October is National Medical Librarians Month and an opportunity to celebrate Kornhauser Health Sciences Library and Rowntree Library employees who continue to provide specialized library support to UofL physicians, faculty, staff, and students across the health sciences disciplines. This year, the focus is on health equity.
Medical librarians provide a pivotal role in helping eliminate disparities in health outcomes. Kornhauser and Rowntree librarians and staff frequently assist researchers in finding information on issues related to health equity, from disparities in pancreatic cancer outcomes experienced by African Americans to cross-cultural differences in palliative care preferences.
When UofL physicians or medical personnel have questions that require specialized medical research, they will reach out to our librarians who will quickly respond with the most up-to-date information. This enables physicians to make the best decisions related to patient care, a crucial step in ensuring health equity. None of the research is behind a paywall or requires a special fee for service.
In addition to providing support for specific research questions, the librarians on the health sciences campus work to offer broad access to resources related to health equity issues. Earlier this year, Kornhauser expanded its collections to broaden DEI-related titles and the clinical librarian team created a Diversity Resources Hub for resources related to the social determinants of health, health disparities, cultural competence, consumer health resources, and more.
Social factors and equity concerns are involved in all aspects of healthcare, and the medical librarians at Kornhauser and Rowntree are glad to do their part to help researchers, clinicians, and students navigate these important issues.
To celebrate Health Literacy Awareness Month, Kornhauser will present a webinar on October 21 from noon-1 p.m. titled “Health Literacy: Your Role as a Healthcare Professional.” Kornhauser Clinical Librarian Dani LaPreze will discuss how healthcare providers can help their patients better understand medical information, how providers can improve communication through cultural awareness and competence. She will also describe the resources that are available for both providers and patients. A Q&A will follow. To register, visit: https://library.louisville.edu/kornhauser/health-literacy-webinar.
Kentucky Medical Library Association President Rebecca Morgan, Kornhauser clinical librarian and Tiffney Gipson, KMLA secretary and Kornhauser collections director, launched KMLA’s first conference virtually at the end of July, complete with lightning talks, presentations, and roundtable discussions.
“Initially there was nothing planned, in fact KMLA has never had a conference,” said Gipson. “We usually just hold meetings once a quarter, we just thought it might be nice to offer the conference as an option because so many have missed out on chances to present due to COVID.”
The virtual conference had 16 attendees from various Kentucky libraries, including Kornhauser, Rowntree Medical Library, University of Kentucky, University of Pikeville, and Sullivan University. A few UK library students were also invited to attend and present.
Kornhauser librarians Riley Sumner and Jessica Petrey gave presentations, and Rebecca Morgan and Mary K. Marlatt presented lightning talks and posters.
“Bekki and I worked on this with our other executive board member and former Kornhauser employee, Lauren Robinson” who is KMLA’s treasurer, said Gipson.
Typically, Kornhauser librarians attend about 2-4 conference a year – Kentucky Library Association Joint Spring Conference, Medical Library Association Conference, Midwest Medical Library Association Conference, and maybe the American Library Association Conference. However, most were scheduled to occur after the pandemic canceled events across the globe.
“Just about all of those took place after March of this year and while some are still happening virtually, we wanted to take some initiative and create our own conference within KMLA and provide our colleagues with a chance to present and share,“ Gipson said.
The conference was recorded for KMLA members. KMLA is part of a greater, national organization, National Network of the Libraries of Medicine Greater Midwest Region https://nnlm.gov/gmr.
While the medical community grapples with the fallout from COVID-19, UofL doctors are depending upon a hidden asset to fight the virus: clinical librarians.
These invisible partners work behind the scenes make sure physicians, medical staff and students have relevant, timely information to complete their missions. Providing library support at clinical meetings, conducting literature searches, and creating online resource guides are the daily regimen for Kornhauser’s librarians.
“I simply could not function at full potential without a dedicated librarian.”
– Dr. Martin Huecker, research director for UofL’s Department of Emergency Medicine.
While clinical librarians help clinicians use verifiable best practices and evidence-based research throughout the year, they are now arguably more important than ever.
For example, Jessica Petrey, Kornhauser’s Associate Director of Clinical Services, works with UofL physicians and staff in six practice areas, including infectious diseases and emergency medicine, programs that are particularly active now. She attends weekly meetings – virtually and in person, practicing physical distancing – to help medical personnel work effectively as the pandemic rages locally. It’s all part of her ordinary job that has just become extraordinary.
“Our physicians have been deeply supportive of Petrey’s work and she is highly regarded by some world-renown experts,” said Kornhauser Director Vida Vaughn. “So many of our library personnel are invaluable to the medical community.”
In a testimonial email, Dr. Martin Huecker, research director for UofL’s Department of Emergency Medicine, says that he “simply could not function at full potential without a dedicated librarian.” In praise of Petrey, he notes “many instances of communicating via email during an actual ER shift, and receiving responses from Jessica that affected patient care.”
I rely on [Petrey’s] support for literature searches, content management related to point of care / real time clinical decision-making tools, and troubleshooting / access to those tools (clinical key, up-to-date, etc.). Emergency medicine is a specialty that relies particularly heavily on rapid availability of resources. Jessica answers emails with uncanny promptness.
Likewise, Ruth Carrico, Professor in the Infectious Diseases department, writes
The long-standing relationship the Division of Infectious Diseases has with the UofL Libraries has been one of tremendous value for our teaching, service, and research activities. Each week, Jessica Petrey, Association Director Clinical Services participates in our faculty meetings. During these meetings she provides insight and expertise in existing literature and research reports that address clinical questions as well as opportunities for additional research. As part of the COVID-19 response, Jessica worked with us to develop repositories for publications that helped us with development of new manuscripts for submission. In addition, the UofL Libraries have been instrumental in helping us maintain two peer-review journals that continue to grow in interest and impact.
“Our role is to make sure we’re facilitating access to information, sometimes in real time” said Petrey. “That is a more proactive role now with the volume of information coming out. People need a bit more help navigating it, and might not have time to ask.”
Published studies are also more readily available to the public now, as many proprietary scientific journals make COVID-19 research freely available to support a unified front against the current health crisis.
Helping clinicians and researchers stay on top of the information within a subject domain, even when it comes at a frenzied pace, is simply part of a clinical librarian’s job, says Vaughn.
“So many of our library personnel are invaluable to the medical community.”
— Kornhauser Director Vida Vaughn
“When you’re an embedded librarian no matter what the subject area – gastroenterology, family medicine or pediatrics – you have to stay on top of information. You’re always looking at the newest articles on the topic that are constantly coming out. We set alerts for research in subject areas and are pushing out evidence-based scholarship to the doctors we serve.”
After Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear suspended elective surgeries in March, all clinics and most research activity were canceled, after which Kornhauser faculty and staff saw a slight drop in requests for information. But after a few weeks, requests for assistance accelerated again.
“It started to sink in that normal is not something that’s going to happen any time soon, so they need to keep going with whatever research they can,” said Petrey. “So we’re starting to see requests picking back up again, and we’re even exceeding our normal workloads.”
After the University issued its work-from-home order, Kornhauser remained open for several weeks, but eventually closed its building to protect users and the Library’s workers, allowing personnel to work remotely. The closure hasn’t limited the Library’s instruction and service model since “nearly everything we do is online, with access to resources and collections there,” says Vaughn.
However, “the Health Sciences Campus is primarily comprised of professional students with jobs and families, and Kornhauser Library is a refuge-like study space away from home. So the library closure was something of a shock to our community,” Vaughn continued. “We are directing them to Ekstrom Library for study space, or the Student Activity Center during Intersession when Ekstrom is closed.”
Throughout the coming months as the medical community continues to grapple with the ramifications of COVID-19’s spread, Kornhauser librarians and staff will continue to serve them as always, behind the scenes, working diligently. And their work will continue to be appreciated. From Dr. Huecker’s testimonial:
I extend sincere gratitude to Jessica Petrey (along with John Chenault, Rachel Howard, and the UofL Libraries in general) for allowing me to practice efficient, evidence-based, up to date clinical emergency medicine while maintaining an active focus on scholarship.
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