Biomedical and Health Informatics Profile

Betsy L. Humphreys


Betsy Humphreys in 1989 with Donald Lindberg at the  National Library of Medicine, surrounded by a mountain of (paper) data now contained in the online UMLS Thesaurus.

(Source: JAMIA Journal 17, 2010)

Cover of UMLS, 1997.

(Source: google books)

Initially hired by the National Library of Medicine(NLM) in 1973 for a 4-month appointment, Ms. Humphreys was hired full-time, and never left.  Within three years, she was leading a project that became the source of materials for today’s MEDLINE/PUBMED systems.  She then developed what became DOCLINE, the National Library of Medicine’s journal article distribution system, used by thousands of doctors, researchers and libraries.  In 1986, she helped NLM’s director Donald Lindberg define the Unified Medical Language System (UMLS), and then served as the UMLS’s first project officer.  The UMLS thesaurus, for example, has helped promote better understanding of diagnosis, treatment and research amongst medical professionals.  She currently serves as the deputy director of the National Library of Medicine.

(Source: JAMIA 17, 2010)

Cover page of a 1985 report that described the scope, urgency and possible solutions to the problem of biomedical information (e.g. journal articles) that may be lost forever due to poor choices of paper and storage.

(Source, National Library of Medicine)

Betsy Humphreys hiking in Nepal, 1977

(Source: JAMIA 17, 2010)

Hiking in Arizona, 1995, (l-to-r) Donald Detmer, Mark Tuttle, Gelnn Palatini, Betsy Humphreys

(Source: JAMIA 17, 2010)

“Building scalable information infrastructure which is one way of describing what I have been engaged in throughout my career is definitely a multidisciplinary team sport. The main secret of my success is that I have worked exclusively with the informatics equivalent of ‘dream teams’ with incredible players from every part of NLM and from literally hundreds of institutions, agencies, and organizations across the country and around the world. So I thank all those who have worked with me on important problems and made the achievements that led to this award possible.”

    - Betsy Humphreys, upon receiving the 2009 Morris Collen Award from the American College of Medical Informatics.