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The National Library of Medicine Observes 135th Anniversary

Martin M. Cummings, MD
Arch Intern Med. 1972;129(4):655-656. doi:10.1001/archinte.1972.00320040131019.
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Libraries, medical or otherwise, J do not usually engage in such seemingly esoteric activities as evaluating a VHF satellite voice link between a Public Health Service physician in Alaska and a native health aide in a remote village. Yet such a dialogue provides a form of clinical consultation in an area where climate, terrain, absence of transportation and—most of all—lack of reliable communication produce almost insurmountable isolation. Telephones are practically nonexistent, and conventional high frequency radio is completely unreliable because of ionospheric disturbances in the auroral region.

Actually, this is an intriguing example of modern biomedical communications investigation, designed to improve diagnostic and therapeutic procedures for patients unattended by physicians in 26 Alaskan villages, that has been undertaken by the National Library of Medicine and described in its recently published 135th Anniversary Report, 1836 to 1971.1 A revealing document, it traces the gradual transition of the medical library from


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