April 3rd, 2014

Blooming the Wrong Way

Daffodils in our rock garden, blooming while facing the fence after years of blooming towards the backyard

Daffodils in our rock garden, blooming backwards towards the fence after years of blooming forward towards the backyard

As most gardeners know, the arrival of Spring means it’s time to clear out the overgrown dreck of Winter.

It’s been a season of clearing out the dreck from my career as well. Previously, in the midst of motivational ennui, I believed there were very few options to choose from and that leaving librarianship was a near certainty once I was done with my second Masters degree this year. While I have a vision of integrated learning technologies/instructional design, distance learning, and information science, I couldn’t find it existing elsewhere in the health sciences field and it saddened me. Please note I’m not saying instructional design in distance learning doesn’t exist in medical librarianship; I know full well it does and several of you who are likely reading this are champions at it. What was there was not quite the same thing as what I envisioned myself working towards. It’s hard to articulate what you see that doesn’t yet exist. I was like these daffodils, blooming with ideas but facing the wrong way from where I knew I needed to be going.

Is there such a thing as a mid-second career crisis? If so, I think this Winter was it for me.

I’m no longer there and am starting to see new opportunities on the horizon. What the garden has gently reminded me this Spring regarding career growth and development is this:

It takes hard work to clear things out – you can see how overgrown with weeds things are to the left and along the fence due to a year of neglect. Blackberry brambles, dandelions and all sorts of other crud is choking out the vinca towards the back, but I have to be careful not to rip it out along with the dreck. The same strategy goes with a career. Maybe ripping it out and throwing everything in the yard waste bin isn’t the only option and there’s still beauty in there worth holding on to. It just takes some digging to find it again. Speaking of digging, I recently found my notes from Managing and Revitalizing Your Career as a Medical Librarian in 2012. What did I write as my first thing under Where do you want to be? for mapping my pathways to new opportunities? “Distance Education Teacher: Concepts of Place and Space?” Yep. I’d already articulated part of my vision then promptly lost sight of it again.

It takes time to clear things out – I’m such an all-or-nothingist. I’m still struggling with the fact that the vast majority of the rock garden is a wreck right now while only one tiny section is looking nice, and to me it’s taken an awful lot of time for very little reward. I want our rock garden to be worthy of Better Homes and Gardens now! Can’t I just fast forward to the fun part where I’m perusing the nursery aisles for the perfect new plants, latte in hand? Reality is I’m intentionally planning 30 minutes each evening to be out there, clearing out the dreck one bit at a time. While there can be epiphany moments of clarity regarding career directions and growth, they also take little bits of consistent time to develop fully. I’m not going to neglect things for 2 years again.

Avoid toxicity – I could dump casoron, RoundUp or other nasty things on the remains of what I rip up to keep the weeds at bay, but does that benefit or poison ourselves and the environment? The same thing applies for career networking – find those who help strengthen your layers of positive growth as newspaper and bark mulch does to choke out the weeds without destroying everything else in the process. It’ll take ongoing maintenance to keep things that way. You’ll find you’ll also help others grow forward as you dedicate time maintaining these positive networking relationships too.

When you’re making progress, things will still hurt you along the way –

Don't worry, I'm current on Tdap.

Don’t worry, I’m current on Tdap.

Case in point, my not-so-graceful fall off a mossy rock where I somehow caught most of my weight on my inner wrist. Oops. OW. This wouldn’t have happened if I’d just continued to ignore the dreck in the rock garden and distracted myself with the rest of life, but where is the growth and beauty in that? Life and careers involve other people, and other people involve Unexpected Things Happening. Take the time you need to heal and learn from Whatever Happens as you grow forward instead of avoiding the potential risks of doing so in the first place.

Avoid the ‘Do What You Love’ mantra – do I honestly love falling on my wrist, getting scratched by blackberry brambles, and wondering just how much dirt on my jeans and miscellaneous twig bits in my hair are socially presentable enough to carry on the rest of the evening after I’m done gardening? Of course not.  Avoid devaluing yourself and others by saying the same thing about all aspects of our work too, especially those of us in academia. Slate says it better than I can. Balance is good.

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February 25th, 2014

Twitter as Continuing Education


Quick. come up with a way to teach how to participate in a Twitter hashtag chat *without using a single word*. This assignment nearly killed me.

Quick. teach how to participate in a Twitter hashtag chat without using a single word or picture. This instructional design assignment nearly killed me.

Two Twitter-related things to draw your attention to for now with rambling insights to follow later.*

Get ready for our second #medlibs journal club led by Tony Nguyen on Thursday, February 27th at 9pm Eastern/6 Pacific! We’ll be discussing The value of library and information services in patient care: results of a multisite study. Details are at the #medlibs chat blog.

Also, please help out a library student in Oxford with her dissertation about Twitter for professional development. She is taking on what I’ve long been meaning to with a much broader scope, and she’s offered to share her results later.

* Yes, I’ve been quiet here for months. That’s changing now that I’m closer to finding my new job/third of the way done with second masters degree/various professional commitments/family/life balance. I think. Some weeks are more questionable than others but this isn’t one of them.

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November 26th, 2013

In remembrance year 6: Know the signs


Dorothy Irene
4/26/24 – 11/24/98

(yours truly in the 1970s culturally inappropriate Indian attire, with a wink and a smile to David Hale)

Heart Attack Signs for Women

This is my yearly post to increase awareness of the signs of a heart attack which is still the #1 killer for women. It’s not merely #1, it leaves deaths from all cancers combined for women in the dust (infographic excerpt source)

Although much progress has been made since I was making funeral arrangements for instead of getting ready to celebrate with my grandma this Tuesday before Thanksgiving 15 years ago (the original post and story) I know more can be done.

Please make sure your family and friends know these important signs of a heart attack. Never disregard them as indigestion, the flu, or make a doctor appointment for later in the day when it’s more convenient for everyone else. It was too late for my Grandma by the time she saw her doctor – she died within hours despite every effort made to save her after being rushed to the emergency room. (Source of signs from Go Red for Women)

  1. Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  2. Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  3. Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  4. Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
  5. As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

If you have any of these signs, don’t wait longer than five minutes before calling 9-1-1 for help. Also know what your heart attack risk factors are such as high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking and high blood pressure in addition to family history.

Under 55 and think heart attacks aren’t possible for you? Think again. It is taking medical research a while but they are learning more about why heart attacks in women under 55 are often deadlier than they are for those who are older – possibly due to being linked to blood clots instead of plaque buildup in arteries (source)

In younger women, instead of chest pains, the symptoms of heart attack may include more generalized pain in different parts of the body, including the jaw, neck, shoulder, back and even stomach. Recognizing that younger women may be less likely to present with the typical chest pains of a heart attack could help more of these patients to get the treatment they need in a more timely manner

Thank you for taking the time to read this and spread the word this Thanksgiving!

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October 18th, 2013

Friday Foolery #121: Baby Got Back (Bacon)

I Like Pork Butts and I Cannot Lie

Thank you, Bill the Butcher, for making me so thankful I took a different way home yesterday.

In other bacony news – Less Kids, More Choline!


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October 1st, 2013


Edit: Thanks Connie for the comment alerting to Managing Burnout in the Workplace: A guide for information professionals

So, to make an incredibly long story short, September was an enormous month of change over here. Our son started middle school (the Summer of Seventh Grade has paid off well thus far), our house was burglarized (stuff is stuff, we are fortunate and so many good people helped to outweigh the bad), we’re waiting for the results of some family health diagnostic testing, and I have resigned my full time position over here.

Wait, what?


This year has shown me that life is short and it was time to implement a career change I’ve been dancing around for quite some time: I’m starting the University of North Texas Learning Technologies program this month, and am seeking part time employment opportunities because I like having my evening hours with my family. I anticipate graduating in December 2014 and being involved more extensively in support of online education, which is undeniably my true passion. Look at the number of posts I managed to write this year – what were most of them about?

However, I have been talking with many of us across the nation about some (or all) of the aspects of making a career change away from librarianship and have noticed an alarming trend: Many of us are not happy. I’m not talking about being unhappy because Starbucks ran out of pumpkin spice syrup or because the satellite dish went out, but extremely unhappy to the point of exhaustion and feeling hopeless about work. This isn’t a healthy way to enter into National Medical Librarians Month!

If this resonates with you in any way, please read The Unscientific Causes and Cure to Burnout and know that you are not alone. Please take care of yourself first and remember we are humans and not machines. Your wellbeing is far, far more important than a job. All of the field’s potential for innovation and progress mean absolutely nothing if the people at the heart & soul of it are burned out and struggling to make it through the day.

There are a lot of ‘What’s next for…’ questions and I don’t have all the answers just yet. Unless the #medlibs community decides to kick me out I’m not planning on leaving, and other leadership/committee decisions involve many other people. I’m not flat out bailing and am excited about a future involving both the information science & learning technologies focus I’ll have, and will continue blogging the journey ahead!

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August 12th, 2013

#medlibs chat for CE: eScience series

Whew. I really wish there still weren’t so many variables at the moment, but the time has come to announce something that a whole heck of a lot of people have been working really hard on:

Week 1: e-Science Portal for New England Librarians
Thursday, August 15, 2013
9:00 pm Eastern/6:00 pm Pacific time
#medlibs Twitter chat

Join your colleagues for the first of a five week series presented by the University of Massachusetts Medical School Lamar Soutter Library eligible for Medical Library Association Continuing Education hours (more on that at the bottom of this post) where we will be discussing the e-Science Portal for New England Librarians (http://esciencelibrary.umassmed.edu/index) and the e-Science Community blog

For more details including how to register for and earn MLA CE, please see the #medlibs blog post at


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July 22nd, 2013

Summer School Alert: Statistics in Medicine

Edit: Thanks for the tip on Harvard’s Health in Numbers MOOC, which will start again on October 15th and is also on the edX platform.

Some similarly interesting upcoming MOOCs from edX’s courses listing include The Impact of Drug Development (September 16th), Fundamentals of Clinical Trials (October 14th), and for those really long range planners Genomic Medicine Gets Personal (March 4, 2014). Keep an eye on their Medicine and Biology/Life Sciences categories which have loads of fascinating topics.

As I gave some early indicators of, my priority this summer is not blogging over here but working hard during the day and teaching the Summer of Seventh Grade (primarily pre-algebra) at night.

However, in an effort to better understand both teaching and learning math, I did something crazy last week and signed up for another free online class about it that has a local study group. It is short, nowhere near the level of coursework of previous MOOCs I’ve attempted, designed very well, despite having over 20,000 students registered has shown no signs of crashing, and uses the edX platform over at Stanford’s online courses.

I’m not sure if other medical librarians were already aware of Stanford’s HRP258 Statistics in Medicine course that launched back in June and runs through August 18th. The description is

This course aims to provide a firm grounding in the foundations of probability and statistics. Specific topics include:

1. Describing data (types of data, data visualization, descriptive statistics)
2. Statistical inference (probability, probability distributions, sampling theory, hypothesis testing, confidence intervals, pitfalls of p-values)
3. Specific statistical tests (ttest, ANOVA, linear correlation, non-parametric tests, relative risks, Chi-square test, exact tests, linear regression, logistic regression, survival analysis; how to choose the right statistical test)

The course focuses on real examples from the medical literature and popular press. Each week starts with “teasers,” such as: Should I be worried about lead in lipstick? Should I play the lottery when the jackpot reaches half-a-billion dollars? Does eating red meat increase my risk of being in a traffic accident? We will work our way back from the news coverage to the original study and then to the underlying data. In the process, students will learn how to read, interpret, and critically evaluate the statistics in medical studies.

The course also prepares students to be able to analyze their own data, guiding them on how to choose the correct statistical test and how to avoid common statistical pitfalls. Optional modules cover advanced math topics and basic data analysis in R.

I’m sorry that I missed this one! Registration is still open for the class, but it is a hardcore (8-12 hours per week estimated workload) class that doesn’t sound easy to catch up on. I’d keep an eye out for future offerings of it and related courses as thus far their instructional design and navigability is the best I’ve seen in the MOOC world and I’m learning a lot not just for my summer school teaching but also for my own online course design for effective student learning.

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May 30th, 2013

Future of Health Librarianship: New #medlibs Participation Record

I’m thrilled to announce we’ve set a new participation record during the #medlibs chat on the Future of Health Librarianship for May 30th – 33 particpants cranking out 369 tweets in 75 minutes according to the analytics. Be sure to check out the great conversation in the transcript, and thanks Dean Giustini for diving in as a first time host for the firehose!

How do topics for #medlibs chats happen? If no one signs up to lead them, they’re automatically open mic. Look what happened Wednesday night though –

tweet conversation

Please sign up with your ideas on the form below the #medlibs calendar – the floor is wide open this summer. I am here to help with any and everything you’ll need to set up and have a successful hosting experience with support during most chats, but I am in way over my head both with work and life this summer (just in case you haven’t noticed the blog crickets around here) and can’t do all the #medlibs work myself – let’s keep our great group leadership dynamic going strong!


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April 30th, 2013

MLA Runs, Walks, Whatever4Boston

I’ve completed Day 16 of 26 for my pledge to walk daily in support of the Boston Marathon victims using the Charity Miles app on my phone.

For the next two weeks, Lifeway is not only sponsoring regular Charity Miles donations to the charities we choose to walk, run & bike for they are also paying an additional 25 cents per mile to The One Fund as part of #BostonStrong10K.

During MLA there are a group of runners organized by Bart Ragon & Montie’ Dobbins at MLA Runs4Boston and I piped up and asked if speedwalkers would be welcome because I just can’t pull off running even at a really slow pace.

If you’re like me and want to be with other walkers, come join in! The times the group will leave from the front doors of the Sheraton are

Fri        6:30pm
Sat        6:00am (this will kill me but I’m going to drag my jetlagged Seattle self out the door and DO IT)
Sun       3:30pm
Mon      2:00pm
Tues     4:00pm

If all of us with smartphones used Charity Miles, think of the additional impact we’ll have raising money for The One Fund for free. I’ll have Charity Miles running even when I’m just strolling along seeing the sights of Boston too – every step counts!

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April 28th, 2013

15 Year Dawg

This is pretty surreal to admit:

Anniversary date 4/28/1998

Drumheller Fountain

I was a temporary employee for several months before my April 28th hire date and have blazed through a combination of fixed duration appointments and ‘acting’ assignments, so I have no idea how my years of service to the University of Washington have officially been calculated. It all depends on what type of employee classification you are. My anniversary hasn’t been acknowledged by UW since 2003 due to a number of reasons, but I don’t care and am taking myself shopping to commemorate the occasion anyway! How many Dawgs can say they’ve been continuously employed by the home team for 15 years and aren’t yet 40?

May 1st marks 5 years since my library career change and the 6th is taking some shifts I didn’t know about until recently – away from health informatics and electronic health records (EHRs) and towards new directions including patient engagement. It’s exciting to grow in new directions yet bittersweet to let go, but let go I must for the sake of learning my focus areas well. I’ll still blog here if something about health informatics catches my eye and of course there’s a lot of intersection, but EHRs are one of the tools used to involve patients with their healthcare and do not constitute actual patient engagement. This is something I’m seeing a lot of misunderstanding with current discussions about this area and I’m looking forward to bringing my health informatics background to this direction!

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