NIH appoints Patricia Flatley Brennan director of the National Library of Medicine

As nurse and industrial engineer, Brennan is considered a pioneer in developing information systems for patients.

Patricia Flatley Brennan, a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and a former practicing nurse with a Ph.D. in industrial engineering, will take the lead as director at the National Library of Medicine.

The NLM is the world's largest biomedical library and the producer of digital information services used by scientists, health professionals and members of the public worldwide.

National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins, MD, announced the pick today.

Brennan is expected to begin her new role in August 2016.

"Patti brings her incredible experience of having cared for patients as a practicing nurse, improved the lives of homebound patients by developing innovative information systems and services designed to increase their independence, and pursued cutting-edge research in data visualization and virtual reality," Collins said in a statement.

For seven years, Brennan worked in both critical care and psychiatric nursing.

As Collins sees it, Brennan's combination of skills makes her ideally suited to lead the NLM in the era of precision medicine.

She will take charge of the library as it becomes the epicenter for biomedical data science, not just at NIH, but across the biomedical research enterprise, he noted.

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she is a professor at the School of Nursing and College of Engineering. She also leads the Living Environments Laboratory at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, which is developing new ways for effective visualization of high dimensional data.

Brennan is recognized as a pioneer in developing information systems for patients.  

She designed ComputerLink, an electronic network to reduce isolation and improve self-care among home care patients. She directed HeartCare, a web-based information and communication service that helps cardiac patients at home to recover faster, and with fewer symptoms.

Brennan also directed Project HealthDesign, an initiative designed to stimulate the next generation of personal health records. She also conducts external evaluations of health information technology architectures, and works to repurpose engineering methods for healthcare.

She received a master of science in nursing from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in industrial engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Following seven years of clinical practice in critical care nursing and psychiatric nursing, Brennan held several academic positions at Marquette University, Milwaukee; Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland; and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

NLM Acting Director Betsy L. Humphreys led the NLM over the past year, after Donald Lindberg, MD, retired having served more than 30 years.

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