Healthier communities know no borders

Enrique Juarez Sanchez and Myrium Martinez-Banuelos
Enrique Juarez Sanchez, Hospital General de Mexico, and Myriam Martinez-Banuelos, Lewis Library

By Cari Hyden

Myriam Martinez-Banuelos discovered a way to create healthier communities both in Texas and in Mexico – simultaneously.

As a result, many librarians in Mexico now are aware of Spanish-language health information resources provided by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). And Martinez-Banuelos has better insights into the Hispanic culture, an underrepresented group she is trying to reach through her efforts in North Texas.

Martinez-Banuelos, Outreach Librarian for the Lewis Library, created the “Crossing Borders” program to promote collaboration between health sciences librarians in the United States and Mexico.

Through the program, Martinez-Banuelos visited libraries at some of the National Institutes of Health in Mexico City in 2014, and Enrique Juarez Sanchez, Coordinator of Information Services for the medical library at the Hospital General de Mexico, visited several U.S. libraries – including Lewis Library – in October.

Sanchez said that the medical library systems in Mexico don’t emphasize offering outreach programs that provide sound health information to patients and their families – and librarians must search online when patients approach them with questions.

“I am amazed at the resources here in the U.S.,” Sanchez said.  “Opportunities in Mexico are limited. The political, economic and social environments are challenging.”

He was delighted to learn about different library systems and the National Library of Medicine resources that he can share with patients and their families at his 1,000-bed hospital, the largest public hospital in Latin America.

Sanchez also attended the Medical Library Association South Central Chapter Annual Meeting in Little Rock, Ark., where he had an opportunity to meet fellow librarians from Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas to share best practices in medical libraries.

He found the experience well worth his time.

“I love to work with people, and I love that I can help them,” he said. “We don’t have community outreach programs in Mexico, but we have great opportunity. I’m looking forward to implementing the programs I have learned about, but tailored to our community.”

While Martinez-Banuelos was visiting libraries at the National Institutes of Health in Mexico, she found an eager audience for the NLM’s health information resources available in Spanish for patients. She also attended a conference for medical librarians in Mexico organized by the library at the School of Medicine of the National Autonomous University of Mexico to learn about the health care system in Mexico and information services for patients.

“The Crossing Borders Project raised the visibility of the National Library of Medicine’s resources,” she said, “and it will help Lewis Library meet the needs of the Hispanic community in our 24-county region.”

The cultural and professional exchange program is the first international project funded by the National Network of Libraries of Medicine South Central Region. Lewis Library coordinates a program with the National Library of Medicine to provide outreach services in 24 Texas counties.

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