NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Brennan Appointed New NLM Director

Dr. Brennan
Dr. Patricia F. Brennan


Dr. Patricia Flatley Brennan has been named the next director of the National Library of Medicine. She will be the first female and first nurse to serve as head of the library in its 180-year history.

“Dr. Brennan 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 Dr. Francis Collins, who announced the appointment on May 11.

Brennan is currently at the University of Wisconsin, where she is the Lillian L. Moehlman Bascom professor, School of Nursing and College of Engineering. She also leads the Living Environments Laboratory at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery that develops new ways for effective visualization of high-dimensional data.

Brennan has been active in many medical associations. She is a past president of the American Medical Informatics Association, a member of the National Academy of Medicine and a fellow of the American College of Medical Informatics, the American Academy of Nursing and the New York Academy of Medicine.

Collins highlighted her accomplishments in the field. “Patti developed ComputerLink, an electronic network designed to reduce isolation and improve self-care among home care patients,” he said. “She directed HeartCare, a web-based information and communication service that helps home-dwelling cardiac patients recover faster and with fewer symptoms. She also directed Project HealthDesign, an initiative designed to stimulate the next generation of personal health records.”

Brennan received a bachelor of science in nursing from the University of Delaware, a master of science in nursing from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in industrial engineering from the University of Wisconsin. Following 7 years of clinical practice in critical care and psychiatric nursing, she held several academic positions at Marquette University, Case Western Reserve University and the University of Wisconsin.

In addition, she spent a year at NLM in 2002-2003 as a visiting senior scientist at the Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications.

Collins said, “Dr. Brennan is 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.”

Acting NLM Director Betsy Humphreys said, “In my view, Dr. Brennan’s expertise and experience—and her focus on developing health information systems that support patients, caregivers and the general public—are a great fit for NLM at this point in the library’s history. She will also bring a valuable perspective to NIH as it launches the Precision Medicine Initiative cohort program.”

Brennan is expected to begin as NLM director in August.

Rainy NLM Herb Garden Attracts Youngsters

Two children smile
At the NLM Herb Garden are Ana Hartman, age 9, and Alex Hartman, 6. Mom Laura works in the History of Medicine Division.


Who knew that medicinal herbs are such an attraction to children? Among the many activities during Take Your Child to Work Day, a visit to the National Library of Medicine Herb Garden was included. However, a mid-morning rain augured a damper on attendance at the outdoor plot. 

Much to the surprise of the Montgomery County Master Gardeners who were there to greet guests, children and their parents visited the garden in steady numbers throughout the morning into the early afternoon.

“Not only did our young visitors and their parents visit the garden, but many of them stayed quite a while asking questions of myself and the other Montgomery County Master Gardeners [Sandy Occhipinti, Selma DeLeon and Delore Leatora],” said Mary Musselman.  

The children asked which herbs might help soothe a tummy ache or treat a sore throat. Many of the youngsters were knowledgeable about the plants and their properties because they helped their parents create home gardens. In one instance, a teenager asked questions for nearly half an hour as rain poured around him. The teen said the Herb Garden was what he looked forward to most during his visit to NIH.

The Montgomery County Master Gardeners also set up a table with various dishes and asked their young visitors to guess which herbs flavored the food. “We estimate that the NLM Herb Garden had approximately 100 visitors during the day,” said Musselman.  

Musselman said she and her fellow gardeners were encouraged by the children’s interest in gardening and hoped their initial curiosity would endure through adulthood.—Judy Folkenberg

Kids, Parents Enjoy Meeting the Directors

Lauer looks on at a child listening to a woman's pulse
In Bldg. 1, NIH deputy director for extramural research Dr. Michael Lauer, a cardiologist, shares a stethoscope.

Photo:  Bill Branson, Ernie Branson

NIH director Dr. Francis Collins, principal deputy director Dr. Lawrence Tabak and NIH deputy director for extramural research Dr. Mike Lauer took time out of their busy day to host a Take Your Child to Work Day session in Bldg. 1’s Wilson Hall. More than 100 kids from grades 1-12 took part in a Meet the Directors event.

“The parents really appreciated that Francis, Larry and Mike spent time with their kids,” said Dr. Sharon Milgram, director of the Office of Intramural Training and Education. “It’s a really nice opportunity to see this side of the NIH leadership.” She introduced the leadership after talking briefly about careers in STEM. 

Collins plays his guitar
NIH director Dr. Francis Collins sings about genes and “amazing DNA.”

Photo:  Bill Branson, Ernie Branson

When he was a kid, Collins told the group, he wanted to be a truck driver, then considered being a country singer. But a teacher encouraged him to use his love of chemistry in the health field. He talked about some of today’s most pressing medical problems and said we need all kinds of people to get involved with such projects as the Cancer Moonshot and Precision Medicine Initiative to help advance health worldwide.

Collins then serenaded the room with his Walking through the Genes, to the tune of Del Shannon’s Runaway, in which the chorus goes: “I wonder why, you’ve got an A and I’ve got a G there; what does that say? Amazing DNA.”  

Tabak then hosted a spirited game of NIH Jeopardy, featuring questions drafted by OITE staff. With clickers in hand, kids chose clues from two categories: Doctors and Weird Health Facts. All children left with a certificate of participation.—Dana Talesnik

Tabak speaks to several children
NIH principal deputy director Dr. Lawrence Tabak hosts a segment of NIH Jeopardy.

Photo:  Bill Branson, Ernie Branson

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

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