What is FOAM?

What is FOAM?   FOAM (FOAM, #FOAMed) is Free Open Access Medical education, which essentially comprises a personalized, continually expanding database of medical resources that embraces an individual's attention deficits, evolves as one learns, encourages active learning, and pushes the bounds of one 'ought' to know.  FOAM consists of blogs, tweets, podcasts, iTunes lectures, videos, and more.  
  • Dr. Mike Cadogan and those at Life in the Fast Lane (LITFL) coined the term and continue to build, encourage, and curate FOAM, especially with regard to EM/Critical Care.  Check out LITFL's FOAM page
  • My top FOAM sources on The SGEM podcast.  
  • I can't articulate the concept of FOAM adequately in the rare minute of downtime in the emergency department so I wrote this post (FOAM party) as an explanation for peers.
This broad collection of resources can translate into real world clinical knowledge.  It seems that whenever I encounter a topic on a podcast or blog that seems esoteric or uninteresting, I invariably encounter the scenario in the clinical setting.  I've found that FOAM has changed my clinical practice on multiple occasions - from diagnosing small bowel obstruction via bedside ultrasound to reducing shoulders and treating pain in the ED.  This is no longer the future of medical education - it is the present.
My FOAM Journey
My uses:
Twitter (see this post) - This may seem ridiculous, but Annals of EM just had an article on this in November 2013 (pdf)
  • Virtually attend conferences.  I've "attended" EM conferences around the world, including Society of Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM), ACEP, International Conference of Emergency Medicine (ICEM), and multiple locally based EM conferences (NY, CA, Australia, etc).
  • Discover new content.  Individuals often tweet links to journal articles, videos, and blogs and following.  This allows one to "read" more extensively than one would otherwise.  It's impossible to keep up with the copious amount of medical literature published, but Twitter helps with this as it's a portal into what others are reading and their take on the article/issue (intellectual voyeurism made incredibly simple)
  • Active learning.  
    • Distilling an idea or message into 140 characters is tough, but definitely forces one to be mindful of the core content.
    • Twitter allows one to engage in conversations with individuals across the globe.  This engenders collective problem solving, brainstorming, and debate.  One can learn to think critically about clinical practice and literature.  Recently, a Google Hangout journal club-esque event was organized and publicized via Twitter with EM/CC heavyweights.
    • Virtual pimping.  Several people tweet "Questions of the day" or pose similar questions they've encountered in exam preparations or on shift.  These are useful to test knowledge, but also often spark debates and conversations.
  • Diversify.  Medicine and EM exist outside of the confine of one's institution, state, nation, and discipline.  Learn what's going on across the world and track global trends and thought in medicine.  
  • Build professional relationships across the globe.
Podcasts - These are truly gems, allowing one to listen to lectures and conversations from world renowned physicians and speakers at one's leisure. Learn more about them in this post, dedicated to podcasts.  

Blogs - FOAM blogs are the personalized, up-to-date textbooks of this century.  They deliver information and insight with one's own interest and goals as a filter.  Choose what you interests you, and see how quickly your interests are broadened.  A comprehensive repository from LITFL.  My thoughts on  FOAM blogs.  

Videos - There's a plethora of 5-15 minute videos, packed with incredible medical education, freely available on the web. Many of these are tweeted out regularly..
Questions - The Global Medical Education Project (GMEP) - is an evolving question bank and media repository that is interactive and has both basic sciences and clinical cases.  

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