A year ago, I had never heard of Amal Mattu. A few weeks ago, he replied to one of my Tweets. Two years ago, I had never heard of Scott Weingart. Last fall, I had breakfast with him and six other people at the ACEP Scientific Assembly in Denver. Three years ago I had never heard of Michelle Lin. Now I am an official contributor to Academic Life in EM. Right now you think you have no idea what “FOAM” is. But actually, you do.
Coined at the International Conference on Emergency Medicine 2012 conference in Dublin over a pint of Guinness, Free Open-Access Meducation (“FOAM”) is a new term for what is by now an “old” concept, a decade in the making: the continuously growing and updated body of practical medical knowledge – with a focus on Emergency Medicine – being shared globally online for the purpose of medical education and improving patient care. At absolutely no cost whatsoever.
At the core, FOAM is relatively easy to describe. It is composed mainly of blogs, audio and video podcasts, and Tweets. But within these categories lies a wealth of knowledge and options to explore. Blog content ranges from online journal article reviews like Ryan Radecki’s Emergency Medicine Literature of Note, in which he routinely skewers research methods in the primary literature, to Stephen Smith’s ECG blog, which uses a case-based format to teach this challenging topic expertly. Podcasts are similarly diverse, covering basic EM topics (Steve Carroll’s EM Basic), subspecialties (Mike Mallin and Matt Dawson’s Ultrasound podcast and Andrews Sloas’s PEM ED podcast), expert opinion on advanced topics (Rob Orman’s ERCast and Dr. Weingart’s EmCrit) and evidence-based medicine (the amazingly well-researched and always thought provoking podcast de rigueur, Smart EM, by David Newman and Ashley Shreves).
In short, FOAM brings passionate teachers to passionate students, globally, continuously, and instantaneously.
And this is where Twitter comes in. Misunderstood, mistrusted, and misused by many, Twitter has become a central tool in the FOAM movement and truly deserves its own paragraph. As a relatively recent adoptor of Twitter, I remember well my early suspicion, based on mainstream, non-educational use. But judging Twitter by how most people use it is like judging PBS by what is on MTV.
Twitter serves two #FOAMed functions (# is pronounced “hashtag” and it is how you search for topics on Twitter; the FOAM movement uses the hashtag #FOAMed). First, Twitter is the hub in the hub-spoke model. It is the one-stop place you can go to see what is new and click on direct links to EM educational content. “FOAMers” Tweet to announce or recommend a new blog post or web-based resource, be it a new smartphone app, a video, or a Paucis Verbis card (ask Dr. Lin).