9º World Congress on Health Information and Libraries

Salvador, Bahia - Brazil, September, 20 to 23 - 2005


4th Regional Coordination Meeting of the VHL

September, 19 to 20 - 2005

A library-based bioinformatics program for first-year medical students

  • Ph.D., M.L.I.S., Health Science Center Libraries and U.F. Genetics Institute, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL  - USA
  • Ph.D., Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Center for Pre-collegiate Teaching, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL  - USA

Bioinformatics is the science that is at the core of many recent discoveries in medical research.  Genetics and molecular biology research is now standard in most medical schools, and medical librarians thus must develop a working knowledge of these subject areas.  Even the general public reads in the newspaper and magazines about exciting discoveries that these sciences promise.  However, at the core of such advances usually reside applications in bioinformatics * the use of computers, information science, and biological knowledge to answer biological questions.

First-year medical students undergo training in the basic sciences, including biochemistry and genetics.  It is at these stages that an introduction to bioinformatics can be useful.  While students are learning the basic sciences related to normal and disease states, it is to their benefit to also somewhat understand the research process that led to such discoveries.  Increasingly this research process involves bioinformatics.

This presentation discusses the University of Florida’s Health Science Center Library’s involvement in bioinformatics instruction in the first-year medical student curriculum.  A librarian has provided bioinformatics resource instruction in the genetics module for the last four years, and in the biochemistry module for the last three years.  The librarian meets with the medical students for two hours in biochemistry, and one hour in genetics, and provides instruction in the use of various web-based bioinformatics and genetics resources such as GenBank, Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man, GeneTests, and others.  The librarian writes and grades homework, and holds e-mail and in-person office hours.

The library’s participation in the medical curriculum has not been without its challenges.  First-year medical students are anxious to begin more clinically focused classroom studies, and are not always enthused about basic science or library instruction.  It is essential to provide the stu dents with a variety of examples that are medically relevant, and as such, the molecular and genetic bases of Alzheimer’s Disease, breast cancer, progeria, and Werner’s Syndrome have all been covered in the library sessions or homework and explored using various bioinformatics resources.  Additionally, new areas of research such as pharmacogenomics and personalized medicine are introduced in the library sessions.

This presentation will also discuss the ways that such collaborations between librarians and teaching faculty can be encouraged at academic health centers.  The connections made with the genetics and biochemistry teaching faculty were the result of the strong Liaison Librarian Program the library has had in place since the late 1990s.