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University at Buffalo librarian has health info at her fingertips

Pamela Rose has seen a lot of changes over five decades at the University at Buffalo Health Sciences Library.

She’s also developed a deeper appreciation for animals.

“My worlds are colliding,” Rose said recently as she sat in her office at the historic library on South Campus. “I’ve placed cats with many, many of my colleagues over the years because I used to foster and rescue them. Therapy dogs are coming here. And I’ve had zoo docents here because there are connections between historical medicines and animals.”

Rose, 68, lives in Parkside with her husband, Joel, a retired UB computer programmer who led the fight years ago to keep the Buffalo Zoo in Delaware Park and in more recent years to try to quash the Buffalo Creek Casino.

She landed at the library as a clerk in the mid-1960s, after struggling in UB math and engineering classes her freshman year, dropping out and passing a civil service test. During the next three decades, she picked away at classes as she worked full-time, earning a bachelor’s in medical anthropology at the school in 1990 and a master’s in library science in 1995.

Rose has been Web services library promotion coordinator the last 15 years. She’s been a docent at the Buffalo Zoo during the same span. She is a member of several animal support groups, and founder and webmaster for Therapy Animals of Western New York. She forged the UB Therapy Dog Program four years ago with help from Health Sciences Library interim Director Amy Lyons.

She has become well versed in how to provide health professionals – and the general public – with important information on rare, common and chronic diseases.

“Librarianship is such a wonderful field. It doesn’t matter who you’re serving,” she said. “But when you’re serving the health sciences professions, there are those moments when the information you give a practicing physician or clinician might just affect the care a patient gets that day. Last year, I had a dermatologist call our chat service, where we receive questions by email and look things up on the fly. He had a patient in the office and needed information on this peculiar condition, and he needed it now. I was able to locate an evidence-based article, immediately downloaded it into a PDF and had it to him within 10 minutes. Those moments are what drive me.”

Q. What do you do at the library and how has your job changed over the years?

When I started, I was in acquisitions and ended up being head of acquisitions for a brief time. I worked for 30 years in technical services. I ordered books. I used my computer skills to write a database management system for acquisitions for books and printing out order lists long before computers were adopted centrally. After I got my master’s I was a cataloguer for a while. Ultimately, I migrated into this area of Web updates, Web design, Web content mostly, and promotions and marketing. It was a very nice change. The benefits of the advent of the Web were huge. We now have the ability to get a request for an article 30 seconds after it’s been sent and have that article delivered in as little as 3 minutes. In the old days, I’d go to Index Medicus, an index of all the articles that have been published – there’s a new one every month and a hard-bound edition every year – I know the article was published between 1990 and ‘95. Now I’ve got five books I have to check. Then I’ve got to write down the journal title and the volume number and the pages. Then I’ve got to walk up to the second floor. I’ve got to pull the volume from the shelf, open to the page, take the volume to the photo copy machine, photo copy it and fax it.

Q. Still, it’s probably not as simple going to Google or another search engine and finding this information.

It’s getting easier to do that, and sometimes you can. We tell people about Google Scholar, which is much more like the proprietary databases that we use: Medline, Web of Science, PsycINFO; there are a bunch of them. But understand, each database indexes a subset of literature and each one has their own interface and way of doing things. They all have some of the same features but it’s like going to France and having to figure out what the word for salt is. You need to know how to use them effectively, to set your limits properly. You need to know about evidence-based research and what that means.

Q. Who tend to be the people you serve?

Our primary clientele are the five health sciences schools which would be Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing, Public Health and Health Professions, and Pharmacy. All of these schools are on this campus but the medical school is moving downtown. We will have library space in there and have a librarian assigned by that school who will likely be going down there to provide service to the clinical faculty.

Q. Do other physicians and people who do not have access to UB have access to the library?

They have access in that they can come into the library and use anything onsite except we can’t give them access to our subscription databases. You have to have a UB IT (user name). Many practicing physicians are adjunct faculty, so as a result they have access. Also if they are at one of our teaching hospitals – we have relationships with Buffalo General, Millard Fillmore Suburban, Children’s and the VA. If you’re a community person, you have no relationship to UB and you walk in the door, we can give you a courtesy card that allows you to access one of three terminals reserved for community patients. We can’t give you access to MedLine, which we pay for, but we can teach you how to use PubMed, which is the public version. There are things you cannot get, but we can show you how to get what you need.

For a lay person who might have cancer or chronic disease, would they be able to come in and access information or is it going to be too complicated?

That’s why we’re here, to steer them to the sites that are consumer friendly. MedLinePlus is a big one. That’s out from the National Library of Medicine and all of the information on that site is in layman’s language. ... Some consumers are a little more health research literate and we can steer them to a slightly higher level.

Q. And filtered out would be anything advertising based or look to steer you toward a certain product?

Absolutely.

Q. Who tend to be your regular users?

Those faculty and users in the health sciences schools. And it’s not unusual for someone with a sick family member to come in and use the library. (The general public can stop at the library in Abbott Hall during operating hours or call 829-5722 to arrange a visit.) One thing we’re very, very careful about: We cannot give advice. We show you the resources that can help you make your decision. We don’t say, “You can take your drug.” We say, “This popular article has misinformation. Here’s the correct information so you can make a judgment. Here’s something you can share with your doctor.” We can also find you a list of doctors in this area if you’re being treated for something and want a second opinion. We can offer a lot of alternatives. We can connect you with support groups for your particular disease, say “Here’s a good forum” or “This organization has reliable track record and has good information on their website. Contact them.”

Q. How does animal therapy benefit people?

Dogs are the best known terms of animal therapy. There’s a very large area of practice called Animal Assisted Therapy, AAT. Under that umbrella, there are service dogs which include Guilding Eyes for the Blind; dogs that assist emotionally for those that have PTSD. Those are called emotional assistance dogs. And there are service animals that can help people who are paralyzed by picking things up and handing them to you. Some dogs can predict seizures.

In the most casual use, there are therapy animals. Horses are used. Rabbits, cats, ferrets. Therapy dogs.

With all of these modalities, the signature benefit is when you stroke an animal, the first thing that happens is you relax a little bit and your blood pressure goes down. It also lowers cortisol, which runs around in your body when you’re stressed. A lot of this comes from relaxation and the fact that the dog is totally nonjudgmental. It doesn’t care that you have a spot on your tie. It doesn’t care if you look sad or you look happy – although it may pick up on those cues. It’s just that it loves people, and it loves you in that moment.

Of course, that’s anthropomorphization. It’s total acceptance and just a moment for you to take a breathe. There’s also the pure pleasure of putting your hand through soft fur, like a plush Teddy bear. Even for people who are not animal people, it connects you back to nature, and you know how wonderful it is take a walk in a green park or go hiking on a trail, or just listen to the world around you.

However civilized we may think we are, we’re still creatures of nature. I think we all hunger for that in some way and I think this helps with that.

Q. What impact has the Therapy Dog Program had since 2011 and since you developed a “Guide to the Therapy Dog Team Visits at UB?”

When we piloted the program at the Health Science Library, there was only one location of any size that did it. Since then, it’s expanded to the North Campus. From there, it’s also expanded to other colleges in the region: Canisius, Niagara County Community College, Erie Community College, Geneseo, they all have contacted us for a guide to how to how to develop the program. They hold them themselves. We’ve also heard from colleges in England, Colorado, Texas. For many reasons, many other people started to certify their dogs as therapy dogs, so the number of teams increased (to more than 200 in the region). And here at UB, aside from the libraries, residence advisors will hold a couple of hours in the evening in the dorms they live in. We didn’t start the program, either. Yale was one of the earliest schools.

Q. Where can UB staff, students and others expect to find you and your Bernese mountain dog Sophie in the coming weeks?

I’m at the Buffalo airport Friday evenings with Sophie for those coming in and out of the airport. And we’ll participate in the UB Stress Relief Events toward the end of the semester for students who are getting ready to take exams.

email: refresh@buffnews.com

On the Web: Learn how to train and certify a therapy dog at therapyanimalswny.org; find out about therapy dog visits at Paws for Love, yourspca.org/spca-paws-for-love.