This handout accompanies the social media in medicine seminar as part of the University of Toronto Anesthesia and Surgery Faculty Development Day. It is primarily a collection of links to good resources explaining FOAM and how you can get involved in this fantastic online medical community.
What is FOAM?
This is how Salim Rezaie of REBEL EM explains FOAM:
FOAMed quite simply stands for Free Open Access Medical Education
It might be easier to get a couple of misnomers out of the way right off the bat:
- FOAM IS NOT Social Media (Twitter, FaceBook, Google+, etc…)
- FOAM IS NOT a Teaching Philosophy
- FOAM IS independent of platform or media (Blogs, Podcasts, Videocasts, etc…)
- FOAM IS an interactive collaboration of like minded individuals, free of geographic hindrances and time zones, with one single goal…to make the world of medicine better.
Quite simply, FOAM is the concept, #FOAMed is the conversation
Here are a few resources that further explain this FOAM concept:
And of course, watching Mike Cadogan (the creator of the term “FOAM”) is essential. This is a video from ICEM 2012, but unfortunately the quality is not great:
Salim’s “Got FOAM” post will cover basically everything you want to know about how and why to access free open access medical education resources.
EMCrit has an excellent review of FOAM in the post The online hierarchy of needs – social media and FOAM
StEmlyns has a great post entitled How to integrate #FOAMed into #MedEd
If you prefer a more traditional guide to using FOAM, there is a publication by Brent Thoma in the Annals of Emergency medicine (that is thankfully free, open-access) that covers how to effectively use online resources in emergency medicine. (I think these lessons apply to other specialities as well). The strategies are:
- Use a RSS (really simple syndication) reader
- Use a podcast application
- Use compilations to find quality resources
- Use social networks to connect with content producers and peers
- Use custom search engines to find resources when they are needed
You can explore some of the FOAM offered by First10EM here:
Blogs (RSS reader)
You will want something to collect new blog posts for you, so you don’t have to check all the blogs you follow manually. This is called a news aggregator or a RSS reader. My personal choice is Feedly, but there are many options out there.
Another essential service is Pocket. There are a lot of new blog posts but only so much time. When you see something that looks interesting, but don’t have time to read it right away, saving it to Pocket is a good idea. This way you can collect interesting pieces for when you have free time, and they are also available offline, which is really helpful when you are stuck on an airplane.
You will also want something to automatically download new podcasts (as well as play them). You can use iTunes, or any of a numbers of other options. Personally, I use Downcast, because it had the best features when I chose it a few years ago, but it does cost a small amount of money, and other options are free.
Joining the conversation
Once you have started to consume the FOAM resources out there, you are bound to have something you want to say. Probably the best way to get involved in the conversation is by getting yourself a Twitter account and replying to the content creators. You can also join the discussion by leaving comments on the bottom of blog posts, or joining specific google plus or Reddit communities.
Here are a series of videos from Rob Rogers (of the Teaching Institute) that go over how to use twitter
As you become more comfortable with blogs and podcasts, you might find yourself wanting to join the conversation. After all, you are probably already creating high quality educational material for rounds or other teaching sessions. Why not share it with the world? Here are some guides that can help you with that process:
Andy Neil’s blog post on producing FOAM covers everything from recording podcasts, recording screen-casts, creating a blog, using google plus, to creating videos
Some related (old-school) publications about FOAM
Nickson CP et al. Free Open Access Medical education (FOAM) for the Emergency Physician. Emergency Medicine Australasia (2014) 26, 76–83. (PDF)
Cadogan M et al. Free Open Access Meducation (FOAM): the rise of emergency medicine and critical care blogs and podcasts (2002–2013). Emerg Med J 2014; 31(e1):e76-7 (PDF)
Mallin M et al. A Survey of the Current Utilization of Asynchronous Education Among Emergency Medicine Residents in the United States. Acad Med. 2014 Apr;89(4):598-601. PMID: 24556776
Scott KR, et al. Integration of Social Media in Emergency Medicine Residency Curriculum. Ann Emerg Med 2014 DOI 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2014.05.030
Kind T, et al. Twelve tips for using social media as a medical educator. Medical Teacher 2014; 36: 284
Justin Morgenstern. Lecture handout: Social Media in Medicine (University of Toronto Anesthesia and Surgery Faculty Development Day), First10EM, 2016. Available at: