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Release: May 8, 2000

UI pediatrician to give talk about digital library

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Plug the word "pediatrics" into any popular Internet search engine, and you are bound to get more links than you care to sift through. Plus, how do you decide which are the best and most reliable sites? Not to worry, a University of Iowa Health Care researcher has made the job of finding quality pediatric information on the Internet a much easier task.

Donna M. D'Alessandro, M.D., UI assistant professor of pediatrics, has created a digital library ( to provide physicians and their patients and families with quick and easy access to useful, authoritative pediatric information. D'Alessandro will make a presentation on the digital library at the Pediatric Academic Societies and American Academy of Pediatric Joint Meeting on May 14 in Boston.

"This is a digital library and not a website," D'Alessandro said of her creation. "A website is a very general term. A digital library is an organized collection of digital information that has a structured approach to the use of the information and building of the collection. This format is similar to the way a bricks-and-mortar library works. The digital library also involves curatorship, similar to the way a museum takes a structured approach to the creation of exhibits and building of its collection."

Beginning in July 1999, D'Alessandro and her team, wanting to improve the original prototype library, determined common pediatric problems that health care providers and patients see. The researchers then manually searched the Internet for authoritative information on the problems.

"Initially, we thought we would come up with 200 problems, but this has been expanded to almost double that number," D'Alessandro said. contains more than 1,700 links to over 375 authoritative World Wide Web sites concerning 387 common pediatric problems. D'Alessandro and her team organized the information into separate sections for pediatric health care providers and patients and families. In addition to cataloging common problems, the digital library also contains links to textbooks, policy statements and clinical practice guidelines, evidence-based medicine resources, case studies and patient simulations, journals, professional societies, continuing medical education and Internet directories and search engines.

" won't have information on all topics, but it should cover the great majority of problems that arise daily," D'Alessandro said. "We hope people who visit the digital library will be only a few clicks away from the information they need."

D'Alessandro noted that new links are constantly being added. Individuals may also subscribe to General Pediatrics-News (, a newsletter that automatically informs subscribers of the changes on a monthly basis.

Creating, maintaining and improving is made possible through a $240,000 grant from the General Physician Scholars Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

"I am very grateful for their support of my career and this project specifically," D'Alessandro said.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.