Intersections: an Excursion into Interdisciplinary Research

April 22, 2016 at 8:29 am | Posted in Professional Development | Leave a comment

Robin Devin received a quarterly award from the NAHSL’s Professional Development Committee to attend the annual conference of the Society for Applied Anthropology.  Robin’s participation in this conference illustrates the natural extension of medical librarians’ talents and skills beyond the traditional library conferences. Thank you, Robin for sharing your experience. Here is her blog post:


Thanks to a NAHSL Professional Development Award I was able to attend the annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology held in Vancouver, B.C., Canada on March 29 – April 2, 2016. This meeting was a joint conference held in conjunction with the Canadian Anthropology Society, the Political Ecology Society, the Council on Nursing and Anthropology, the Society for Anthropological Sciences, the Culture & Agriculture Section of the American Anthropological Association, the Center for Imaginative Ethnology, and the Society for Medical Anthropology.  The conference drew approximately 1800 registrants from over 45 countries.

The theme of the conference was “Intersections” and the focus was on interdisciplinary research in the applied social sciences.  A major number of presentations and posters dealt with medical research topics.  Some of the sessions titles:  “Far Matters: Applied Aspects of Obesity Research,” “Immigrant Health through a Family Lens,” “Intersection of Health, Technology and Medicine,” “HIV/AIDS Interventions and Research,” “Invisible Factors in Health Care Service,” “Sexual Health and Diseases in Children and Adolescents,” “ Dietary and Health Issues among Refugees,” “Mental Health and Stress,” From the Community: Cancer Prevention, Treatment, and Survivorship,” “Improving Health and Illness Outcomes,” Studies of Rare and Chronic Diseases,” Pharmaceuticals and Drugs in Everyday Life,” The Community Basis of Health and Disease.”  Not only were the topics wide ranging but the presenters from many different disciplines worked in academia, governmental organizations and NGOs from around the world.

Also of great value were the sessions that discussed research techniques.  Presentations were held on topics such as using images or videos to promote community dialogue, ethnographic methods, rapid qualitative inquiry, social network analysis, participatory research methods, using big data, cultural mapping, and how to conduct community-based culturally informed collaborative research.  It was interesting to see the variety of research methods useful to the study of health topics.

Attendance at the conference was of particular importance to me since our university just announced the formation of new academic unit, the Academic Health Collaborative.  This new unit will include not only the typical health sciences departments such as the College of Pharmacy, the College of Nursing, physical therapy, kinesiology, nutrition and food science but also health studies, psychology, and human development and family studies.  Within the Collaborative will be an Institute for Integrated Health and Innovation which will focus on interdisciplinary research.  As the health sciences librarian I will serve as the liaison with this new unit.

I am very grateful to NAHSL for providing me with the invaluable opportunity to learn about a wide range of health topics and research methods carried out by international interdisciplinary researchers.

Submitted by

Robin B. Devin, PhD, Health Sciences Librarian, University of Rhode Island Library, Kingston, RI


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