Student Kathy Elliott Wins MLA Scholarship

Community Profile

Kathy Elliott started the MLIS program in spring 2010 and is already off to an auspicious beginning to her library career after winning the 2010 Medical Library Association (MLA) scholarship.

The scholarship, which Elliott picked up in person at the annual MLA conference in Washington, D.C. during May, will go a long way towards covering her tuition costs over two semesters. “Walking across the dais to accept my award, I was surrounded by many other honorees at all stages of their careers,” she said. “It was inspiring to be a part of that continuum and to hear about the amazing contributions that are being made by dedicated medical librarians.”

Elliott comes to San José State University School of Information with a unique background. She earned her master’s degree in biological sciences from Stanford University and worked as a molecular biologist and genomics researcher for more than 20 years, mostly for biotech companies. Her primary focus was on neurobiology and disease, and her achievements included cloning and sequencing ten human neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunits. Elliott also played a critical role in completing a large genome-wide association screen for genetic variants of Alzheimer’s Disease.

But she wanted to work outside of the “for-profit scene and redirect my scientific knowledge into a service-oriented information career,” Elliott said. Her sister, who works as a medical librarian, inspired her to earn her MLIS degree and change careers.

“We are entering a new era of personalized medicine. Recent technological breakthroughs have enabled the generation of detailed genetic information at an affordable price,” she wrote in her essay that won the MLA scholarship. “Yet the majority of medical professionals lack the training to effectively translate new genetic discoveries into improved patient care. My career goal is to become a medical information specialist to provide a bridge between the medical profession and the rapidly expanding fields of genetic medicine and pharmacogenomics.”

Elliott, who lives in San Diego, hopes that earning her MLIS degree will give her knowledge in areas such as information retrieval, reference services, collection management, and database and website design — knowledge that will serve her well as she transitions to a medical librarian role. “Combined with my background in molecular biological research and current genetic technologies, this course of learning will give me the resources and experience to be able to connect medical professionals and students with the genetic information they need to make a positive difference in the lives of their patients,” she said.

Elliott shared her advice regarding how to compete for scholarship funding in an article she wrote for our School’s student association newsletter and blog. You can read it here: