Meet the NLM Board of Regents

Who are the people serving on the National Library of Medicine’s Board of Regents?

When NLM in Focus asked them about themselves, what we discovered inspired us.

We learned that their backgrounds are as diverse as their outside interests.

The current board includes a physician who is an expert on the mind-body connection, a social scientist, librarians, the director of Microsoft Research Labs, an expert on issues related to the health of minorities, a physician who once specialized in hematology and oncology, and a virologist by training.

The members have varied interests. One member raced motorcycles, and another has piloted a plane to every state in the lower 48. One plays ice hockey while another member sings—and dances. One found healing in an unexpected place. One member has rebuilt his career multiple times. One calls herself “a proud immigrant.” And one member’s unique claim to fame was having played football in the “Big House,” the stadium at the University of Michigan.

Although in some ways they couldn’t be more different, when NLM in Focus asked them how they felt about being invited to serve on the NLM Board of Regents, their answers were remarkably similar. They were “honored” and felt they were “given a great privilege.”

We hope you enjoy getting to know them as much as we did.

Q&A with Esther Sternberg, MD, Chairperson of the Board of Regents
headshot of Dr. Esther Sternberg Esther May Sternberg, MD, Chairperson of the Board of Regents
1. Very briefly, what is your background? I am a physician, trained in rheumatology, with a 40-year career in biomedical research on the science of the mind-body connection, biomarkers in sweat, and the science of the impact of place on well-being. Currently I am a professor of medicine, University of Arizona, Tucson; director of research, Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine; and founding director of the UA Institute on Place and Wellbeing. Prior to joining the UA in 2012, I was, for 26 years, a senior scientist and section chief in NIH/NIMH’s Intramural Research Program.
2. How did you feel when you received your invitation from the Secretary of HHS to serve on the Board of Regents? I felt deeply honored that my 26-year career as a senior scientist in the NIH Intramural Research Program had come full circle and that I was being given a great privilege in being asked to help guide the NLM’s goals and direction for the next five years.
3. Why are you serving on the Board of Regents? I am serving on the Board of Regents because I am committed to furthering NLM’s role in two critical areas of science and medicine. This is a critical time in science, when data analytics is crucial to the next generation of discovery, and NLM plays a central role in data science. Furthermore, NLM plays a critical role in health information, which is key to public health. In this era of a cacophony of health information on the internet coming from not always credible sources, it is essential that NLM continue to lead in providing the public credible health information in an easily accessible manner.
4. Tell us something surprising about yourself. I was surprised to find that although I grew up in Montreal amidst snowy winters, and spent sweltering summers in DC during my time at NIH, I love the high Sonoran Desert of Tucson, AZ. It is truly a healing place. My transition from East Coast big city, the center of federal power, to Tucson’s peaceful yet academically vibrant desert setting, was seamless, in part because of my continued close connection with NLM. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that my years with the federal government, followed by my newly found experience in academe, gave me a unique perspective to inform issues that the Board of Regents and NLM are grappling with as we move into this new era of data science.
Q&A with Alessandro Acquisti, PhD
headshot of Dr. Alessandro Acquisti Alessandro Acquisti, PhD
1. Very briefly, what is your background? I am a social scientist, although my work is quite interdisciplinary. I am an economist by training who moved into behavioral decision research and information technology to study the trade-offs that arise from the protection or sharing of personal data and how individuals make decisions about their privacy.
2. How did you feel when you received your invitation from the Secretary of HHS to serve on the Board of Regents? Both honored and surprised. Honored, for obvious and good reasons. And surprised, because my academic background is unusual in the context of the Board’s current composition. And yet issues of privacy and confidentiality—including balancing the societal value of data and the individual value of privacy—arise constantly in the discussion of medical data and medical research. Hence the potential role for a social scientist on the Board.
3. Why are you serving on the Board of Regents? Relating research to public policy and discussing academic ideas with an audience outside academia (or at least outside my own field) have always been drivers of my work. I cannot think of a better opportunity for this than serving on the Board.
4. Tell us something surprising about yourself. I used to race motorcycles (a Yahama TZ 125, to be exact) in the USGPRU (the US National Championship series). No, I no longer do that.
Q&A with Jane Blumenthal, MSLS
headshot of Jane Blumenthal Jane Blumenthal, MSLS
1. Very briefly, what is your background? I am a librarian with a background, but not a major, in science and mathematics. Like many of my colleagues, I began my career shelving books as a student. One thing led to another, and here I am in a job I love. For the past 21 years, I’ve been a director of an academic health sciences library, first at Georgetown University and now at the University of Michigan. I’ve been active in professional associations related to health sciences libraries. I’m currently president of the Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries and was previously president of the Medical Library Association.
2. How did you feel when you received your invitation from the Secretary of HHS to serve on the Board of Regents? My first reaction was “wow.” That quickly evolved into feeling honored and privileged to have the opportunity and looking forward to working on the Board. It was particularly exciting to be starting as NLM was bringing in a new director.
3. Why are you serving on the Board of Regents? I believe in giving back to my profession and contributing to the greater good—not just of libraries but also of the country and the health of the world. Being a member of the NLM Board of Regents does that. NLM is a great institution and a leader in the health sciences librarianship field. It makes significant contributions to our health and well-being and makes possible things that would be impossible for individual libraries to accomplish on their own. To be on the board at this exciting time in health care and libraries is a tremendous opportunity, and starting with the Library’s strategic plan for the next five years was a perfect introduction and learning experience.
4. Tell us something surprising about yourself. I played football in the Big House (University of Michigan Stadium). Not with U-M’s team, of course. My game was the culmination of the Women’s Football Academy that then-coach Lloyd Carr promoted as a fundraiser for the Coaches’ Cancer Fund. It was obvious I didn’t miss a career in the NFL, but I had a great time and earned perpetual bragging rights for playing on that field.
Q&A with Eric Horvitz, MD, PhD
casual headshot of Dr. Eric Horvitz Eric Horvitz, MD, PhD
1. Very briefly, what is your background? I am a technical fellow and director of Microsoft Research Labs, Microsoft’s advanced technology research labs, spanning research centers in the US, Canada, UK, and India. Beyond my role at Microsoft, I hold an appointment in the Division of Biomedical & Health Informatics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. I received my MD and PhD degrees at Stanford University, focusing my doctoral dissertation work on models of computational rationality—with application to automated decision making under time pressure. I continue to do research on decisions under uncertainty, including efforts in the realms of artificial intelligence, biomedical informatics, public health, human-computer interaction, and search and information retrieval.
2. How did you feel when you received your invitation from the Secretary of HHS to serve on the Board of Regents? I have long admired the role of the National Library of Medicine and its mission. During my MD and PhD work, I became familiar with NLM’s fabulous support of biomedical informatics research and its influential training programs. NLM funded key advances of AI in medicine, including efforts that evolved into a revolution in the use of probability in automated reasoning systems—with deep influences in biomedicine and beyond. So, I was deeply honored to be invited to serve on NLM’s Board of Regents.
3. Why are you serving on the Board of Regents? I see service on the Board as a chance to support the director, Patricia Brennan, and others on the Board to re-energize and transform NLM. A couple of years before the invite (in 2014), I had been invited to serve on the NLM Working Group—the name given to an Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (ACD) exploring the future of NLM. I and others on that committee focused intensively on past and potential future roles of NLM and how NLM could evolve over the next decade and beyond. We thought that NLM should play an even more central role in biomedical informatics, stepping up, as we asserted in the working group report, to become the intellectual and programmatic “epicenter for data science” at NIH. I view my service on the Board as a continuation of the effort on the NLM Working Group. I see my service on the Board as a responsibility—and opportunity—to build on the efforts we recommended. The role provides a chance to invest more time and effort into strategy and programs that will take NLM into the future. That excites me, as there are great possibilities ahead for the Library.
4. Tell us something surprising about yourself. Some of my most zenful moments happen on the ice—when I am playing with teammates on my ice hockey team, named the Hackers, a team in the Greater Seattle Hockey League, with players spanning a range of ages—but most quite a bit younger than I. Much of everything else fades away during those three periods on the ice, when the only things on the mind are the team, the opponents, the score, the puck—and the goal.
Q&A with Sandra I. Martin, MSLS
headshot of Sandra Martin Sandra I. Martin, MSLS
1. Very briefly, what is your background? I received BA (Major: French/Spanish) and MSLS degrees from Wayne State University. After a two-year internship in the VA library system, I started at Harper Hospital. It was a coup for a new hospital librarian, since Harper boasted one of the largest hospital libraries in the country and was led by the first MLA hospital librarian president. Since she encouraged professional association participation, that is how I started. It is particularly amazing to think about the experience now as WSU, which started with five physicians from Harper, celebrates its sesquicentennial year. I taught for the MSLS program, becoming part-time faculty at WSU. I joined the staff of WSULS Vera P. Shiffman Library as assistant director after many years in the hospital.
2. How did you feel when you received your invitation from the Secretary of HHS to serve on the Board of Regents? I felt that it was an honor to be asked and an even greater one to be accepted. I was all grown up in the profession. I was also excited to realize how many interesting opportunities there would be to learn and to participate. The experience reminded me of “Oh the Places You’ll Go” and Dr. Seuss. There are several quotes there that capture my feelings.
3. Why are you serving on the Board of Regents? For the unparalleled opportunity to serve the profession and to hear exciting new ideas. Serving on the Board during this particular time of change and renewal has proven an added bonus.
4. Tell us something surprising about yourself. I love to dance and have belonged to several choirs, including an all-female group. It’s not too surprising coming from Motown, where everyone was in a group.
Q&A with Daniel Masys, MD
headshot of Dr. Daniel Masys Daniel Richard Masys, MD
1. Very briefly, what is your background? My professional career began as a practicing physician specializing in hematology and medical oncology. I became interested in computers as a way to more consistently do cancer clinical research and came to NIH in 1984 to help build the NCI’s PDQ (Physician Data Query) cancer information system. Eight wonderful years at NLM as the Lister Hill Center director followed, and then 20 more in academia.
2. How did you feel when you received your invitation from the Secretary of HHS to serve on the Board of Regents? Both honored and, in a sense, fulfilled. I had made many presentations to the Regents while at NLM and thought it would be delightful at some point in my career to join them. It has been.
3. Why are you serving on the Board of Regents? NLM is one of the few organizations in the world that can make a plan to build something that will benefit every soul on the planet and see it through for a century or more. It is a wonderful opportunity to “leave my campsite better than I found it” on a global level.
4. Tell us something surprising about yourself. My wife and I have built three aircraft and flown them to every state in the lower 48. We live in a residential airpark, keep an airplane in the backyard, and use it like a car (that happens to go through the air at 200 miles an hour and has a 1,000-mile range).
Q&A with Gary Puckrein, PhD
headshot of Dr. Gary Puckrein Gary Puckrein, PhD
1. Very briefly, what is your background? I grew up in New York and spent summers in Barbados. I received my doctorate in history from Brown University and was a tenured professor at Rutgers University before moving to Washington, DC, to serve as a Smithsonian Fellow and eventually launch a magazine on black arts and culture. My interests in history, medicine, and minorities converged in the formation of the National Minority Quality Forum, a research and education organization in Washington, DC.
2. How did you feel when you received your invitation from the Secretary of HHS to serve on the Board of Regents? I was quite pleased. I have long admired the work of the National Library of Medicine and its great tradition. As a researcher, I have benefited from the many resources that the Library makes available. Never did I imagine that I would have the chance to be a part of the Library’s family and to meet in person and converse with the team that has put so much information at my fingertips.
3. Why are you serving on the Board of Regents? My first contact with the Library’s team was with Betsy Humphreys, the former deputy director. She was a walking embodiment of the Library and its tradition, and she made me feel, if ever the opportunity presented itself, I wanted to be a part of the community she represented. I knew that it would be a worthwhile learning experience, and along the way I might be able to add some nuggets of my own to the community.
4. Tell us something surprising about yourself. What surprises me most is how many times I have reinvented my career. I was 35 years old when I walked away from school for the first time. Every September, from the time I was four years old, I had entered a classroom, either as a student or teacher. Mid-life I left the academy to pursue my dream of launching a consumer magazine. I published the magazine for 16 years and then left that experience to establish a nonprofit organization whose focus was health care. Each transition brought greater color to my life.
Q&A with Jill Taylor, PhD
headshot of Dr. Jill Taylor Jill Taylor, PhD
1. Very briefly, what is your background? I am a virologist by training and education, and I worked in industry for about 10 years developing viruses as recombinant vaccine vectors. I realized that my passion was public health and moved to the Wadsworth Center, which is New York’s state public health laboratory in 1999. Since then I have held multiple positions in infectious disease programs at Wadsworth and have been the director since 2012.
2. How did you feel when you received your invitation from the Secretary of HHS to serve on the Board of Regents? I felt totally honored. I could never have imagined that I would be asked to work with such an amazing institution as NLM. The work that NLM does every day positively impacts me, both as a citizen and as a scientist.
3. Why are you serving on the Board of Regents? I am passionate about public health and the importance of using the most advanced laboratory technologies to quickly identify a pathogen and limit the further spread of disease. In today’s molecular world, where NextGeneration sequencing is becoming an essential diagnostic tool, the importance of accurate and comprehensive sequence databases that serve as a reference cannot be underestimated. And NCBI is the founding organization in providing pathogen-specific genomic information. The fact that I can play a role in helping NCBI and NLM grow their role in public health is an opportunity not to be missed.
4. Tell us something surprising about yourself. Hmmm. . .I am not sure that there is a lot that is surprising about me, except to say that I am a proud immigrant. I am Australian by birth, and I came to the US in 1986 to receive training in a particular technology that had been developed at the NYS Dept. of Health. I met a young and handsome American virologist in 1988. We were married in 1990 and the rest is history. I am now a naturalized US citizen.

The Board of Regents serves as an advisory body to the secretary of Health and Human Services, the director of NIH, and the director of NLM on important aspects of policy regarding the Library. In addition, the Board is the final review body for NLM’s extramural grant program.

The Board meets three times a year in February, May, and September.

The Board comprises the eight members profiled above, plus nine ex officio members.

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