Librarians in Cars Driving Places

29 Mar

Have you ever watched the web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee? It’s a funny show created by the very funny comedian, Jerry Seinfeld. Much like his classic television show, it’s kind of about nothing – just Jerry and some talented and funny comedians riding around in vintage cars, having coffee, and talking about whatever. I like it.

I also like The Late Late Show’s host, James Corden’s, carpool karaoke bits where he picks up famous folks and they ride around singing to songs on the radio. (My all-time favorite is the one with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Honestly … LAUGH OUT LOUD funny! I had to watch it again while writing this. Excuse the snickers.) 

And then there’s the sportswriter, Tony Kornheiser’s daily podcast, This Show Stinks. I started listening to it early this year during my afternoon walks. For many years, Kornheiser wrote a column in the Washington Post. Whenever it was about the Washington Redskins, my grandmother clipped it out and sent it to me. I’ve been a fan ever since. I love the podcast because it centers on discussions around sports, politics, culture, odd news stories. A regular, rotating crew of columnists, politicos, sports people, movie critics, and more join in for what’s always an entertaining hour or so. 

I think the common thread of interest for me is that each of these venues allows me to be something of a voyeur, a fly on the wall of the room (or car) with people I wouldn’t mind hanging out with. They’re always smart and funny and they create these shows that allow me to feel like I’m part of the group. Even when I’m clearly not. Not in that league. Not by a long shot.

ozarkland

Fish hat. Ozarkland. Yes!!

I was thinking about Comedians in Cars this morning while walking my dog. I got to thinking about a few times when I’ve been riding in cars with other librarians and how those drives turned out to be as interesting and fun as any of these shows or podcasts. I remembered the time that Kristi Holmes, Director of the Galter Health Sciences Library at Northwestern University, and I rode all the way across Missouri together. At the time, Kristi was working at the Becker Medical Library at Washington University in St. Louis. We were both attending a conference in Kansas City, so I flew into St. Louis, Kristi picked me up at the airport, and we drove across the state together. On the way to Kansas City, we stopped off at the fantastically awesome, Ozarkland, and laughed ourselves silly at all of the kitchy souvenirs. On the way back, we stopped off at a for-real western wear store where I bought my very first pair of boots. Kristi grew up on a ranch. She was the perfect guide for this shopping adventure. And in between, we talked and talked. And we became friends.

Another time, early in my stint at the Lamar Soutter Library, I was invited to give a talk at  Cape Cod Community College. Donna Berryman, Senior Associate Director at the Edward G. Miner Library, University of Rochester, was the Outreach Coordinator for the New England Regional Medical Library (NN/LM, NER) at the time, thus we were co-workers. Donna also had to attend this event at CCCC, so we rode along together. We talked about libraries, librarianship, books, movies, our lives, our families, where we were from, how we grew up… in other words, in those hours in her car, we also became friends. Life-long friends.

I guess that I was thinking about these experiences this morning because I recently engaged in an online discussion about the importance of professional organizations. They’re dwindling, in case you were unaware. Membership is down at every level – national organizations, regional organizations, state and local organizations – and for a variety of reasons. If you, like me, have long been involved in a professional organization, particularly in leadership roles, you’ve likely felt the pressure that comes with trying to maintain an organization with fewer and fewer resources, as well as struggling with the emotional feeling of “we’re failing.” 

But we’re not failing. We’re changing, but not failing. The trick is to get in front of (or ride) the change in such a way as to prevent failure, i.e. change in ways to remain relevant, important, worth the investment of people’s scarce time and money. That’s the challenge.

My adventures riding in cars with librarians strikes at the heart of what professional networks and professional organizations are all about – relationships. Though I don’t work in a medical or health sciences library anymore, I maintain the professional relationships that I developed through car rides, meetings, shared office space, virtual spaces, and social media because they are invaluable. They provide every opportunity for support, professional growth, sounding boards, collegial spirit, and yes … friendship.

I think it’s really difficult to translate to anyone new to a profession (or even one who’s been at it awhile and sees the retirement door ahead) the value of the relationships that come from sharing a profession – from sharing rides in cars, both literally and figuratively. But I believe maybe it’s something that those of us invested in organizations need to work on, if we want to hang around awhile longer. Going it alone is hard and it’s also not the best thing for the overall health of a profession. People together makes a profession.

Like that Dam in California… Overflow!

14 Feb

oroville_dam_spillover_2017-02-11Not to make light of the scary news out of California this week regarding the eroding of Oroville Dam, but some of the images did make me think of my overflowing bookmark list of things to share with with my readers. So many! So here goes:

There’s much about Fake News in the real news lately, including the role that librarians can play (see the PBS NewsHour story, Why These Librarians are Protesting Trump’s Executive Orders, by Elizabeth Flock) and can’t play (see Information Literacy Won’t Save Us; or, Fight Fascism, Don’t Create a LibGuide, by IJClark) when it comes to media literacy. I find there to be interesting and credible arguments on both sides, but more than anything, I’m heartened by the rekindled notion of the importance of our profession in the discussion.

Somewhat related is Mattie Quinn’s story for the website, Governing; For the Poorest and Sickest, Librarians Often Play Doctor. As a medical librarian, I found this story of particular interest.

A few useful resources:

  • Think Outside The Slide has a nice list of free resources to make PowerPoint presentations more effective. 
  • MapBox provides a platform for adding maps to your mobile apps. While it’s a paid service, there is a level available for free that you can try.
  • Back in October, I attended a terrific workshop on bibliometrics and research assessment, co-hosted by the NIH Library and the Maryland Chapter of the Special Libraries Association. The materials are now available online. You’ll find a couple of really good keynote talks, plus a whole bunch of interesting posters by colleagues in the field. Great stuff!
  • ProPublica the independent, nonprofit, investigative journalism outfit has created a number of applets using IFTTT, that work with different media tools (Evernote, Pocket, mail, calendars, etc.) to keep you up-to-date on different aspects of U.S. politics, including when the President signs a new law, when Congress schedules a vote, and a weekly/daily Congressional digest. These are great for staying informed and, if one is so inclined, for activism.
  •  The International Consortium for Health Outcomes Measurement (ICHOM) is a non-profit organization devoted to bettering health care systems worldwide by “measuring and reporting patient outcomes in a standardized way.” On their website, you can find a lengthy, growing list of Standard Sets for a variety of medical conditions, along with literature on how to read, interpret and use the findings.
  • Finally, WordCounter.net needs no explanation. It’s a handy online tool. 

I really enjoy following the website, StatNews. I find it to be a thoughtful, credible source for current news on health and medicine. If you’ve yet to discover Stat, here are a couple of stories that I recently read to introduce you to their work:

Another interesting health care-related story is Martha Bebinger’s story (WBUR), What if We Really Knew Where to Get the Best Cancer Care: The Prostate as Case Study. It gets one to thinking about what we know, what we don’t know, what we can know, and what we might not want to know when it comes to health data and medical treatments. 

If you’re fascinated with space and all things astronaut related, as I am, you likely know about the really cool “Twin Study” that’s been ongoing at NASA using the identical twins, Mark and Scott Kelly, as subjects to study the longterm effects of space travel – findings that also inform down-to-earth subjects like aging, muscle growth, and other aspects related to gene expression. The first findings were published on the NASA website in late January and they contained both some expected and unexpected results.

And finally, if you missed the best story of 2017 so far, I share it with you here now:

Four-year-old Daliyah Marie Arana’s being “Librarian for the Day” for the Library of Congress.

As I said, best story of the year so far. 

New Year, New You (Me)

11 Jan

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you enjoyed the holiday season and that 2017 will be good to you. I always enjoy a new year. It’s like a clean slate, an open field, the first day of school. And I don’t so much make resolutions as I make lists. I make lists in my new planner. (This year, I’m trying out a nice model from Baron Fig.) I list things that I might want to do, songs that I want to learn, books that I want to read, concerts that I want to attend, movies that I want to see, etc. I add to the lists throughout the year, but it’s not quite the same as starting them up on a blank page in a new calendar at the beginning of a new year. It screams, “Possibilities!”

My list-making this year also reminds me of how unsettled I feel right now. The political climate is unsettling, for sure, and there seems so much uncertainty and fear throughout the world. These things don’t particularly help me address my own anxiety, but they’re also not the only thing contributing to it. This I know. I just feel I’m ready for something new, something different, some kind of change. I think I’m ready for a new me. 

For a good while, I was finding myself frustrated with me because I kept thinking/believing that I’m not the person that I once was and I liked the person that I once was. I kept thinking/believing that if I could just go back to be my “old self,” I’d feel great – happy, fulfilled, energized. But then I started reading this book:

miller

It was recommended to me by a young woman who used to tend bar at a neighborhood pub that I frequent. It’s a young person’s bar and I’m not a young person, but I like to pop in on my way home from work once a week or so, often on Thursdays when my wife goes to yoga, and I have a pint and I read. Young people don’t go to bars until later at night, so it’s generally quiet when I’m there, conducive to reading and/or watching whatever sports show is on. 

Anyway, Taylor, the bartender, evidently noticed my habit and found it interesting. She was there last Thursday with some friends and came over to me to say “hi” and ask what I was reading. (I was reading another great book, The Lonely City.) We talked about the holidays and the new year, and somewhere along the way I must have hinted about my unsettledness. In response, she recommended Donald Miller’s book. She said she just knew that I’d like it. She said that she was re-reading it herself right now. I told her I’d get it, read it, and we could have a book club-type chat the next time we saw each other. She liked that. The bartender working last Thursday, Nate, liked the idea, too. Maybe we’ll get a book club going – early in the evening, of course, before the young people (besides these two) show up.

I’m about half-way through at the moment and so I’ll not offer up a review of “Thousand Years” just yet, but I will tell you this much – and I’ll tell you why I know Taylor told me that I’d like it. It’s a memoir – kind of, sort of – that tells the story of how the author learned to write a screenplay and in doing so, discovered it was the perfect metaphor for writing one’s life. If you want to live a good story, you have to write it. Said another way, if you’re not living the story that you want to be living, you need to write yourself a better one. The book follows along in such a way that as the author learns about how a story is structured (character construction, story arc, inciting incident, etc.), he starts writing not only the screenplay, but a whole new life story for himself. And then the reader is inspired to do the same. And I am. It’s inspiring! 

It makes sense that Taylor recommended the book, because what I was saying to her about liking the person that I once was, but maybe not so much the one that I am now, and wanting to go back to that “old me” – well I’m reminded in reading this book that we don’t ever go backwards. We only go forwards. It’s the only direction that we can go. And I also realized that the person back there in my past that I like, that person was always going forward. That me was always moving, changing, growing. That’s what I like about that me. I’ve been in a rut too long. That’s what I don’t like. That’s what’s unsettling. Change isn’t unsettling. Stagnation is.

It’s time to write some change back into my life.

Earlier during this lunch break, I read (in the chapter about inciting incident), “Without an inciting incident that disrupts their comfort, they (humans) won’t enter into a story.  … The character has to jump into the story, into the discomfort and the fear, otherwise the story will never happen.” (p. 104-105)

I think of how often people are afraid to write in a new journal or notebook, for fear of messing it up. And I always think, “How silly! What else is a journal for?” Donald Miller’s book has me thinking, “What else is life for, if not for writing a good story to live.” 

So I’ve added to my New Year’s lists the line, “Write yourself a better story.” We’ll see what happens!

What’s on your list for 2017? How will your story go? I hope you’ll share along the way.

Soundtrack for writing your story, courtesy of Catie Curtis. It’s been playing steadily during my morning commutes:

 

 

 

Here’s to a Happier New Year!

29 Dec

This will be my last post of 2016, friends. Thanks again for following along for another year – or thanks for finding me this year, if you’re new to my blog. I appreciate having a venue to share thoughts and ideas and observations and such, and appreciate even more everyone who finds something worth reading here.

My wish for 2017 is a more peaceful world for us all to inhabit. For any number of reasons, 2016 seems like it’s been an extraordinarily rough time. People are fractured and societies around the globe fractioned. One of the very things that makes us our best, diversity, is frightening to so many. I only hope that in 2017, we can begin to mend the deep, deep wounds that have festered for too long.

I woke early this morning – too early to get up – and couldn’t get back to sleep. Instead of lying there letting my mind run on and on, I decided to practice a body scan meditation that I learned at the Center for Mindfulness here at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Founded by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979, the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program has reached countless many, helping bring the science of mindfulness practice to the healing art of medicine. If you’re fortunate enough to live in Central Massachusetts, you can take advantage of the many programs offered by the Center, but even if you live on the other side of the country or the globe, there are lots of resources available to help you learn how to incorporate mindfulness into your life. I dare say, if ever there was a time for everyone to be more mindful of ourselves and others, it’s now. 

So this morning, I put my earbuds in and followed along through the guided meditation and sure enough, I felt my heart rate lower, my mind quiet, and my soul get a little break from all of its worries. It was great. And I hope I remember it later today and tonight and tomorrow morning and tomorrow afternoon and … well, you get it. 

But should I forget – or should you not be into meditation – I share this gift from the people at the social media management tool, Hootsuite, with you. Truly, I think watching it for 45 minutes is akin to meditating. Enjoy!

Happy New Year to everyone! May peace find us all.

 

Unpack the Stocking – 2016 edition

21 Dec

3-stockings

Well, well, well … what a year 2016 has been! It seems that we lost an inordinate amount of influential people, we certainly endured a surreal (Merriam-Webster’s “Word of the Year”) election season, stories of violence and heartbreak around the world lead every news cycle, and no doubt, people have encountered their own personal joys and sorrows the past months that made the year memorable, if nothing else. But all this said, it is the time for a little bit of celebrating and reflection and unpacking a present or two. Thus, I give you my 2016 edition of “Unpack the Stocking.” This year, I thought I’d share some Top Fives (kinda sorta) across the board. Here goes:

My Top 5 Work-Related Books of 2016 

  • Effective Data Visualization: The Right Chart for the Right Data, by Stephanie Evergreen This book has been an absolute go-to data viz bible for me over the past months. Combined with Stephanie’s blog, online tutorials, and data academy, I have learned a gazillion cool ways to present data in the most effective way. Terrific!
  • Data Visualisation: A Handbook for Data Driven Design, by Andy Kirk Another wonderful resource that sits handily by my side on my desk, right next to Stephanie’s book. Andy provides a thorough blend of theory and practice, making this book a must-have for anyone serious about doing data vis. (I say “vis” for Andy, cuz he’s British.)
  • The Best American Infographics, 2015 Yes, it’s the collection of greats from last year, but I got it early this year, so it counts. Like any art, one’s skills in visual communication are improved simply by looking at examples of exemplary work. Whenever I’m stuck for ideas about how to construct an infographic, I pull this book off my shelf and look thru the pages for a bit. I get inspired and then I get to work.
  • Dear Data: A Friendship in 52 Weeks of Postcards, by Georgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec Anyone and everyone working with data should read this book! For one thing, the story of the project between these two outstanding data artists is good fun, but more, it offers terrific insight into how good visuals begin with a lot of thought, a lot of trial and error, and a lot of pen and paper! Telling a story with data is about so much more than a programming language. These two women will remind – or perhaps teach – readers this lesson.
  • The Truthful Art: Data, Charts, and Maps for Communication, by Alberto Cairo This is Alberto’s latest beautiful contribution to the field. If you’ve yet to read his book, The Functional Art, grab that one, too. Alberto presents data communication from the perspective of a journalist. As this is how I often think of my own role, i.e. telling the success stories of the UMCCTS, I find his books so incredibly helpful.

My Top 5 Just-for-Fun Favorite Books that I Read in 2016 (not necessarily published this year)

  • The Shepherd’s Life, by James Rebanks I absolutely loved this book! It’s a beautiful memoir, history lesson, social justice/environmental study of a world many likely believe doesn’t even exist anymore. But it does and James is a marvel at telling its story.
  • The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown This book had been on my “to read” list for awhile and when I found a copy at a used bookstore, I snatched it up. What a treat! It’s the best sports/history book that I have read besides Laura Hillebrand’s remarkable, Seabiscuit. These stories remind the reader of why the people of this time in America’s history were, very much, the “Greatest Generation.” 
  • X, by Sue Grafton I will put aside just about anything that I’m reading to read the latest Kinsey Milhone mystery by Sue Grafton. X found its way onto my shelf this year and I read it over a rainy weekend. I can’t bear the thought that we only have “Y” and “Z” left from in this wonderful series that I’ve been reading for 20-odd years. 
  • Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, by Sebastian Junger “The 99%” is a phrase often used to describe the non-wealthy of the United States, but it could also be used to describe the the non-military-serving Americans. Yes, less than 1% of Americans actively serve in a branch of the Service right now and perhaps this explains a great deal about our society and its relationship and/or understanding of all that the men and women who do join up endure – both while serving and more, when they return to civilian life. Sebastian Junger has both written books and produced documentary films on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in this short book, closes a chapter on this work. It’s an important read.
  • Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson This book had been on my bookshelf, unread, for years and I honestly had no idea that such a remarkable treasure was just sitting there, waiting for me to notice it. An amazingly beautiful work of fiction. It now lives on my bedside table where I can simply pick it up any morning or evening and take in a passage that will stay with me for days. A beautiful, beautiful book.

My Top 5 Helpful Websites/Sources of 2016

  • Click on any link in “My Top 5 Work-Related Books of 2016” and you’ll get to a whole other layer of amazing resources. This is perhaps one of the greatest gifts of the interwebs, i.e. it allows for so much supplemental material for books, articles, etc. Each of the authors of the books that I mentioned has a website or blog or set of online tutorials that I’ve relied upon throughout the year.  

My Top 6 Binge-Watched Television Programs of 2016 (6, not 5)

  • Happy Valley (Netflix) “Our Catherine,” as the Brits say, Catherine Cawood  is a former detective, now sergeant, in West Yorkshire. And that’s just the beginning of her story. Two seasons to date. Oh please, let there be a third.
  • Scott & Bailey (Amazon) Like “Happy Valley,” this is an offering from the acclaimed British screenwriter, Sally Wainwright. Imagine Cagney & Lacey redone in a much more sophisticated and superior way and you’ve got this show. The abbreviated 5th and final season came out this year. I miss these characters already.
  • The Fall (Amazon) Gillian Anderson is an amazingly complex character in this dark, suspenseful, chase to catch a serial killer. Another great series that wrapped up in 2016. I loved it.
  • Janet King (Acorn) The Australian actress, Marta Dusseldorp, was my favorite new person to come across in 2016. It’s not a coincidence that she stars in not only Janet King, but in the two picks that follow this one, too. This well-written legal drama follows the lead character, Senior Crown Prosecuter Janet King, and her colleagues through their work fighting crime and corruption, while balancing all kinds of ethical dilemmas of their own. The third season is under production now.
  • Jack Irish (Acorn) Guy Pearce has been a favorite actor of mine ever since he starred in, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. His portrayal of character, Jack Irish, is no exception to his talent. Former attorney, now kind of down on his luck, he makes his way solving mysteries and getting himself into and out of all sorts of jams along the way. Great writing, terrific characters, and a good story to follow. Two mini-series and one full-length season are available.  
  • A Place to Call Home (Acorn) My third favorite find from Australian TV this year is this lovely melodrama that follows the wealthy Bligh family and surrounding characters, most notably nurse Sarah Adams (Dusseldorp) in the small town of Inverness, north of Sydney, in the years following WWII. It’s just one of those, “Sit back and watch” kind of shows. Pure entertainment. 

My Top Musical Moments of 2016

Music is such a big part of my life, of course I count musical moments as some of the things I rely upon most to help me get through any year. 

  • FreshGrass at Mass MoCA offered up 3 straight days of unmatched joy as I got to see favorites Rosanne Cash, Glen Hansard, Aoife O’Donovan, Old Crow Medicine Show, Alison Brown, Sierra Hull, Ruthie Foster and so many more … all in one venue. Holy smokes! It’s gotta be one of the best live music festivals for Americana music lovers going. And it’s at Mass MoCA. Can’t be beat!
  • Seeing Patty Griffin at the Lowell Music Festival this past summer was a dream come true. I’ve loved her music for a long time, but had never had the chance to see her perform live. She’s an amazing singer-songwriter and a fantastic performer. I was not disappointed.
  • I have a long, personal history with the singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter. Her summer concert, also part of the Lowell Music Festival series, was one more chapter in the story. Additionally, I discovered the wonderful, Rose Cousins, that evening, as she opened for MCC. I love her music now, too.
  • Last, but hardly least – in fact, this is more than likely my favorite favorite experience/event/everything of 2016 – in October, I attended a songwriting retreat in Georgetown, ME, hosted by an amazing singer-songwriter and even better person, Catie Curtis. “Catie at the Cove” found me camping under the stars (and rain), making some very special new friends, and most of all, helping me to tap into a source of creativity within me that I’ve long wanted to find. Catie and her co-lead, Jenna Lindbo, provided the perfect space for encouragement and growth and fun that I will long remember. And I can’t wait to go again! Something to look forward to in 2017.

And … I also enjoyed some wonderful weekends with old friends, reconnected with some very dear folks from my growing-up days, said goodbye to two very important people in my life, one being my dad, and felt a sense of unease and anxiety that I’ve not experienced in a long time (if ever – it’s a global thing, I think). I celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary with my best friend, Lynn. I got a hug from my friend, Amy Dickinson, when she was on the panel of Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! when it broadcast from Providence, RI. I co-wrote with my colleague, Lisa Palmer, was published in the book, Translating Expertise: The Librarians’ Role in Translational Research (I’m sure it’ll hit the bestseller list next year). I learned some new stuff, got better at a couple of things that I’ve been doing for awhile, and am actively looking for some new challenges for the coming year (volunteering? new art class? trampoline fitness?). So I look back and see that 2016 wasn’t the best nor the worst of times, but a balance for me. I hope yours was, too. 

Thanks for another year of following along with my blog. I wish everyone all the best for 2017! 

 

Gadgets for Giving, the 2016 Version

22 Nov

For the past several years (I’ve lost track), I’ve given an annual talk at the Medical School in which I share a bunch of fun, cool, new gadgets and gizmos that folks might like to give and/or receive for the holidays. It’s always a lot of fun to put together and I invariably end up buying a few of the finds for family and friends and yes … me, too. Here’s this year’s version for your own enjoyment. You can find the handout that accompanied the presentation here – 2016-gadget-talk-handout. It offers information on sources for the items and pricing. 

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Rules of Travel

7 Nov
sally-and-janene_their-finest-hour

With my favorite Aussie, Janene Batten, medical librarian extraordinaire at Yale Medical School and Yale School of Nursing.

(This was originally posted on NAHSL Blog, the official blog of the North Atlantic Health Sciences Libraries, Inc. It’s reposted here with my own permission. Heh!)

One of my favorite singer-songwriters, Rosanne Cash, has a song titled, “Rules of Travel.” It’s completely unrelated to the content of this blog post, but it’s a great lead-in and/or title for it. I also realize that I’m not completely following the rules of NAHSL Professional Development Award blog posts, but please stick with me. It’ll make sense…

I have the great fortune to be on some short list for speakers for library conferences. I receive several invitations each year to travel to state or regional meetings, or library school classes, to talk about what I do for a living. I like to think that it’s because I do interesting things, that I’ve knitted together an interesting career path (not that I knit, but enough librarians do to get the metaphor). Enough folks have told me that they’ve read my blog for years and I know that this gets me invites. And I also like to think that I’m somewhat entertaining. At least to some people.

Anyhoooo… when I receive such invitations, I have some rules of travel that I try my best to apply. One of these is that if the content of the conference is of the slightest interest and/or relevance to my work – good odds, since these are library/information professional conferences – I ask that I receive free registration to attend the whole meeting. I don’t ask for much, if anything, to speak, so I figure it’s a good deal for both me and the group doing the inviting. I always learn things and I get to meet so many wonderful colleagues from all over the place.

The week before NAHSL’s annual meeting this year, I traveled to Detroit to give a keynote at the Michigan Health Sciences Library Association. The opening speaker for the meeting was Thomas Buchmueller, PhD, a health economist and professor at the University of Michigan. He teaches and does research within the School of Public Health there, focusing on “the economics of health insurance and related public policy issues.” (MHSLA program bio) In his talk, “Insured by Obamacare: Early Evidence of the Coverage Effects of the Affordable Care Act,” Dr. Buchmueller described the private coverage provisions of the ACA as a 3-legged stool. One leg represents underwriting reforms, an aspect the overwhelming majority of Americans support. The second is the individual mandate, the leg that has caused no end of trouble for the law, particularly given that the third leg, premium tax credits, haven’t kept up. The second and third legs are dependent upon one another for success.

For me, Dr. Buchmueller’s talk was a terrific lead-up to the first plenary speaker at NAHSL 2016, Jack Hughes, MD, from the Yale School of Medicine. Dr. Hughes also took on the topic of health care / health insurance / the ACA in his talk. His description of the problem as “the iron triangle” fit so well with the 3-legged stool metaphor. The 3 sides of the Triangle – Cost, Access, and Quality – are all connected and addressing one aspect cannot and does not occur without effecting the others. The statistics presented in both of these talks are, in my opinion, both hopeful and shameful. Early evidence shows that the ACA has positively affected the numbers of Americans who are insured and who seek preventive health care both earlier and more often, thus reducing many expensive illnesses / procedures down the line. But at the same time, the issue of unbridled cost remains one that must be addressed before we will ever see and/or experience effective change in our health care system. Quality suffers, people suffer, and the American health system thus lags woefully behind those found in countries comparable to us in wealth and development.

I so appreciated hearing these two talks within a short period of time. I learned a great deal. I also really enjoyed following the back-channel, Twitter discussion on #NAHSL2016 that took place during Dr. Hughes’ talk. The questions of what defines American society, the beliefs the country was founded upon, the underlying sense of independence, our holding this up as the ideal of who we are as a nation/people… all of these came up in a GREAT discussion on how this ideal will or even can be reconciled with the ideas related to “health care for all.” I loved it! I love the passionate thoughts and knowledge-based opinions of my colleagues. It’s such a great characteristic of our profession. (As an aside, I also loved how Dr. Hughes’ tapped into this very thing with his polling exercises throughout his talk!)

I want to thank the NAHSL Professional Development Committee for awarding me a scholarship to help offset my expenses to travel to the conference this year. I also want to thank former NAHSL Chair, good friend, and tutor of all things Australian, Janene Batten, for letting me stay at her home during the meeting. Like so many of us, travel funds have been frozen at my institution, and the assistance of scholarships and the kindness of friends makes attending these wonderful events possible. This and a few rules of travel.

And lastly, thanks to the Program Committee for an outstanding meeting. Kudos on a job so very well done.