs

Vitiligo: More Common Than You Might Think

Tue, 2020-02-25 04:00

Woman with vitiligo.Vitiligo, a condition which causes people to lose pigmentation in their skin, has been in the spotlight in recent years; in 2018, a famous women’s fashion show selected its first model with vitiligo the walk the runway. Since then, popular culture has seen a long-overdue increase in the visibility and awareness of this disease and the people it affects. So what is vitiligo, and who is affected by it? It’s more common than you might think.

According to this article from the Winter 2020 issue of MedlinePlus Magazine, vitiligo affects about 1% of the United States population. It is usually more pronounced in people with darker skin, though all skin tones are susceptible, and it is more common among people with known autoimmune disorders and those with a family history of the disease. Although it can manifest at any age, most patients notice its appearance before age 40, usually as a small area of decreased pigmentation on the face or pressure point that begins to spread over the body. Some people experience very slow progression while others lose the pigmentation on most of their skin over the course of only a few years. Vitiligo is chronic, progressive, and is still a bit of a medical mystery; scientists and medical professionals are not exactly sure what causes it, how it starts, or how to cure it. A growing body of evidence suggests that vitiligo might be a complex autoimmune disorder of its own, which, like other disorders of this type, essentially makes the body turn on itself, causing otherwise healthy tissue to be attacked and removed as though it was virulent.

Many patients choose to cover the white patches on their skin with cosmetics or turn to other treatments such as skin grafting, bleaching, light therapy, or topical medications. Other people choose to openly embrace their appearance, as in the case of Tonja Johnson. Tonja noticed loss of pigmentation in a small area of her leg when she was 41 years of age; now, at 43, she has lost pigmentation over 80% of her body. She explains in this article how difficult it was to manage at first, how she copes with her dramatically changed appearance now, and what she does to help others manage their diagnosis.

Because vitiligo most often appears in areas that are commonly visible (face, arms, legs), it can be a difficult disorder to manage psychologically as it can drastically change a person’s physical appearance in a very short amount of time. Growing awareness of vitiligo, education on this subject, and continued visibility may help to support patients with this disease.

For more information on vitiligo, visit the following links:

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Categories: RML Blogs

Meet Me Monday: Edward Caldwell, National Network of Libraries of Medicine South Central Region

Mon, 2020-02-17 04:00

Edward Caldwell, NNLM SCR Health Professions CoordinatorPlease join us in welcoming the newest member of the RML team! Edward Caldwell will serve as the Health Professions Coordinator.

Prior to this position, Edward served as an Outreach Education Coordinator at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler. In this role, he coordinated all outreach events for the Cancer Prevention Institute of Texas Colorectal Cancer (CRC) grant including health fairs, presentation, meetings, etc. Edward holds a Master of Public Health from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler. He also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Health and Kinesiology from the University of Texas at Tyler.

He is excited to join the NNLM SCR, and we are equally pleased to have him as part of our team.

Contact him directly at or 817-735-2236.

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Categories: RML Blogs