Over the past 4+ years, ALiEM has grown to be an exciting educational blog which focuses on the clinical, educational, and academic aspects of emergency medicine. It has far exceeded any of my expectations and has been an incredibly valuable and rewarding experience for me personally. Since its inception, the site has transitioned from a single-author site to a site with a superstar team of authors who cover a diverse range of clinical (e.g. cardiovascular, critical care, geriatric EM, pharmacology) and educational (book club, MEdiC series, educational pedagogies) content as well as an expert peer-review system. As now the blog’s Editor in Chief, I am constantly amazed that we have been successful on pretty much a small, self-funded budget. Going forward, I now realize that the blog’s continued growth and creative strategies are rate-limited by funding.
Blogs, podcasts, and other social media platforms in medical education, known collectively as Free Open Access Meducation (FOAM), are becoming increasingly popular and integrated into daily learning habits. Through various push technologies, these resources come to you in the form of RSS feeds, podcast tools, and other apps. Do you have a mental checklist to help you determine whether the content is trustworthy and accurate? How do you process the information from FOAM sites?
What if a resident-physician attempted a technique she read on a blog or listened to on a podcast, but the procedure didn’t go as planned and the patient was harmed? Is Free Open Access Meducation (FOAM) to blame for medical errors? What about the blog site? If the site has a disclaimer (like most medical databases), is it enough to limit liability?
These are challenging questions, but ones that deserve discussion, especially in light of the recent post on St. Emlyn’s blog about a theoretical scenario just like this.
The movement of FOAM and #FOAMed may have started in a pub in Dublin in 2012, but it has become legitimized through widespread acceptance. Residencies are also catching onto the idea and eager to collaborate through social media, in particular Twitter. This is evidenced by the use of Twitter accounts on #EMConf as a way to collect educational learning pearls garnered weekly at resident conferences.
“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” – Plutarch
Today, we are busting open the concept of peer review for publications on blogs!
The peer review process has been criticized for its flaws, but is universally accepted as a necessary part of the scientific process. Peer reviewing allows experts in a field to determine the validity of a study or an article so that those of us who are less expert can reap the benefits of their knowledge. Until recently this process was almost universally pre-publication and anonymous. Authors would go through months of review and revision based on feedback of experts whose name they didn’t even know. In the last decade journals such as BMJ Open moved to an open peer review process by divulging the reviewer’s identities to the author and publishing the reviews of the experts online for open access to all readers. This open peer review model prevents redundancy and encourages transparency in the scientific process.
There are many things that print journals do well. One of the best ideas that I have seen from the Annals of Emergency Medicine is the unique idea of having a Resident Editor on the executive team. This provides the resident exposure to the behind-the-scenes operational processes of running a journal under a mentored environment. Similarly, ALiEM has experienced such rapid growth in the past year with the addition of amazing regular bloggers that we are ready to welcome our first Resident Editor Dr. Natalie Desouza (UCSF-SFGH EM senior resident).
In this digital age, it is somewhat assumed that you know how to manage all the digital information coming at you in the forms of email, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, podcasts, RSS feeds. Even if you only partake in email as your primary communication platform, information still can be quite overwhelming as a trainee or practicing medical provider. At a the annual Bay Area EM residency conference last week, Dr. Charlotte Wills (Highland), Dr. Rebecca Smith-Coggins (Stanford) and I were invited by Dr. Esther Chen (UCSF-SFGH) to share some our personal insights and advice on a panel. We quickly realized that this is indeed a hot topic which often gets subsumed under the larger umbrella of “Wellness”.