MLA President 2006/07
Presidential Inaugural Address: Getting High…on MLA
Good morning! What a privilege it is to stand before you as your next president of MLA! I am truly honored by your support and vote of confidence and I look forward to a year full of activity, professional advancement and fun! In other words, I plan on continuing to “get high on MLA.”
Why this title you ask? Well, it is based on my exposure to general aviation which is my husband’s primary hobby. He is a private pilot and is responsible for my learning about the “world of flying – or getting high.” There are a lot of parallels between flying and our profession that I will share throughout this talk. But let me start by saying that during my first encounter with Mark, my husband, there were two main things that solidified the start of our relationship. The first was that I wasn’t afraid of flying (probably would have been a “deal breaker” for Mark if I had been) and second, how genuinely excited Mark became when I told him I was a medical librarian – I didn’t get the usual response of - you must like to read or how interesting [yawn] – I like books too! He really thought my being a librarian was neat! What can I say – we were intrigued by each other’s worlds and “getting high” continues to be something we share – Mark with his flying passion and me with my dedication and excitement about our profession and MLA!
But let me step back a minute. As I recall MJ stating in her inaugural address, I also spent a lot of time thinking about what to cover in this talk as there is so much I want to express. To prepare, I talked with chapter and section chairs about their needs and interests. I reviewed past presidential priorities themes and speeches and realized that I am following some terrific leaders! The collective vision, initiatives and wisdom of our previous MLA presidents (85 to be exact) is mind-boggling. What do you get when you put the key focuses of the past 7 presidents together? You get-
Transforming Magnífico Values via Investing Extreme Passion and Commitment
Doesn’t this say it all? What a foundation to build on! I’d like for us to thank these presidents again for leading us so ably! I’d like to have them stand and please join me in a round of applause for their contributions.
Speaking of foundations—my year as President ends with the 2007 meeting in Philadelphia. Having our meeting in the keystone state, Pennsylvania (my home state), and in Philadelphia, MLA’s founding city and site of the association’s first annual meeting in May 1898, provides us with a unique opportunity to spend the next year revisiting our founding premises and values in order to reclaim our foundations and forge new frontiers. In aviation terms, this means we need to use our well-honed and practiced skills and map our future route via a flight plan. Like a pilot, we need to guide each activity with the simple sounding yet complex rules of “ANC” that every pilot learns as basics – to A - aviate (have the skills to apply to the business at hand), N-navigate (know where we are and where we want to go), and then C- communicate (share with others our expertise and key values – advocate for our profession).
Personally, I don’t have any problem remembering this acronym as I took what is called a ‘Pinch-hitters” course where I learned flying basics and emergency procedures in the event I ever needed to take control of an airplane. After 17 landings (one of which was smooth; but then any time you walk away from a landing, it is good) – I learned to be “antsy” if I ever did need to pinch hit for Mark. Flying in landing patterns with the big guys – C130s that deploy freight and troops quickly taught me that I needed to develop my flying skills. What the course also taught me was how to become a back-seat driver as I soon critiqued Mark’s flying habits much to his chagrin.
My presidential priorities follow this ANC model as well.
A - Aviate
Pilots use a lot of instrumentation to judge their positioning and to set their directions. Sometimes when I watch my husband rely solely on such instrumentation, I get jealous. Yes, I do call the airplane that we own, the mistress, but that’s not why I get jealous. I get jealous because there is the immediate ability to judge the airplane’s current position, where it is heading, and how well it is doing in getting there. There is one particular gauge called an “attitude indicator”. (Can you imagine having one of these at work?) This indicator gives a direct and immediate picture of pitch attitude and bank angle. Upon a glance, you can see how the airplane measures up against the horizon. This gauge is vital for maintaining the pitch and bank of the plane when the horizon is not visible due to cloudy conditions. Wouldn’t it be nice to have one of these types of gauges to measure the horizon of scholarly communications?
We need to emphasize our skill set and professional values – what is it that makes us unique as a profession and what difference does our profession make? What constitutes our professional training and core competencies? Many MLA initiatives are examining these various issues and more will be instituted. Here are some examples -
As president, I hope to illustrate our vital role with improving the nation’s (and other countries) health literacy. As librarians, we are keenly aware of the importance of information and its application to one’s personal health. We know that understanding leads to empowerment and better patient treatment and compliance outcomes. We need to prove this to hospital administrators who are very familiar with “return on investment” and “show me the money” evidence-based practice. Under my leadership, MLA plans to hire a consultant who will do a return on investment study of how librarians directly contribute to patient success and ultimately, a healthier public.
Health literacy is a prime priority of two national scientific leaders, U.S. Surgeon General Richard M. Carmona and National Academy of Science President Bruce Alberts. In a 2005 public health journal article entitled “Public Health Literacy in America: An Ethical Imperative” – the following was stated “The momentum of the movement [health literacy] is evident. What is needed now is the synthesis of these efforts, a consensus to require health literacy training in medical and all healthcare professional education and a sharing of expertise across disciplines to bring the issue to the forefront of public health.” In the recent AHIMA and AMIA report “Building the Work Force for Health Information Transformation” there is a call for these organizations to others to “help to mitigate health literacy issues, especially those related to health information.” Shouldn’t we be the ones to answer this call for assistance?
I would like for MLA to take a lead role nationally and internationally in educating health care providers about health literacy, and initiate conversations with standards setting organizations and accrediting agencies such as JCAHO and ACGME to make health literacy a core competency in the same mode as cultural competencies are being required. MLA could develop a Web-based educational tutorial to train others – thus leading to our recognition as the health professions with these skills that can lend their expertise to others.
We need to speak up and claim this opportunity to be seen as educators in health literacy as the same journal article mentioned earlier states:
“We need to reach out and learn from other fields in our society that reach the public such as the adult education community, communications sectors, and marketing specialists.”
Do you see librarians mentioned specifically? I don’t, but I just can’t imagine anyone doing this any better than we can and I do hope you agree! We need to exert our presence and as Linda Watson emphasized in her presidential priorities – “to be recognized as the most visible, trusted, and respected health information professional” in this arena. She saw the value of health literacy and appointed an MLA task force – I will expand on her initiative to ensure that we have a key role in helping patients understand their health care.
N – Navigate
In aviation, pilots use maps and charts to guide their trips and preplan their courses. In visual flight mode, they use landmarks such as mountains, rivers, towns, roads, etc. to determine where they are in relation to what is outlined on an aeronautical chart. With instrument flying, they rely on special charts that map out designated routes between electronic navigational aids. A flight is then achieved by following these routes.
Like aviation, MLA has taken measures (although no gauges have been developed to date) to monitor and navigate the world in which we operate. The President and Board of Directors of MLA establish annual goals and priorities in order to move forward and strategically go in the best direction for the profession. A lot of priorities take more than one year to complete so in these cases, work will continue during my presidential year. For example:
Pilots, from the time they start moving away from their hangers, are in constant communication with air traffic controllers and/or other pilots via their radios. They confirm weather, indicate flight patterns and may be required to get instructions to taxi and takeoff from trained and skilled personnel located in local control towers as well as in radar control centers. Pilots flying in instrument conditions, or IFR, are required to file a flight plan. Such plans indicate the number of passengers on board, planned routes that will be followed, anticipated flight times, etc. Each IFR pilot enters a “squawk number” into an instrument so that they can be tracked by radar. This is extremely helpful when flying in clouds where there is no visibility to see other planes. Radar controllers alert pilots of potential traffic hopefully well ahead of time.
Like pilots, all of our efforts as medical librarians are for not if we don’t communicate them to our health care colleagues and to the public. As pilots use radios to keep connected with traffic controllers and airport personnel, we need to remember to check-in and broadcast our achievements frequently.
As president, I will continue to utilize the skills of PCI, MLA’s public relations firm to spread the word about our profession’s accomplishments, roles and values. As our previous year’s media focus was on health literacy, I would like to expand this in the coming year to concentrate on informing health care administrators and other health care professionals about our health literacy contributions - of how we improve the public health through information. Publishing articles in administrative journals that highlight our return on investment on patient outcomes will reach those who only see bottom lines. While hospital libraries still will serve health care providers, emphasizing our transforming roles as patient and consumer educators will serve to advocate our profession and our role in this key public health initiative as outlined in Healthy People 2010.
I will encourage MLA’s members to engage in disseminating even more information about our health literacy role by attending other health care provider conferences and presenting as part of their meeting programming our value in this area. We need to not only do – but be sure we preach that we are doing, so we are recognized as the experts!
As we explore new models for our profession, we need to ensure that again, the word about these new roles is getting diffused. This will help us to recruit the best and brightest and those interested in making a difference! We will continue to emphasize hiring diverse and talented individuals into our field. We will explore MLA membership benefits that are attractive, that permit customization and tailoring to meet individual needs. MLANET is in the process of being revamped and more work will be done so this site will serve as an effective portal for members. More recruitment efforts will be initiated with K-12 educators and counselors.
Partnerships will be a keystone in the coming year. We do not work in isolation and our professional boundaries are being crossed by others. For instance, I ran across this other organization’s “hot topics for 2006” recently:
Our goals look a lot like these don’t they? This is the National Nursing Staff Development Organization. We need to partner with such organizations to ensure that we are all working for the common good and that we are not overlooked as key players in the information world. We also need to work with our global partners and implement the recommendations of the MLA Global Initiatives Task Force. We need to be prepared to assist providers who respond to natural and manmade disasters. “Librarians without borders” is becoming a reality with a task force at work under the leadership of Marcus Banks. We need to toot our own horn and actively sale ourselves as “the” needed health care team player of the future.
There are many new roles and challenges that await us as innovators of information discovery and delivery. We need to embrace these new opportunities and forge new partnerships that enable our professional expansion and recognition as the best providers of quality information for improved health. We need to diffuse the adoption of our many roles and ensure that we are equipped with the needed skills and knowledge to be successful in new practice arenas. The priorities I’ve outlined are published in the April issue of the MLA News. Please review them with care and let me know what you think about how I expect to guide MLA throughout the coming year. We are in control and can use our knowledge and skills to design our flight plans, reach our desired destinations, and communicate our value. We need to be ANC, not antsy, about our future!
In conclusion, we have a lot to be proud of as healthcare information professionals and our skills are valuable not only to ourselves, but to other health care professionals as well as the general public. As others compete with us to provide information, we need to build on our basic foundations and promote them to those we serve. Let us reclaim our Foundations and Forge New Frontiers as we Fly from “F”oenix to “F”iladelphia! - to celebrate our Information Revolution – where “Change is in the air!”
I’d like to thank Susan Williams for her excellent artistic talents and PowerPoint finesse. Thank you Susan! I’d also like to introduce the real pilot, Mark Shipman, my husband.
Thank you for listening and again for this grand opportunity to be your pilot who will be getting high on MLA during this exciting upcoming year! [HOLD UP PAPER AIRPLANE]
MLA Board, NPC and LAC committee members for 2007 – rev your engines and LET”S FLY!
Medical Library Association
Last Updated: 2008 September 05