URL of this page: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/podcast/transcript032315.html

NLM Director’s Comments Transcript

Dr. Lindberg’s Legacy: 03/23/2015

Picture of Dr. Lindberg

Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D. senior staff U.S. National Library of Medicine for Donald Lindberg, M.D, the Director of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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We salute the contributions of a pioneer in medical informatics and NLM’s leader for more than three decades. Dr. Lindberg retires this week with the gratitude and appreciation of his peers locally and internationally.

I need to go no further than my home academic discipline (mass communication) to explain what Dr. Lindberg accomplished in health and biomedicine during his tenure at NLM’s helm.

Mass communication students and scholars still cannot search all the major research journals in their field. They cannot read archived articles in full text or search by key words across the entire discipline — nor do they have access to large data sets that have been generated by researchers around the world.

Without the leadership to create access to knowledge, it becomes challenging for students and scholars to figure out what the state-of-the-art is. This inhibits progress because the current generation of practitioners and scholars inevitably labor under the uncertainty if their work actually advances knowledge, improves professional practice, and creates an enduring legacy.

To foster a more enlightened approach in health and medicine, Dr. Lindberg set up several services (when he became NLM’s Director in 1984) so health care providers (regardless of location) could obtain access to research articles in leading refereed journals via the Internet.

Today, PubMed (NLM’s archive of more than 50 years of biomedical and public health research published in leading academic journals) provides a comprehensive foundation for biomedical researchers, clinical practitioners, and others. PubMed Central adds access to articles in full text. In contrast to my mass communication peers, anyone can access free, comprehensive, biomedical knowledge 24/7/365 and researchers have the resources to reliably augment their discipline’s past and present.

To enhance the ability of health care professionals to make serendipitous connections among research and ideas, Dr. Lindberg additionally oversaw the establishment and development of NLM’s Unified Medical Language System and Medical Subject Headings. They provided a backbone capacity to search clinical and vernacular terms, which enables anyone to immediately find relevant articles and discover the similarities among articles about allied topics.

After these services were established, Dr. Lindberg led the expansion of NLM’s mission to help patients, caregivers, and consumers use the Internet to find medical information. MedlinePlus.gov opened in 1998 and was supplemented by an array of Internet-based services that provide health information to diverse audiences, such as first responders, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, as well as persons with challenging medical conditions, such as HIV/AIDS.

To provide patients and providers access to free, Internet-based clinical trial information for the first time, Dr. Lindberg’s efforts accelerated the development of ClinicalTrials.gov, which opened in 2000.

To take advantage of the growing capacity of information technology to store and evaluate scientific data, Dr. Lindberg helped foster the development of the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s (NCBI) Internet-based, scientific data bases, such as Gene Bank and dbGaP. Today, these services enable scientists to access genomic sequences deposited by peers world wide into an Internet-based clearinghouse. Gene Bank, dbGaP, as well as other NCBI websites, have fostered international collaboration in the fields of genetics, genomics (and related areas) by creating inclusive resources of scientific data (which supplement the comprehensive corpus of research articles found in PubMed, and PubMed Central). Incidentally, NCBI was created by the U.S. Congress in a bill sponsored by the late Rep. Claude Pepper (D-FL.) at Dr. Lindberg’s request.

To ensure medical informatics would blossom as a biomedical specialty, Dr. Lindberg helped found and was the first president of the American Medical Informatics Association. He organized NLM’s training program for doctoral students in leading universities, and oversaw NLM’s grants program for qualified researchers.

On top of all this, Dr. Lindberg was the founding director of the National Coordination Office for High Performance Computing and Communication in the 1980s. This committee developed many of the standards that underlie public access to the Internet. Every time you and I go online, our capacity to do so was enabled by this pioneering group.

Unsurprisingly, Dr. Lindberg is often perceived as a Renaissance person. For example, he enjoys giving lectures on the health care of troops during the Civil War. He personally conducted more than 60 interviews as well as oversaw the development of the websites and exhibitions for NLM’s Native Voices: Native People’s Concepts of Health and Illness. Dr. Lindberg’s photographs of people, places, and nature also adorn the National Library of Medicine’s buildings.

Fitting his range of accomplishments, stewardship, and vision, Dr. Lindberg has received more than 25 national and international humanities, biomedical, and scientific awards.

What a career!

Most of all, it’s been my pleasure to know Dr. Lindberg for 35 years. His guidance and foresight challenged me (and everyone at NLM) to stay ahead of the curve, provide health and medical information to all, and strive for personal and institutional excellence. I hasten to add I could not have written and narrated NLM’s ‘Director’s Comments’ podcasts for the past several years without his encouragement.

As NLM bids him farewell, Dr. Lindberg reports he will continue to be active in health care, informatics, and his formidable range of interests. I join my colleagues in congratulating him and I look forward to reporting the next chapters in Dr. Lindberg’s public spirited and accomplished life. 

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A disclaimer — the information presented in this program should not replace the medical advice of your physician. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease without first consulting with your physician or other health care provider.

It was nice to be with you. I look forward to meeting you here next week.