Simplifying Your Academic Information Stream

If you are anything like me, the thought of joining Twitter was simply the next Facebook.  Our lives are already red lined with an assortment of distractions all vying for our attention.  Naturally, my defenses were up. I didn’t even give it much thought before shutting down the option, thinking adding yet another layer of social networking would sink my ship and be a waste of time.  One day I was reading an article on Life in the Fast Lane about the FOAM movement and it seemed like the best way to tap into this open information was Twitter.  I caved.

And I learned things along the way.  I realized that being connected to this amazing educational movement is … actually quite fun.  I realized that there are amazing programs designed to washout the bs of what you don’t want to know about and allow ultimate connectivity with the people and information that you really need.  I experimented with different ways to streamline the bleeding-edge, up-to-date information in emergency medicine straight to my devices and I want to briefly explain to those interested what my ideal setup of software is through a simple tutorial that is mostly self explanatory.

What is FOAM? Free Open Access Meducation

See for a much better explanation than I can offer.  In short for you busy residents, it is a window to the hottest topics in emergency medicine, the brightest minds, and their editorials and debates - the best conferences at your fingertips.  It's Journal Club on steroids.  Stop going to emcrit, emlitofnote, poison review, and all of your websites separately.  It's time to bring them to you.

So here is a primer and my ideal way to get plugged in: All you need is 2 apps.  One is called a Google Aggregator.  This is going to be your little friend that makes a beautiful representation of all of the websites you tell it to “aggregate” into one.  Any websites you choose can be fed to your phone.  Great for daily reading.  Seamless.  Get on your smartphone and download the Feedly app.  Follow the prompts and sign in with your email account.

I made a separate EM tab on the app.  In this EM tab I chose to add the big 5:

  1. EM Lit of Note
  2. Life in the Fast Lane
  3. Poison Review
  4. EM Crit

Download Twitter if you're not already on it.  If you are already, try to create a Twitter account that is solely dedicated to professional material.  Twitter is really the powerhouse when it comes to optimizing your information.  I truly enjoy going through my updates from Cliff Reid, Zdogg, Scotty W, Ryan Radecki, Amal Mattu and the like.  It almost feels personalized.  The beauty of it is ... it is personalized.  You get links to cutting edge papers in our field, conference updates, lecture links.  It's not oppressive at all.  It's educationally liberating.

Here's how to do it:

  1. Follow the prompts to set up your account
  2. Follow Scott Weingart.
  3. Now browse his friends and people that comment on his Twitter feed.  In this circle of people, there are countless brilliant minds in Emergency Medicine who you can choose to follow.  I limit it to 15 of the brightest minds.  They will be recognizable to you all.
  4. Sit back and enjoy the constant feed of amazing new insights and up to the minute conference updates from around the world such as SMACC.  

I hope this inspires you to get plugged into the FOAM movement.  If you have your own way to learn and you're content with that and it works, stick with it for sure.  Consider this another tool in the box.

Your Colleague,
Braden Fichter, M.D.