It’s Public Service Recognition Week. NLM staff answer: What does public service mean to you?

May 6-12, 2018 is Public Service Recognition Week.

NLM in Focus reached out to a variety of NLM staff and asked, “What does public service mean to you?”

This annual week to honor people who serve in federal, state, or local government has been celebrated since 1985. The week is organized annually by the Public Employees Roundtable.

We hope you enjoy hearing from NLM staff, and we encourage you to contribute your thoughts below.

A meaningful life

I believe public service is a means to living a meaningful life. Through opportunities to work in fruitful partnerships with remarkable people, it has taught me humility, self-confidence, and self-respect. It is also a way to make a positive difference in the lives of others, which is so important to me.

headshot of Myra Derbyshire

Myra Derbyshire

Throughout my tenure at NIH with other like-minded men and women, I have worked to develop changes which attack the “glass ceiling,” address the “leaky pipeline,” and better the lives of women in science.

In terms of service to the larger academic community and to the world at large, I have contributed to research projects in world hunger, cancer, gene silencing, longevity. Through my work in biology databases, I trust that other work, building on this, has been translated to bettering lives.

I also believe in participating in public service in my home community. Over the last year, I served as a commissioner on our town’s Addictions Commission developing solutions to reduce stigma, increase awareness and education on this disease, and promote hope that recovery is possible.

Public service may not be for everyone, as everyone’s talents and strengths are different, but for me, public service has been crucial to my living a fulfilling life.

Myra K. Derbyshire
National Center for Biotechnology Information

It’s personal.

headshot of Ronald Shaw

Ronald Shaw

As a longtime federal employee and stakeholder in services provided by our federal, state, and local Governments, I feel public service is a citizen responsibility and shouldn’t be viewed simply as a job. Every day, people leave their homes to provide some form of public service to maintain and grow the communities that they are a part of. Therefore, as a community, we are directly and indirectly impacted by the public services we provide and to me it’s not just business, it’s personal.

Ronald P. Shaw, Jr.
Extramural Programs

Making the most of our shared values

My career has always been driven from a family ethic that says, “You’re gifted; use your gifts.” It wasn’t you’re gifted, you’re special. It was everyone is gifted, so you find your gifts and you use those gifts. From nursing to education, the idea of using my gifts has driven my career.

Casual headshot of Dr. Brennan

Patricia Flatley Brennan

Now at NLM, I have found patriotism in public service. It’s encouraging, reinforcing, and strengthening for me that I don’t have to explain that our motivation is to foster social good. It’s a shared value at the Library.

And now our responsibility is to look at the amazing resources we have and make sure they’re used in the very best way possible. That’s part of why the strategic plan is so important to me.

Society is invested in the Library and the Library is invested in society. We need to make the most of it.

Patricia Flatley Brennan

My privilege

Last summer I worked at a summer camp for underprivileged Serbian teens at a remote village in northern Serbia. When I told them that my job is in the American government, they thought I worked for President Donald Trump.

casual headshot of Florence Chang

Florence Chang

I said, “Yes, he is my boss’ boss’ boss’ boss.” They smiled, proud of the answer. But I continued, “It is really the American people that I work for. I am a government worker, and I work for the people of America.”

As a public service worker, I regard it as my privilege to serve the American public. As an employee of the Department of Health and Human Services, my first job objective is to make people healthy. At NLM, my first responsibility is to make information about preventing diseases and promoting health available and accessible to the people of this country. At the end of the day, if my work helped achieve this goal, then I have done a good job.

Sometimes “government red tape” can make us feel like progress is slow, but regulations are there to prevent misuse of power. If we set our eyes on our great responsibilities to the American public, we can make a difference in the lives of American people.

Florence Chang
Specialized Information Services

The beneficiary

headshot of Doug Atkins

Doug Atkins

Wow. Sometimes the easiest sounding questions are the most difficult to answer.

There are different levels of helpfulness and degrees to which one person is even capable of serving another. And there may exist plenty of good reasons why one person cannot help another. When this is the case, I think it is important in most instances to demonstrate an effort and at least leave another with a feeling that you are on their side. In instances like this, public service is probably better gauged by the beneficiary than by the benefactor.

Doug Atkins
History of Medicine Division
Library Operations

A joy

It took me time to realize that working for the public was what I really enjoyed. My childhood was humble but concepts such as honor and making the world a better place came up often at the dinner table.

headshot of Victor Cid

Victor Cid

I did not start my public service in the US, though—switching jobs 26 years ago meant for me switching world hemispheres. As an immigrant, I had to adapt to other tools and methods (and many other things) but that did not change my goals.

Public service for me is about happiness—it’s truly joyful for me to work with great, inspiring people on things that mean something good in the lives of many other people, not just “my customers.”

If your life’s goal is to make money, public service is not the way to go. If done right, public service gives you something no money can buy, which is this feeling of joy and satisfaction from knowing you are part of an amazing team that works every day to make the world better for our children and beyond.

I continue to enjoy working for the public, and for the larger community not defined by geographical borders but by its human quality. I’m proud and honored to serve and to make our country and the world a better place.

Victor Cid
Specialized Information Services

The common good

Serving the public means that their common good is more important than my personal opinion or personal desire.

casual headshot of Bonnie Maidak

Bonnie Maidak

It means that I cannot personally copyright any material generated for my agency—any product that I create is in the public domain.

It means to use government resources responsibly to serve all of society for generations to come and not just one individual today.

I cannot financially benefit from my work, except through the wages that I am paid to do my job.

It means to serve all US taxpayers, even though they have different opinions and philosophies about how government is supposed to function or act.

Bonnie Maidak
National Center for Biotechnology Information


headshot of Roger Brtva

Roger Brtva

Public service means that I am creating and managing tools and data that help others get the information they need. I try to think outside my own way of thinking. Rather, I work to put myself in the shoes of someone else (student, patient, researcher) who uses NLM resources. I try to listen.

Roger Brtva
Library Operations

A responsibility—and an honor

headshot of Amanda Wilson

Amanda Wilson

Public service enables me to marry the career I love with my passion to serve. To me, public service is a responsibility to make the most of every opportunity and ensure that the widest possible audience is able to benefit from our work. It’s stewardship and accountability. Though not without its downsides and challenges, I feel that public service is an honor. Our work supports the public good.

Amanda Wilson
Library Operations

Positive Impact

headshot of Zhiyong Lu

Zhiyong Lu

For me, public service means putting into practice what I have learned for the social good. For the last decade at NLM, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some of the most talented and caring people and to have the opportunity to make some positive impact worldwide for PubMed users through our natural-language processing research.

Zhiyong Lu
National Center for Biotechnology Information

North Star

casual headshot of Rob Logan

Rob Logan

The term “public service” means I should remain mindful about what is the prevailing public interest in all of my projects and initiatives. To me, the prevailing public interest is the North Star to make decisions, identify focal points, and create opportunities. It also is the foundation of how I evaluate most governmental and non-government institutional efforts in health care and public health.

Rob Logan
Office of the Director/Office of Communications and Public Liaison

A calling

casual headshot of Melanie Johnson

Melanie Johnson

Public service is a calling. You have to want to reach out to help others that are in need and can’t do for themselves.

Melanie Johnson
Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications

Leaving the world a bit better

In answer to this question, Terry Yoo turned to Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), an American essayist, lecturer, philosopher and poet, who was known for challenging traditional thought:

casual headshot of Terry Yoo

Terry Yoo

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of the intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the beauty in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that one life has breathed easier because you lived here. This is to have succeeded.”

Terry Yoo
Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications


headshot of Wei Ma

Wei Ma

It is the most rewarding way that I can apply my knowledge and skills to build something useful for the American public.

Wei Ma
Office of Computer and Communications Systems


headshot of Brian Szamborski

Brian Szamborski

My public service to me is ensuring or helping the public has what it needs to satisfy what they are trying to accomplish.

Brian Szamborski
Office of Computer and Communications Systems

What does public service mean to you? Let us know by commenting below.

3 thoughts on “It’s Public Service Recognition Week. NLM staff answer: What does public service mean to you?

  1. Pingback: It’s Public Service Recognition Week. NLM staff answer: What does public service mean to you? – Heathy Casa

  2. Pingback: Weekly Postings | The MARquee

  3. Pingback: 2018’s Seasons of Stories from NLM in Focus | NLM in Focus

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s