BACKGROUND: The University of Pittsburgh was awarded a grant by the National Library of Medicine to study the education and training needs of present and future medical librarians and health information specialists through a collaboration of the university's School of Information Sciences and Health Sciences Library System. Goals and objectives for the year-long project included (1) assessment of education and training needs of medical librarians, (2) development of a master of library science curriculum and an internship program that would prepare graduates to take leadership roles in medical librarianship or information management, (3) development of continuing education programs for medical librarians in different formats, and (4) development of targeted recruitment efforts to attract minority group members and individuals with undergraduate science majors. The importance of this project, present practice, and success factors for programs seeking excellence in the preparation of health sciences information professionals are reviewed. A needs assessment involving a national advisory panel and a follow-up study of individuals who have participated in previous specialized training programs in health sciences information, compared with a peer group of medical librarians who did not participate in such programs, is described. This paper presents the goals and objectives of the project, describes the methods used, and outlines a curriculum, continuing education initiatives, and recruitment activities.