Creating the FOAMed network

I have been trying (with limited success) for the last 5 years to define the use of social media in emergency medicine and critical care. Trying to persuade other healthcare professionals of the importance of online communication and collaboration as well as the immense potential of social media in the development of educational resources. But nobody would listen. I really felt that we had the scope to pull fragmented educationalists together into one place with one medium, one goal and one agenda – to provide high quality free open source medical education.

The world of medical education has not just expanded – it has exploded

What is FOAM?

As healthcare professionals invested in the social media and online education space we have the amazing opportunity to contribute to, collate and curate the exponential information influx. Everybody has something to share and something to contribute. We share our skills, our time and our expertise on a daily basis in the hospital, clinic, on retrievals and in the field – and now we are involved in a global revolution in medical education.

We need to stop re-inventing the wheel in every department, in every hospital, in every state, in every country…


FOAM is not a new concept. The collaborative actions of individuals at a local and International level to advance medical education has been around for a very long time. However, with the advent of improved technology, global communication, and accurate text translation the world of medical education just got a whole lot more accessible.

By sharing our specific skills, intuition, anecdotes, templates and experiences we can create an an online experiential learning paradigm which will launch medical education and research into a new era of understanding


FOAM is a concept, a movement, a drive, for creative collaboration from globally situated altruistically orientated healthcare professionals. FOAM is a call to arms. A means of collating and curating the growing wealth of online education resources which are free and easy to access. FOAM embraces ideas, people and concepts as the global medical community, bringing together like-minded people, groups and associations to deliver high quality FREE medical education resources to all healthcare practitioners anywhereanytime

Free Open Access Meducation (FOAM, #FOAMed) is essentially a personalized, continually expanding medical curriculum that embraces an individual’s attention deficits, evolves as one learns, encourages active learning, and pushes the bounds of one ‘ought’ to know.


The LITFL team believe that FOAM is the future of medical education and lifelong learning.

“Social media” when used in an Emergency Medicine context tends to turn people off. This is particularly evident with older generation docs who are picturing some kid with skinny-ass-hanging-out-jeans Tweeting about Kim Kardashian. This is unfortunate, because, in so doing, these docs aren’t benefiting from engaging in this incredible online conversation.


Drinking from the firehose

We are witnessing the exponential explosion of contextual information, the flipped classroom and asynchronous learning. Exciting times indeed! But also potentially worrying times. There is a risk that this surge in information creation and dissemination may lead to a catastrophic Mr Creosote – like event which halts the progress of the educational revolution.

#FOAMed is a creative collaboration to help those interested in medical education gain access to the wealth of amazing altruistic free content on the web WITHOUT becoming overwhelmed


Thanks to the sterling work of FOAM advocates such as Bertalan Meskó (@Berci), online medical information is being ‘tamed’ and made more accessible and manageable. Berci has been instrumental in collating free online medical resources since he was in medical school more than 5 years ago. He has collated and curated social media based medical education resources using dynamic aggregators and creating manageable specialty and disease based RSS feeds. The Webicina team have also provided accurate translation into over 20 different languages.

In a similar way other FOAM advocates have been trying to create a simple content stream and search platform for EMCC (emergency medicine and critical care).

  • Todd Raine collated the RSS feeds from the 180 EMCC blogs/podcasts globally to provide a specific search engine emgoogle.com – a great way to find specific podcast and blog related conversation, review and analysis on specific topics.
  • Scott Weingart jumped right on board with the medico-legal stuff and is creating the Guild of FOAM to help everybody sleep safely in their beds at night…
  • Oliver Flower, Roger Harris, Chris Nickson and Matthew Mac Partlin are organising the first FOAM conference in Sydney in 2013 – the SMACC down Under

FOAM advocates

Part of the learning revolution is being able to embrace all comments, all contributions and all conversation. Discussion is paramount to progress and iteration is essential for perfection. Everybody has a voice. Anybody is able to help to promote the ability for the global community through the tools of social media to better the evolution of open access medical education and research. Listen to Uncle Joe – he always knows best:

FOAMed hashtag

For example the very erudite Lauren Westafer from Canada was the first to stamp her authority on FOAM. She was the first to boldly pronounce her support by placing #FOAMed on her Twitter profile. Since then almost 100 other healthcare professionals have demonstrated similar support and so the collaborative movement grows stronger. To join the conversation simply

Examples of FOAM projects
  • Not a Pin Cushion — Not all healthcare professionals have the same training and access to expertise in siting IV lines. A FREE ultrasound course with high quality peer -reviewed information will help…
  • TempleEM Residency are collating and sharing useful EMCC FOAM resources providing bite sized nuggets of educational pearls – look out for FOAM Friday
  • The #FOAMed hangout —Individuals like Haney Mallemat are taking the opportunity to use free social media resources to discuss literature, new approaches to patient management and to create networks around the world exists and is being exploited using resources such as Google Hangout
  • International FOAM
    • Pora Na TeleSORa – the first community blog born of #FOAM – in Polish!
    • Italian blog EMPills covered the FOAM story
    • Netherlands #FOAMed …
    • Jan Štros from the Czech republic has a FOAMtastic ECG blog

The Future of FOAM

  • As a group we can achieve so much more when it comes to clinical research, academic review, guideline development, global collaboration…and it all starts here. I would love to see all healthcare professionals nominally ordained as ‘Fellows of Open Access Medical Education’ FOAM (ed)
  • We have International FOAM week coming up – where we will collaborate around the globe to make a medical education project in basic science…come to fruition



BA MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM. Emergency physician, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.  Passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | Twitter |

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