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National Intitutes of Health
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Regional Medical Programs Collection 1948-1993 (bulk 1966-1978; 1991-1994)
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Historical Note

First conceived in the report of the President's Commission on Heart Disease, Cancer and Stroke, chaired by Dr. Michael E. DeBakey, the report, "A National Program to Conquer Heart Disease, Cancer, and Stroke," December 1964, recommended instituting regional cooperative arrangements to make the latest advances from biomedical research available to benefit the health of the American people. Believing it had negligible effect on the nation's health care, the Nixon administration limited the program's funding in the 1973 budget, intending to phase it out. Continuing resolutions kept the program afloat until its demise in 1976.

In October 1965 the Heart Disease, Cancer and Stroke Amendment (Public Law 89-239) authorizing the establishment and maintenance of Regional Medical Programs was signed. Its purpose was "to encourage and assist in the establishment of regional cooperative arrangements among medical schools, research institutions, and hospitals for research and training, including continuing education, and for related demonstration of patient care..." (Sec. 900, PL 89-239). Fifty-six regions were established that covered the continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. Most programs were located at or near university medical schools.

Recognizing that dissemination of current and developing scientific knowledge would be necessary to achieve this goal, congress passed the Medical Library Assistance Act, 1965, a portion of MLAA's annual funding was dedicated to supporting and developing a regional medical library system to ensure the uniform distribution of the latest medical knowledge throughout the country. The structure used existing, leading medical libraries in the U.S., which were designated as primary resources of current information for smaller medical libraries and institutions within a specific geographic region. The Regional Medical Library Program was administered by the National Library of Medicine, which in turn served as the primary informational resource for the leading medical libraries. An integral part of the program was accessibility, through these libraries, to MEDLARS, NLM's computerized Index Medicus database. By 1970 eleven Regional Medical Library regions informed the entire United States. Reorganizations after the mid-1970s resulted in regions differing in composition from the original ones. The RMP was phased out in the late 1970s, while the RMLs continue to operate.