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August 1986

The Physician and the Medical Literature: From Index Medicus to MEDLARS to GRATEFUL MED and Beyond

Author Affiliations

Deputy Director, Research and Education National Library of Medicine 8600 Rockville Pike Bethesda, MD 20894

Arch Dermatol. 1986;122(8):875-876. doi:10.1001/archderm.1986.01660200047011

The physician is by necessity a lifelong student. The National Library of Medicine (NLM) has been supporting that scholarship for more than a century. Today, as the rate of new information continues to accelerate, the resources of the NLM are still engaged in trying to make available to health scientists the information they need, when they need it, and in a form which they can readily use.

The medical journal has been used to disseminate information about new and better methods of diagnosis and treatment since the last half of the 19th century. This system, the utility of which was markedly enhanced by indexes and bibliographies as guides to the literature, works reasonably well. The NLM published the first really useful such guide in 1879—the Index Medicus.

Today, the volume of journal literature in the health sciences is so great that the published guides themselves have been augmented with computerized