Editorial Board Q & A: J. Michael Homan

J. Michael Homan

J. Michael Homan, director of libraries and assistant professor of medical informatics, Mayo Clinic

1. Describe your current activities.

I am the director of the library system serving Mayo Clinic with staff and facilities (libraries; knowledge centers; archives; websites/databases) including an online presence and physical locations at multiple geographic sites in Minnesota, Arizona, and Florida. My time is spent primarily in administration, planning, and evaluation of library systems and services and other activities as a member of various institutional committees. I also teach as a guest lecturer at the Mayo Graduate School and Mayo Clinic’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science. The sea changes which have occurred in access to scholarly information required all academic health center (AHC) libraries to have a significant technology platform and electronic resources – which I collectively refer to as “knowledge informatics.” The continuous changes that are occurring in the digital ecology environment and in knowledge informatics are of great interest to me as are the cultural aspects of the change including student and faculty access and user demographics, system preference issues, the perceived value of libraries, and social media implications.

2. What gaps do you see in today’s scholarship?

I’m reminded every time I participate in peer review for Academic Medicine that the manuscript author has discovered a perceived gap in the scholarship, sometimes an important one which may have significant implications, and sometimes just an interesting gap but important to publish. I do not perceive any significant current gaps in scholarship judging from the articles published in the journal. The number of manuscripts submitted to Academic Medicine has increased significantly over the past 10 years, and I think the quality has become better. One area of investigation which is often memorialized elsewhere but which has important policy implications at AHCs is the return on investment of information (generally digital) curated and promoted by libraries. An article in JAMA [1] and an article in the Journal of the Medical Library Association [2] emphasize the linkage between knowledge and clinical care. The value proposition of information, including scholarly publications and libraries, is an area of importance to AHCs.

3. Why do you read Academic Medicine?

For those of us who work at AHCs but who are not directly involved in clinical care or research, Academic Medicine is a great way to get a sense of the current and important strategic and policy areas at the AHC – education, research, clinical care. Reading the journal also constantly reinforces the great humanity there is in medicine and provides insights into the practice of the health professions and helps me understand and have empathy with current issues involving employees and students. I receive an electronic alert each time a new issue is published, and combined with e-alerts to JAMA, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, New England Journal of Medicine, and PNAS I obtain a good consistent overview of both medicine and science in general. I also receive the printed version of Academic Medicine and I invariably turn to the Teaching & Learning Moment pages, the cover art explanation, and AM Last Page. I generally peruse the commentary portion and read the editorial. Occasionally there is an article for which I provided peer review comments and I always read it again just to see how the final submission was handled by the authors and the editorial staff.

4. What issues will we be reading about in five years?

The ongoing evolution of health care, research, and AHC administrative and policy issues will continue to provide an unending source of manuscripts for the journal which provides an excellent forum for the academic medicine community. Medicine and science are never finished but are continuing to evolve and the journal — which is editorially independent from the AAMC — has an important role to play in the process of filtering and memorializing the best papers.

5. What book(s) are you reading right now?

I have a digital subscription to the New York Times which I read on my tablet and subscriptions to various magazines, but I do love to read books (I prefer print). I’ve listed some of the books I’ve read most recently – entirely in the leisure reading category!

  • Brown, Daniel James. The boys in the boat: nine Americans and their epic quest for gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Viking, New York, 2013. This is a wonderful documentary about the rowing team from the University of Washington which took gold at the 1936 Olympics. There is probably more than you need to know about rowing competition and boat building, but the human interest story of the team members and the coaches and the race strategy is worth the detail.
  • Munro, Alice. Dear life: stories. New York, Vintage Books, 2012. Munro, a Canadian, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013. This is a delightful collection of short stories that stay with you but are very accessible and easily consumed over a long period of time rather than read all at once.
  • McCann, Column. Zoli. New York, Random House, 2007.  McCann is Irish but currently living in New York City. His more recent “Transatlantic” (also recommended) featured Irish themes. This book has nothing about the Irish but is a thoroughly researched (McCann always does a good job here) work of fiction about the Gypsies of Eastern Europe during WWII and the years after the war. The key character of the book is Zoli who writes poems.
  • Stafford, William. Ask me: 100 essential poems of William Stafford. Edited by Kim Stafford. Minneapolis, Graywolf Press, 2014. 2014 is the centennial of William Stafford’s birth (1914-1993). Stafford is Oregon’s most famous poet and was consultant to the Library of Congress. He began teaching in Portland, Oregon at Lewis & Clark College in 1948. This collection assembled by his son, Kim Stafford, is very accessible with some beautiful examples of Stafford’s poems.


  1. Sollenberger JF, Holloway RG Jr. The evolving role and value of libraries and librarians in health care. JAMA. 2013 Sep 25;310(12):1231-1232.
  2. Marshall JG, Sollenberger J, Easterby-Gannett S, et al. The value of library and information services in patient care: results of a multisite study. J Med Libr Assoc. 2013 Jan;101(1):38-46.

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