Where are they now? The 2007-2008 NLM Associate Fellows…10 Years On

seven young women and a service dog pose for a formal group photo

The NLM Associate Fellows from 2007-2008

Every August, NLM Associates who have been with the Library for a year prepare to leave.

Every year, we wonder, “Where will they be in 10 years?”

This year, we decided to find out.

NLM reached out to the NLM Associate Fellows from 2007-2008 to ask about their current positions, how their Fellowship helped them, and what’s next.

We learned that this group of seven former associates is just as passionate about the field of medical librarianship as they were 10 years ago. They’ve been making an impact on three continents. And they’re all committed to helping new librarians through teaching and mentorship.

We couldn’t be prouder.

Grace A. Ajuwon, PhD

informal headshot of Grace AjuwonWhere are you working now?

I work as a reference and information services librarian at E. Latunde Odeku Medical Library, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. I am also an associate lecturer in the Department of Library, Archival and Information Studies, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, where I teach at the undergraduate and graduate levels and supervise students’ research projects.

How did the NLM Associate Fellowship impact your career?

The program impacted my career positively in four ways:

It gave me the exposure I needed to learn the skills that have helped me to successfully practice as an academic reference librarian in a medical school library.

The new skills transformed my career.

It enabled me to acquire knowledge and leadership skills to the point that senior colleagues routinely consult me for guidance on professional issues.

It improved my knowledge and skills in the areas of research and grant writing.

How and what do you do to keep learning and growing?

I attend training workshops, seminars, conferences, etc. I took up an associate faculty position (part-time lecturing), and I teach information literacy on a regular basis. Doing this gives me the opportunity to prepare and keep up to date.

What’s next for you?

My next major move is to become a deputy university librarian and then look for opportunities and apply to become a library director. This will give me the opportunity to mentor younger professionals and have a greater positive impact on the policy and practice of health sciences librarianship.

Sarena Burgess

formal headshot of a Sarena BurgessWhere are you working now?

I serve as a supervisory librarian for the Technical Services Branch of a federal government library in Washington, DC. In this role, I oversee most of the behind-the-scenes work of our library, which includes acquiring new materials, ensuring that print and electronic resources are accessible through our library’s discovery interface, and maintaining and organizing collections in two library spaces.

How did the NLM Associate Fellowship impact your career?

Participating in the NLM Associate Fellowship program exposed me to a wide array of library functions, which allowed me to identify the aspects of librarianship that I most wanted to pursue. I discovered that I enjoy the technical side of library operations, particularly in making information resources accessible.

How and what do you do to keep learning and growing?

As an advocate for the effective use of technology in libraries, I try to keep an open mind when I hear about new ideas or concepts that might be applicable in my organization, since I believe continuous improvement is critical to our success as a profession.

I seek opportunities to engage with other librarians through national conferences and local meetings with other federal libraries, and I keep up with news in a variety of library-related publications and websites. I also follow trends in the broader technology community to stay aware of developments that might impact libraries in the future.

What’s next for you?

As a relatively new supervisor, I am still learning and growing. My colleagues in the Technical Services Branch have generously shared their expertise and knowledge with me, which has been helpful as we begin to tackle new projects and initiatives. I’m looking forward to continuing this work as we identify and implement strategies to enhance our services.

Kate Flewelling

formal headshot of Kate FlewellingWhere are you working now?

I am the executive director of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Middle Atlantic Region. We are funded by NLM and based at the University of Pittsburgh. I have been in this role since March 2017 and with the NNLM since 2011.

How did the NLM Associate Fellowship impact your career?

It’s not an exaggeration to say that I owe my career to the Associate Fellowship Program.

In the first year, I learned about every program area and gained an insider’s knowledge of resources. As part of one of my projects, I worked with NLM’s Specialized Information Services Division to conduct a needs assessment of the Refugee Health Information Network, now HealthReach, and talked to refugee health professionals around the country. In my second year, at Inova Fairfax Hospital, I worked with patient support groups, community-based seniors, and HIV/AIDS and geriatrics health professionals. That experience became the perfect training ground for outreach work at NNLM.

How and what do you do to keep learning and growing?

Because of the nature of our work, NNLM staff go to a lot of conferences to promote NLM resources and to connect with current and potential members. In the past year, I have gone to annual meetings of the Medical Library Association, the Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries, and the American Library Association, plus many other health professional conferences. This job offers opportunities to learn from and about my own field of health science librarianship and many other fields.

What’s next for you?

I plan on continuing to explore new ways that I and the amazing staff in the Middle Atlantic Region can better support our members and the goals of NLM.

I also love talking to current and potential NLM Associates, so please network with me!

Brenda Linares

formal headshot of Brenda LinaresWhere are you working now?

I am at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas. I am the health sciences librarian to the School of Nursing. This provides me the opportunity to share information about NLM consumer health resources and research tools.

How did the NLM Associate Fellowship impact your career?

The NLM Associate Fellowship changed my life in many ways that I did not even imagine.

The opportunity to do the fellowship for a whole year at NLM was the opportunity of a lifetime. I had the chance to learn about all the great resources that NLM creates and manages, network with many knowledgeable people, and build long-time friendships with my fellowship cohort.

Being a NLM Associate Fellow opened many professional doors over the last 10 years. The skills I acquired at NLM were unique, and the experiences have impacted every step of my professional life.

As one of the few Latina health sciences librarians, doing the fellowship inspired me to mentor and get involved in diversity issues in recruiting more diverse people in the profession to represent the people that we serve. I have had the opportunity to work on these issues in the libraries I have worked in as well as in the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the MLA. We will be receiving the MLA Chapter of the Year award this year in recognition of the diversity work that I led over the last two years with our task group.

How and what do you do to keep learning and growing?

I enjoy learning new things.

I watch webinars on new tools and services. I read blogs on the future of librarianship. I keep up with the literature and attend professional conferences.

What’s next for you?

As I was doing the NLM Associate Fellowship, I realized that I was interested in management in health sciences libraries. I completed my MBA this past December at North Carolina State University and had the opportunity to explore management topics and complete the McLauchlan Leadership program. I hope to put many of the things I learned into practice in a leadership role in the future.

Melissa Resnick, PhD

Melissa Resnick in her doctoral cap and gownWhere are you working now?

On May 9, 2018, I earned my PhD in Biomedical Informatics from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, School of Biomedical Informatics.

How did the NLM Associate Fellowship impact your career?

The Associate Fellowship opened doors for the beginning of my career in biomedical informatics.

During the last year of the program, I worked on a project in the Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communication (LHC) building an ontology for SemRep to aid in searching PubMed for abstracts in public health, using MeSH. With encouragement from my mentors in LHC, I applied to a PhD program in biomedical informatics.

While in the PhD program, I received two fellowships to study for four months at a time at a telehealth center in Brazil. I subsequently self-funded a third, three-month trip. While there, I annotated questions from rural health care providers with terms from the International Classification of Primary Care (ICPC) and DeCS (the Brazilian-Portuguese version of MeSH). During this time, I noticed that there was a difference in the questions asked, and thus, the information needed by the different health care providers (nurses, doctors, and community health workers). I became interested in the information needs of rural health care providers in Brazil. For my PhD research, I studied methods for automatically characterizing information needs of these rural health care providers in Brazil, using top-level categories from MeSH.

How and what do you do to keep learning and growing?

To learn, I continue reading articles and books. These include books regarding important research applications, semantic web, Tableau visualization software, and R statistics/programming software.

For growth, I continue to utilize “My Language Exchange” to practice French and Brazilian Portuguese with language partners.

What’s next for you?

Presently, I am visiting the family and friends I did not spend enough time with during my academic pursuits. Afterwards, I am hopeful of making my fourth visit to Brazil to conduct additional research and potentially make a presentation of my research to the Brazilian Federal Ministry of Health. Upon my return, I will begin a job search.

Emily Vardell, PhD

form headshot of Emily VardellWhere are you working now?

I am an assistant professor at the School of Library and Information Management at Emporia State University. I teach classes on the foundations of library and information science, research methods, and reference. My research interests focus on health insurance literacy and how people make health insurance decisions.

How did the NLM Associate Fellowship impact your career?

It was incredibly helpful to learn about the many resources available through NLM from the people who create and maintain them. Having familiarity with the resources helped me when I was a practicing librarian and now as a professor teaching the next generation of librarians.

The individual projects also helped me with time management and project management, which were useful when pursuing my PhD and completing my dissertation research.

How and what do you do to keep learning and growing?

The time I spent on my dissertation research was incredibly rewarding as it provided the ultimate platform for exploring a topic in depth.

Now as an assistant professor, I keep up with the literature to make sure that my research and teaching are focused on the latest developments. My students also keep me on my toes—their ideas and questions push me to explore and consider new topics!

What’s next for you?

I am fortunate to have the opportunity to develop two new courses for our program—Consumer Health Information and Health Sciences Librarianship. I am really looking forward to the opportunity to teach classes closely aligned with my experience and my interests. I am sure I will promote the NLM Associate Fellowship and NLM resources to my students. I always tell masters students that there is no better way to start your career than as an NLM Associate Fellow!

Joanna Widzer

formal headshot of Joanna WidzerWhere are you working now?

I stayed at NLM and serve as a user experience specialist and systems librarian. It’s been exciting because I believe in what NLM and NIH do. It’s just a dream to be here, and I’m excited to work here.

How did the NLM Associate Fellowship impact your career?

I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without it! 

How and what do you do to keep learning and growing?

I watch a lot of YouTube videos. Quite seriously, it is a fantastic source of instruction from experts in my field. I also speak with other UX, IT, and agile project management professionals in the DC area as much as possible. I read about usability and how to make user-friendly websites. I want everything I do to have a life cycle: redesign what we do into a brand-new product. I also focus on when to let go: use analytics, make data-driven decisions, and track trends, which can be a fuzzy area and calls on my leadership skills.

What’s next for you?

The launch of two product redesigns. The NLM home page saw its first redesign since 2011, which was released in spring 2018. We’re also completely redeveloping the DOCLINE interlibrary loan system, which we’ll release in August 2018. For “One NLM” I want one big, happy user experience. It’s something I’ve been working on continuously for more of our products, that consistency of user experience.

NLM in Focus is a product of the NLM Office of Communications and Public Liaison. You’re invited to subscribe to receive word of future articles. We welcome your comments, likes, and shares.

3 thoughts on “Where are they now? The 2007-2008 NLM Associate Fellows…10 Years On

  1. Thanks Juliana! We plan to follow up with the 2008-2009 group next year. It really is interesting to learn about the career paths of former associates.

  2. Pingback: Weekly Postings | The MARquee

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