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Celebrating one librarian’s commitment to global health

University of Michigan’s global health informationist Gurpreet Rana wins the MLA’s T. Mark Hodges International Service Award

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Gurpreet Rana celebrates receiving the T. Mark Hodges Award with Teresa L. Knott, the 2017 Medical Library Association President and Director of the Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences at the Virginia Commonwealth University. (Credit: MLA)

Editor’s note: This month, Elsevier Connect is exploring “how science can build a sustainable future.” In fact, health and education are key to sustainability and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Here, Elsevier Foundation Director Ylann Schemm highlights the far-reaching work of a grant recipient.  


When the Ebola virus struck in West Africa, Gurpreet Rana didn’t hesitate. Throughout that terrible epidemic year, she rapidly led the gathering and curation of the latest open access, evidence-based treatment and prevention protocols into a useful one-stop portal for doctors and nurses in Ghana and clinicians and students at the University of Michigan.

As Global Health Coordinator and health sciences informationist at the University of Michigan’s Taubman Health Sciences Library, Rana was working with a grant from the Elsevier Foundation to strengthen information skills in emergency care in Ghana. She did what came naturally — build evidence-based collaborations around major global health issues.

Rana, a first-generation Canadian from a traditional Sikh family of Indian heritage, explained her rapid response:

I think that my own multicultural and multi-linguistic background has helped me to connect with the world through a global lens from a young age and be drawn to career that supports global health in developing countries.

A few years later, it came as no surprise to me or Rana’s other partners and colleagues when she won the T. Mark Hodges International Service Award, which was presented at the 2017 Medical Library Association annual meeting. The award, which carries a $500 prize, honors outstanding individual achievement in promoting, enabling and delivering improvements in the quality of health information internationally through the development of health information professionals, the improvement of libraries, or an increased use of health information services.

Gurpreet Rana works with Bridget Afedo, Librarian at the Tim Johnson Library for the Family Health Medical School, Ghana’s newest and first private medical school. (Credit: Emily Ginier)

Rana has led her library’s Global Health program since 2011. Collaborating as an educator, researcher and informationist with University of Michigan faculty and students, she has impacted faculty and student research and learning all over the world, including in Ghana, Ethiopia, India, Brazil, South Africa and Haiti.

Her goals have been many: to create partnerships within the health sciences community, explore the role of global health informatics in instruction, incorporate the informationist role into global health, take part in global health research, conduct data source curation, and collaborate to lessen health disparities around the world through the power of information.

Thinking of his own collaborations with Ghana’s Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Accra, Dr. Tim R. B. Johnson, Professor and Chair of the University of Michigan’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, conveys the essence of her contribution:

Preet’s commitment has been sustained, broad and extremely important in transmitting the values of contemporary, professional librarian science to both local and global learners. She has changed their way of thinking about libraries and accessing information. I can think of no one more deserving of this award, for her sustained and truly global commitment to expand information and library services, than Gurpreet Rana.

Building information skills capacity in Ghanaian healthcare

Gurpreet Rana (center) with KNUST Nursing faculty trainees specializing in Emergency Nursing, Community Health, Maternal and Child Health, and Emily Ginier (Health Sciences Informationist, Taubman Health Sciences Library).

In 2014, under Rana’s leadership, Taubman Health Sciences Library received a grant from the Elsevier Foundation for $44,000 tostrengthen the research and clinical care capacity of emergency care services in Ghana through integrated, evidence-based information skills curricula and training. It builds on an existing partnership between Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH), the Ghana Ministry of Health and the University of Michigan’s Departments of Emergency Medicine and School of Nursing.

Beyond creating a sustainable Ghanaian model for information skills training of emergency faculty and information professionals, it has broadened in scope to include information skills training for departments of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Maxillofacial Surgery at KATH as well as dentistry and undergraduate nursing students. In addition, it provides a template for collaboration for librarian/informationist integration in information skills and research capacity building among health sciences trainees in lower- and middle- income countries.

How science can build a sustainable future

This month, we are exploring “how science can build a sustainable future.” At Elsevier, we understand the power of bringing different perspectives together to fuel new approaches to global problems. We support a variety sustainability initiatives through the Elsevier Foundation and in our work as an information analytics provider.

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