Books to Blogs – The Top Layer Of FOAM


Free Open Access Medical education (FOAM) is a term first coined at the 2012 International Conference of Emergency Medicine in Dublin. FOAMed has been described as ‘free open-access 2012 education1,2. It is a collection of evolving, collaborative and interactive updated resources that have become available to healthcare professionals and students through the Internet. It is a movement away from traditional modes of learning, embracing the diversity of platforms now available to us, encompassing Blogs, Twitter, Google hangouts, Podcasts, online videos, text documents, photographs and a whole lot more.


If you want to know how we practiced medicine 5 years ago, read a textbook.

If you want to know how we practiced medicine 2 years ago, read a journal.

If you want to know how we practiced medicine now, go to a (good) conference.

If you wan to know how we will practice medicine in the future, listen in the hallways and use FOAM3.                                                                                                      

- Joe Lex, 2012

As a relatively new concept, with the advent of improved technology, global communication and accurate text translation the world of medical education has just got a lot more accessible. It remains to be seen how widely this valuable resource is currently being accessed and as such, we undertook to study current FOAM usage in our Emergency Department at St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin. A two-cycle survey was carried out based on ten concise questions sent to all the doctors in our emergency department including NCHDs and consultants in August 2014 and then August 2015. We focused our questions on current awareness of FOAM, its usage, benefits and the whole idea regarding how it could be further implemented in our medical practice.

All the NCHDs and consultants used some form of social media in their daily life but very few for the purpose of medical education. In August 2014, only one third of those who responded had heard of FOAMed and its use in medicine. Within this, blogs were the most common modality used followed equally by podcasts and Twitter feeds specific to FOAM. FOAM usage was introduced and encouraged among NCHDs and consultants in our Emergency Department during monthly teaching sessions. A second cycle of the study was carried out in August 2015 which showed around two-thirds of the doctors using FOAM as a current mean of education and implementing it in their daily medical practice.

The result of the survey indicated that there is still a room for improving FOAM awareness and improving our way of learning. There is an opportunity to highlight the breadth of resources available to our trainees in order to further our learning using a dynamic, diverse education platform. This study has shown an improvement in awareness of FOAM and demonstrates the opportunities to keep medical education up to date among doctors and medical students in our department. Furthermore, we hope to improve and encourage our active learning by accessing the pool of free content on the Internet without doctors becoming overwhelmed.

Dr Afzal M Imtiaz, Professor John Ryan,

Department of Emergency Medicine, Saint Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin 4.

Corresponding Author: Dr Afzal M Imtiaz, Email: [email protected]



1. Nickson CP, Cadogan MD. Free Open Access Medical education (FOAM) for the emergency physician. Emerg Med Australas. 2014 Feb;26(1):76-83. doi: 10.1111/1742-6723.12191
2. Shaw G. Don't call it social media: FOAM and the future of medical education. Emergency Medicine News 2013; 35 (2): 1, 30.
3. Lex J. International EM education efforts & e-learning. Free Emergency Medicine Talks. [Cited 5 Dec 2013.] Available from URL: