Here is a PRO/CON FOAM article I wrote the introduction for in Emergency Physicians Monthly. This is an excellent discussion regarding FOAMed (Free Open Access Medical Education) in emergency medicine education by Joe Lex, MD and Nicholas Genes, MD, PhD.
What is FOAM?
In 2012, Mike Cadogan conceived of FOAM – Free Open Access Meducation – over a pint of Guinness in Dublin. Cadogan, one of the emergency physician technophiles behind the Australian “Life in the Fast Lane” blog, had observed first-hand the meteoric rise in the use of social media, blogs and podcasts in emergency medicine education. (His own blog currently catalogs 279 such online resources.) Cadogan also noted that in the broader universe of medical education, these resources were getting lumped together as “social media” which, to Cadogan’s mind, gave them short shrift. A new term was in order, out of which was birthed a community, even an educational movement.
These days it’s hard to find a credible emergency physician Twitter account that doesn’t give at least a passing reference to FOAM. In fact, many mention the hashtag #FOAM right in their Twitter description. Why? Because this term has galvanized a community of online educators who believe in the free – and rapid – dissemination of medical information.
As the name suggests, FOAM resources are free and predominantly social media based, including podcasts, tweets, blogs, video, photographs, web-based applications, Facebook groups and Google hangouts. Accessibility is key: by being web-based these resources are available to any and all providers, from Malaysia to Madagascar to Minnesota.
The content of FOAM is as varied as the bloggers and tweeters who create it, but its strength appears to be encouraging open debate of hot topics and keeping readers up to date with rapidly emerging trends. Students have embraced the community as a low-barrier way to enter the medical conversation. Universities have seen FOAM resources as a convenient – and cost-effective – way to augment traditional learning and “flip the classroom.”
Defining a digital movement that is based on the principle of open access is a bit like trying to nail jello to a wall, but the proof of the pudding is in the tasting. There is no doubt that FOAM is changing the way emergency physicians learn and is spurring on a new level of global dialogue.
-Mark Brady, PA-C,