Veterinarian leads committee for MEDLINE indexing

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Dr. Mary M. Christopher is the first veterinarian on the committee that recommends which journals are to be indexed in MEDLINE and made available through PubMed.

Dr. Christopher
Dr. Mary M. Christopher

Dr. Christopher, a professor of veterinary clinical pathology at the University of California-Davis, is chair of the 15-member Literature Selection Technical Review Committee for the National Library of Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health. She said her presence on the committee gives fellow committee members an opportunity "to see how veterinary medicine and veterinary medical experts are integral to the knowledge base that we consider to be MEDLINE."

"We evaluate a gamut of journals—including veterinary journals—from all over the world and on all biomedical topics, from oncology to zebra fish to nanotechnology," she said. "So the other committee members see how a veterinarian contributes content expertise to evaluating the quality of research and reporting in human pathology as well as veterinary pathology and in the broader scope of biomedical literature."

MEDLINE is a database with more than 18 million references to journal articles in the biomedical and life sciences, and about 5,600 journals are selected and indexed for the service, according to the National Library of Medicine. The database is focused on biomedicine.

We look for the broadest possible experiences and subject expertise by our members, and it was unique that Mary was the first veterinarian. Hopefully, she will not be the last.

Sheldon Kotzin, associate director for library operations for the National Library of Medicine, on Dr. Mary M. Christopher, the first veterinarian to serve on NLM's Literature Selection Technical Review Committee

PubMed, which is available at, provides free access to citations and abstracts in MEDLINE as well as links to full-text articles submitted to the NLM's PubMedCentral database or available through publisher websites.

Most journals selected for inclusion in MEDLINE are chosen on the basis of recommendations from the literature selection committee. Committee members are appointed by executive staff in the NIH.

Sheldon Kotzin, associate director for library operations and executive secretary of the committee, said committee members come from various backgrounds, such as pediatric medicine, oncology, surgery, nursing, and library science. They review all journals within their range of expertise, such as Dr. Christopher's expertise in pathology. He also said her experience as former editor-in-chief of Veterinary Clinical Pathology helps her review journals in a variety of subjects beyond veterinary medicine.

"We look for the broadest possible experiences and subject expertise by our members, and it was unique that Mary was the first veterinarian," Kotzin said. "Hopefully, she will not be the last."

Committee members are appointed to four-year terms, but Dr. Christopher will have served three years when her term ends June 20. She was given a leave of absence for part of her term because, from November 2010 to June 2011, she worked in Egypt as a Fulbright Scholar in Medical Sciences. That work involved lectures and workshops at Alexandria University and other institutions on scientific writing, journal editing, peer review, clinical pathology, and veterinary accreditation.

When Dr. Christopher joined the committee, committee members were increasingly receiving inclusion requests from veterinary journal editors and were trying to better understand how veterinary medical journals fit with the human health and biomedical research missions of MEDLINE and PubMed, she said.

Since then, discussions have included the human health implications of spontaneous disease in companion animals, PubMed's role as a resource for veterinarians, and the need for availability of veterinary journals through the service.