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RTI '23 Faculty and Staff

The RTI faculty are recognized experts in a wide range of research areas. They will help librarians use, create, and apply research-based evidence to enhance decision-making, address evolving user needs, communicate library value, and support quality health care. The RTI peer coaches are selected from previous RTI graduates and support participants by sharing experiences and encouragement throughout the year-long research process and enrich the RTI experience for all participants. The RTI leadership team provides oversight of the RTI training program and IMLS grant activities. The training, learning experiences, and strong support offered by the expert faculty, supportive peer coaches, and dedicated leadership team will lay the foundations of evidence-based practice for the next generation of health sciences librarians.


Emily Vardell

Emily Vardell, PhD, AHIP, Co-Faculty Lead, orcid_logo is assistant professor in the School of Library and Information Management at Emporia State University, Emporia, KS. Vardell is an expert instructor and researcher, specializing in qualitative research and health information behavior. She teaches courses on the foundations of library and information science, reference services, research methods, health sciences librarianship, consumer health information, and disaster preparedness in libraries. Vardell’s research interests include health insurance literacy, health-related decision-making behavior, and Affordable Care Act information needs. She has received research and teaching awards, including the Beta Phi Mu Eugene Garfield Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (2017), the MLA Thomson Reuters/MLA Doctoral Fellowship (2016 to 2017), the University of North Carolina (UNC)–Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science Deborah Barreau Award for Teaching Excellence (2016), and a Fulbright Award (2005 to 2006). Vardell is also the editor of the book The Medical Library Association Guide to Answering Questions about the Affordable Care Act (Rowman & Littlefield; 2015) and the author of articles published in the Reference Librarian and Medical Reference Services Quarterly. Prior to receiving her doctorate in information science from the School of Information and Library Science at UNC–Chapel Hill, she was the director for reference, education, and community engagement at the Calder Memorial Library at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. She is active in MLA and has served as a member of the Nominating Committee and the 2017 National Program Committee.

Mark MacEachern photoMark MacEachern, MLIS, Co-Faculty Lead, orcid_logo is an informationist at the Taubman Health Sciences Library, University of Michigan (UM)–Ann Arbor. As an informationist, MacEachern works closely with health students and professionals on education and research projects. MacEachern teaches systematic review methods and evidence-based practice skills as part of the curricula in several of the UM health sciences schools. He has extensive experience consulting on systematic review projects and leads the Taubman Library’s flipped continuing education course Systematic Reviews: Opportunities for Librarians. MacEachern was the 2019 recipient of the Estelle Brodman Award for the Academic Medical Librarian of the Year. MacEachern received his master of library and information science (MLIS) degree from the University of Western Ontario. Prior to joining the Taubman Health Sciences Library in 2007, MacEachern interned at Mills Memorial Library at McMaster University.

Katherine AkersKatherine Akers, PhD, MLIS, orcid_logo is a research scientist in evidence synthesis at PRECISIONheor, where she conducts systematic literature reviews and network meta-analyses to evaluate the evidence base for industry clients seeking to develop and introduce new medical treatments into patient care. She previously worked as a biomedical research and data librarian at an academic medical library and served as the editor-in-chief of the Journal of the Medical Library Association (JMLA). Akers’ expertise spans the entire research lifecycle, including obtaining research funding, collecting and analyzing data, preparing conference presentations and manuscripts for scholarly journals, navigating the peer review process, and boosting online researcher profiles. She has an extensive publication record resulting from her previous work as a health sciences librarian and a behavioral neuroscience researcher. Akers holds a doctoral (PhD) degree in psychology from the University of New Mexico and a master of library and information science (MLIS) degree from Wayne State University.

Nina Exner photoNina Exner, PhD, MLS, MAorcid_logo, is the research data librarian at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her research interests include data categorization critique and research skills development. She has a PhD from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Information and Library Science, an MA in liberal and global studies from UNC-Greensboro, and an MLS from North Carolina Central University (Eagle Pride). Recently she has been speaking extensively on NIH data sharing policies. She is also a co-chair of the Empirical Librarians conference and serves on the editorial board of Hypothesis: Journal of the Medical Library Association Research Caucus.

Karen Gutzman, Karen GutzmanMSLS, MA, orcid_logo serves as Head of Research Assessment and Communications at Galter Health Sciences Library & Learning Center at Northwestern University. She develops, supports, and implements programs that increase awareness about digital scholarship and issues in the digital environment among faculty, researchers, and students at Feinberg School of Medicine. She works with library colleagues on preservation and access to scholarly outputs through a digital repository and other digital means, and she provides expertise for campus-wide digital preservation activities. Karen also supports individuals and groups in their understanding, assessment, visualization, and reporting of impactful outcomes of research and clinical care efforts. One of her major areas of interest is using information visualization to facilitate stronger comprehension of data in the assessment process. She keeps an updated collection of her works in DigitalHub, the institutional repository for Northwestern Medicine. Karen is a former U.S. National Library of Medicine Associate Fellow where she completed the second year of the fellowship program through her work with the Bernard Becker Medical Library at Washington University in St. Louis.

Shanda Hunt,Shanda Hunt MPH, orcid_logo is the Public Health Librarian & Data Curation Specialist at the Health Sciences Library, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities (UMN). She has a Master's Degree in Public Health and previously served as Research Coordinator in the UMN School of Public Health (SPH) and Department of Family Medicine. Her current professional work includes partnering with SPH faculty, staff, and students to enhance teaching, learning, and research; education and advocacy for data management across all campus departments; and assessment and transformation of human subjects research data submitted to the Data Repository for the University of Minnesota (DRUM). She teaches quantitative and qualitative research methods and program evaluation, and has recently taught an MLA webinar entitled "Basic Statistics for Research Appraisal." Hunt's interests include data sharing and management, qualitative research methods, gray literature, and library outreach and networking. She has authored numerous articles and papers and is active in MLA, having served as PH/HA’s Representative for the Information Management Domain Hub and Nominee to the MLA Nominating Committee, and on the Rising Stars and Hodges International Service Award Juries. Hunt is an advisor to the student-founded and led, open access Public Health Review.

Academic Coordinator

Ana D. Cleveland, PhD, AHIP, FMLA,Dr. Ana D. Cleveland, PhD. AHIP, FMLA is a Regents Professor, Sarah Law Kennerly Endowed Professor, and Director of the Health Informatics Program at the University of North Texas. She is a recognized educator in medical librarianship and health informatics. Under her leadership, UNT's Medical Librarianship/Health Informatics Program is ranked 7th in the nation by US News and World Report. Her research interests are in curriculum development, health information-seeking behavior of underserved populations, indexing of medical information, and health information and social media. She has received the highest awards given by the Medical Library Association, including the Lucretia W. McClure Excellence in Education Award, Janet Doe Lectureship, Marcia C. Noyes Award, and Fellow of the Medical Library Association. The South Central Chapter of the Medical Library Association recognized her contributions with the Distinguished Service Award, the Librarian of the Year, and several Elizabeth K. Eaton Research awards. In addition, Dr. Cleveland was honored with the President's Award from the American Medical Informatics Association. She has an extensive list of publications, including two textbooks co-authored with Dr. Donald Cleveland, one on indexing and abstracting and the other on health informatics for medical librarians. She has served as a consultant to numerous national agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Library of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She worked with the National Library of Medicine and the Medical Library Association on developing the Disaster Information Specialization. She served as a consultant with international organizations in Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Australia, and Africa.

Peer Coaches

Andy Hickner photoAndy Hickner, MSI, orcid_logo, is the Education and Outreach Librarian at the Samuel J. Wood Library at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, New York. At Weill Cornell, he oversees the library’s teaching and learning mission. For his RTI project, Andy conducted a qualitative study examining how systematic searchers navigate the limitations of search systems. Andy Hickner is a Fellow of the 2021 MLA Research Training Institute.

Christi Piper photoChristi Piper, MLIS, orcid_logo, is an Informationist and Assistant Professor at the Strauss Health Sciences Library, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. In this role, she manages reference services and works on evidence synthesis projects. She graduated from the University of Washington iSchool with her Master of Library and Information Science. Her current research interests include the impact of librarian co-authorship on systematic review quality and equity in promotion criteria across librarian roles. Christi was a Fellow of the 2020 MLA Research Training Institute and her project focused on MLS graduate student employment and students' understanding of health sciences librarianship.

Erin Reardon photoErin E. Reardon, MFA, MLIS, AHIP orcid_logo, is a Public Health Informationist at Emory University’s Woodruff Health Sciences Center Library in Atlanta, GA. She received her master’s in library and information science from Valdosta State University in 2017, and previously worked as a medical school librarian at the University of Minnesota and as a reference and instruction librarian at LSU Health Shreveport in Louisiana. Before shifting to librarianship, she worked in the health insurance industry and has an educational background in creative writing. Her research interests include health literacy, evidence-based practice, tenure & promotion processes, and teaching and learning. Erin is a Fellow of the 2021 MLA Research Training Institute.

Valerie Vera photoValerie Vera, MLISorcid_logo, is the Sciences Librarian at Thomas Cooper Library, University of South Carolina-Columbia. She graduated from University of South Carolina with a Master of Library and Information Science and a Certificate of Graduate Study in Public Health. Her current research interests include health information practices on social media platforms and the social and structural factors that shape users’ interactions with this information. Valerie is a Fellow of the 2021 MLA Research Training Institute, and her project focused on stigmatized mental health information on TikTok.

Gwen Wilson photoGwen Wilson, AHIP, orcid_logo, currently works as a Medical Librarian in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She supports the clinical practice and research of family physicians who work at primary care clinics in Columbia and the surrounding rural areas. Her research interests’ focus on establishing impact data points to track the impact of libraries/librarians, the role of librarians in inter-professional education and the challenge of reporting meaningful metrics in relation to research impact. Gwen is a Fellow of the 2022 MLA Research Training Institute. Her project focused on developing library impact variable data point terms and definitions that could be incorporated into existing reference library tracking systems.

For questions regarding the institute, please contact Susan Lessick, AHIP, FMLA, Research Training Institute project director.

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