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Informatics Leader Brennan to Lead National Library of Medicine

May 11, 2016
by David Raths
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Former AMIA board president takes helm as NLM becomes the epicenter for biomedical data science

Informatics expert Patricia Flatley Brennan, R.N., Ph.D., has been named the new director of the National Library of Medicine (NLM), succeeding Donald, A.B. Lindberg, M.D., who held the post for 30 years and retired in 2015. Lindberg was the first president of the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA).

Brennan is a veteran clinician, educator, researcher and author. Her most recent academic appointment has been as the Lillian L. Moehlman Bascom Professor at the School of Nursing and College of Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is expected to begin her new role in August 2016.

She will oversee a staff of more than 1,700 for an organization that supports and conducts research, development and training in biomedical informatics and health information technology. The NLM also houses the largest biomedical library in the world, Medline/PubMed, the Human Genome Project, and includes nearly 19 million books, journals, manuscripts, and media. It is keeper and disseminator of the nation’s intellectual treasury on biomedical research, disease, and health. It is an international resource and the public face of the NIH. 

Brennan served as the president (now chair) of the AMIA board of directors (2000-2001) and is currently serving on the Women in AMIA Task Force. She is the 2015 winner of AMIA's Virginia K. Saba Informatics Award recognizing an individual’s distinguished career and significant impact on the care of patients, the discipline of nursing and a substantial record of contribution to the field of nursing informatics.

“Patti brings her incredible experience of having cared for patients as a practicing nurse, improved the lives of home-bound patients by developing innovative information systems and services designed to increase their independence, and pursued cutting-edge research in data visualization and virtual reality,” said NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., in a prepared statement. "This combination of skills makes her ideally suited to lead the NLM in the era of precision medicine, as the library becomes the epicenter for biomedical data science, not just at NIH, but across the biomedical research enterprise.”

Among the projects she has led, Brennan directed Project HealthDesign, an initiative designed to stimulate the next generation of personal health records. She also conducts external evaluations of novel HIT architectures and works to repurpose engineering methods for health care purposes.