Health Science Center’s RAHC library shares blue ribbon award

San Antonio (Sept. 23, 2004) – A national award that highlights exemplary health promotion activities of U.S. libraries was awarded Sept. 20 to The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio’s Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC) library, located in Harlingen, and the Biblioteca Las Américas (BLA) library, located in Mercedes.

The two libraries received the 2004 Blue Ribbon Consumer Health Information Award from the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS). Debi Warner, director of the RAHC library, and Lucy Hansen, lead librarian of the BLA library, accepted the plaque at a ceremony at the BLA library. Margaret Whitehead, library systems administrator from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, and U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa presented the award.

The two libraries were recognized for the MEDLINEplus Peer Tutor Project. The educational program is a partnership between the RAHC library, the South Texas High School for Health Professions (Med High) at Mercedes and the BLA library. Mercedes is in Hidalgo County.

Through this alliance, Med High students learn how to access the latest Internet search engine sites used by RAHC medical students to research various medical conditions and diseases. The Med High students, in turn, regularly teach people throughout the Rio Grande Valley how to research their own medical conditions through MEDLINEplus and other online sources.

The Health Science Center operates the RAHC Medical Education Division at Harlingen and the Medical Research Division under construction at Edinburg. The RAHC library is operated by the Health Science Center’s Dolph Briscoe Jr. Library. Mary Moore, Ph.D., director of libraries at the Health Science Center, was on hand for the presentation, along with Leonel Vela, M.D., regional dean of the RAHC in the Health Science Center School of Medicine.

Dr. Vela said he hopes this is the beginning of many more collaborative projects between the RAHC and Med High.

Marla Guerra, Ed.D., superintendent of the South Texas Independent School District that includes Med High and the BLA library, also participated in the ceremony. Dr. Guerra read a statement on behalf of Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., president of the Health Science Center, and Steven A. Wartman, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president for academic and health affairs and dean, School of Medicine, recognizing Virginia Bowden, Ph.D., former director of Health Science Center libraries who helped obtain funding for the project. The statement also recognized the project leaders, Warner, Hansen and Cindy Olney, and Med High students, and cited the project’s potential to grow to impact the health of many in South Texas and beyond.

The MEDLINEplus Peer Tutor Project received the 2003 Library Project of the Year award by the Texas Library Association. Upon invitation, Hansen and Warner made a special presentation to the National Library of Medicine (NLM) Board of Regents in May 2004. The NLM funded the program its initial year.

The success of this consumer health project has spawned more project funding. The Briscoe Library received an award from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine South Central Region to expand the MEDLINEplus Peer Tutor Project to San Antonio and Laredo schools.

The BLA library received a grant from the NLM to expand the program to The Science Academy of South Texas (Sci Tech), Med High’s sister school, and Spanish-speaking student organizations.

“This was an exemplary example of health information outreach at its finest,” said Dr. Fred Wood of the National Library of Medicine. “We are delighted that there will be follow-up work to the Med High Peer Tutor Project, both at Med High and elsewhere in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and in the San Antonio and Laredo areas.”

The NCLIS is a permanent, independent agency of the federal government that is responsible for addressing the information and learning needs of the American people.

The RAHC library would not be a reality without the leadership of Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., author of the bill that established the RAHC. Sen. Juan Hinojosa, at the time a state representative, sponsored the bill in the House.

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