View From the 5th – December 2015


December 2015 – New Connections and Collaborations


We’ve had a lively fall semester at the Health Sciences Library! During this brief, reflective pause in the academic year, the word that comes to mind about our work thus far is innovative. Our staff is working with our UNC family in new and different ways. By bringing in new staff members with fresh perspectives, gearing up our services for a new Physician Assistant Program, and working with new groups to reinvigorate our Sam W. Hitt Medicinal Gardens, we’ve expanded and adapted our services and proved our ability to be agile amidst change.

How did HSL land an entrepreneur with a background in business, librarianship and health information as its new Director of Health Information Technology? In five quick questions, see what Brian Moynihan has planned for the future of health information technology at the HSL.

How has HSL welcomed and supported the first class of physician assistant students at UNC? Learn how HSL leveraged its existing relationship with the Department of Allied Health to assist at the outset of this new program.

What’s been happening to the Sam W. Hitt Medicinal Gardens outside the library? Students from Biology 217: The Physician’s Garden worked hard this semester to inventory the gardens, produce new signs and brochures, help with weeding, and make recommendations for further enhancements. Check out the fruits of their labors!

All of our work as a library, whether new and innovative or tried and true, is possible because of the generous support of our donors. We’re grateful for the gifts that allow us to ably support the needs of the UNC community.


Christie Degener

Interim Director, Health Sciences Library


In this Issue:

Five questions with HSL’s new Health Information Technology Director Brian Moynihan

HSL and UNC’s new Physician Assistant Program

Student group revives HSL’s Medicinal Gardens 

Five questions with HSL’s new Health Information Technology Director Brian Moynihan

Brian Moynihan at the CHIP Anniversary

Brian Moynihan networks with attendees of the Carolina Health Informatics five-year anniversary celebration at the UNC Health Sciences Library.

Brian Moynihan joined the HSL as its new Health Information Technology Director in October and in less than two months has already made significant strides to help the HSL stay on the forefront of technological innovation happening in health care education, practice, and research. Moynihan has an MBA with focus in strategy and entrepreneurship, and a Master of Information Science from the University of North Carolina. Learn more about Moynihan’s experience by checking out his answers to our questions below.

Do you have a vision for where the library should be in the area of health information / technology?

Very much so. I have talked to many people about our vision for the HSL and am personally very excited about where we can go. The role of our librarians is to amplify the work being done by researchers, students, faculty, and clinicians. The library provides the expertise, services, and resources to help them do their jobs better. I see technology as amplifying that work even further, giving people the ability to not only do things more efficiently – like accessing health databases and journals from anywhere in the world – but also to do things they had never done before.

What are your top priorities in this new position?


In this position I have three roles: (1) head of web development, (2) a department head with a leadership role within the library, (3) and head of new Health IT initiatives like informatics and mobile Health. As head of web development, I would like to see us adopt a more agile development model where we work closely with the people we serve, quickly and iteratively showing progress. As a department head, I want to help guide our strategic planning as the environment at UNC, in health care, and in technology continue to shift. As head of health IT, I want to collaborate with and connect people working in digital health, informatics, and related fields to the library and provide support in areas like health data management, visualization, and mapping. I also hope to create a Digital Health Lending Library, where our researchers, faculty, and health professionals can try out consumer health devices and software.

Who do you hope to work with to accomplish these priorities?

We’ve been working with people from interdisciplinary programs like the Carolina Health Informatics Program, as well as meeting with faculty members and student groups from the health affairs schools. We’ve also been working with the University Library system to find more ways to collaborate. There are great things going on across the libraries in mapping, visualization, entrepreneurship, and 3D printing that will be increasingly important for the health affairs schools. But we’ve also been thinking in new directions, considering ways of working with the medical simulation labs scattered throughout different health affairs schools, or ways to collaborate with other campuses or with companies. We see the library as a hub, the center of a network of people working in different areas of health, and so the more people we can work with, the better.

How do you think these efforts will position the library as a leading HSL in the country?

The HSL sits physically in the midst of five nationally top-ranked health affairs schools – Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry, Pharmacy, and Public Health, and works in the networks of UNC Health Care and AHEC, which have statewide presences. That is a huge advantage for us in terms of reaching out to people. Our mission is to connect these groups to one another, to accelerate their research, and to catalyze new areas for health innovation. This is happening both physically in our building and virtually online. Thanks to our strategic advantages, and the vision of the library’s leaders, we are very well positioned to be the leading HSL in the country. I’m proud that I get to play a role in that.

What are you most excited about for this role?

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I’m reminded nearly every day what an exciting time it is to be working in health innovation and health technology. Things are moving incredibly rapidly with mobile health, electronic health records, new devices, improvements in genetics, in pharmaceuticals, and more. And our library is not at all the old building with books and librarians saying “Shhhh” – it’s a hub where all of these innovative things are coming together. The people who work here are amazing too – smart, dedicated, and experts in their fields. I’m excited to see the library continue to drive new ways to accelerate teaching and learning, extend research, assure quality health care, and help people everywhere make informed decisions about their own health. It’s great to be a part of that mission, and to work in a place that is so perfectly positioned to be at the center of health innovation.

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HSL and UNC’s new Physician’s Assistant Program


UNC School of Medicine will welcome its first class of physician assistant students in January 2016 and the HSL is thrilled to support the unique needs of 20 new Tar Heels and celebrate the program’s launch.

The HSL will debut a new exhibit on the program and profession later this month. The exhibit will include details about the new program, such as its goal of serving military services members and veterans. It will also feature a historical perspective of the physician assistant profession, including information on UNC’s former Surgeon’s Assistant Program, which was offered during the 1970s until the early 1980s. Images from the Physician Assistant History Society will also be on display.

Barbara Renner, the liaison librarian for the Department of Allied Health Sciences, which houses the physician assistant program, has played a crucial role in helping Carolina prepare for the incoming class. She helped coordinate candidate interviews for the inaugural class at the HSL and has kept the HSL informed on the program’s development.

“As a library, we’re looking forward to learning more about where we can support the needs of the students, faculty and preceptors of this program,” said Christie Degener, interim director of the HSL. “Our staff are already working to make connections with the faculty, gather appropriate resources and inform the Carolina community about this new offering.”

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Student group revives HSL’s medicinal gardens

The Sam W. Hitt Medicinal Plant Gardens, located around the outside of the Health Sciences Library, have received extra attention this Fall, thanks to students in Biology 217: The Physician’s Garden. The course was created and taught by Dr. Alan Jones, Kenan Distinguished Professor in the UNC Biology Department.

The course combines human cell biology with classical botany, elaborating the mode of action of plant metabolites in humans. Jones framed the course to allow students to learn about a certain plant, then about the chemical makeup of the plant and how that affects the human cell. He then challenged his students to develop a plan to help maintain and preserve the garden.

“The hope is to make the Gardens a well-known destination and a must-see for visitors to campus,” Jones said.

The course, which is in its first semester, is aimed at transfer students and is not limited to any particular major.

Even with the inaugural course wrapping up, work on the gardens won’t stop at the end of the semester. The student have established a student group called the Gardening and Ethnobotany in Academia Project, or The GAEA Project, which is advised by Jones. The organization, with the help of future classes, and donors will continue to improve and maintain the gardens.

HSL, UNC Facilities Services and the student group are now working on a memorandum of understanding that addresses responsibilities moving forward.

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Last modified: 01/19/21