How to Dive into the FOAMed Movement

Authors: Meaghan Mercer, DO, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
                AAEM/RSA President

                Mary Calderone, MSIV, Loyola Stritch School of Medicine, Chicago
                Medical Student Council President

What is FOAM? — This is not the future of medicine, it is medical education NOW! Like many great ideas that evolve in medicine, the concept of FOAM (Free Open Access Meducation) project was born in a pub over a pint of Guinness. Doctors Mike Cadogan and Chris Nickson  from (LITFL), recognized that social media has changed how we communicate and educate; ideas traverse the globe in hours allowing an open interactive approach to how we learn and practice medicine. As one of the education leaders of AAEM and greatest teachers of our specialty, Dr. Joe Lex, stated, “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 practice medicine now, go to a (good) conference. If you want to know how we will practice medicine in the future, listen in the hallways and use FOAM.” FOAM is the concept, enacted via the Internet. #FOAMed is the conversation, enacted via Twitter.

Twitter, blogs, podcasts, online videos are all part of the FOAM medium that is comprised of free high quality medical education that we can all use (or should be using!). This is not just for medical students and residents. As Chris Nickson put it, “This is a movement where the hierarchy is flat. There are no leaders; everyone is a leader. A nurse can teach a doctor, a medical student can teach an attending.  When it comes to FOAM, quality cannot be stopped from bubbling to the top.” FOAM is a true convergence of ideas and reflects that we are in this together.

The accessibility of FOAMed is astounding. If you find yourself with some downtime, you can simply open up your phone browser, log on to one of many blogs and instantly have high-yield content directly at your fingertips. Even a few minutes can provide enough time to briefly review a concise blog post that reminds you of some clinical concept you may have forgotten. Stuck in a long commute home? Load some podcasts on your phone and utilize the time for learning. The ease of accessing these resources allows them to transcend the boundaries of location or setting. Learning no longer requires a classroom, as long as you’ve got intellectual curiosity and a cell phone handy.  Furthermore, the majority of these resources are free!

With any new idea comes critiques and concerns, the biggest being the “lack of peer review.” As all FOAM supporters will attest, this is not necessarily a weakness, but could be one of the greatest strengths of this movement. Peer review happens in real time. FOAMed encourages one not only to learn the data, but also to have an opinion and the capacity to justify it. Medical knowledge can advance at an accelerated pace and even those not inclined to traditional research can participate in sharing their experience or expertise. Learning through FOAMed is an active, personalized and learner-driven process. Also, many of these tweets contain links to journal articles and other formally peer reviewed evidence. Another concern is that FOAM leads to information overload or “trying to drink from a fire hose.” But isn’t this how medical education has always felt? Per the LITFL website one of the biggest ways to prevent that is though good filters. Start by following the innovators in the FOAM community and high quality information will be passed to you effortlessly.

Other concepts that are embraced by FOAM are the flipped classroom and asynchronous learning. The flipped classroom is an idea that education should evolve into an open discussion, and that unidirectional teaching is, in some ways, outdated. As adult learners we can target our weaknesses and can digest the videos, podcasts, or even tweets at a self directed pace using learning styles that are suited to our strengths. This is asynchronous learning. Formal classroom time can then be spent discussing, clarifying, and brainstorming with the teacher. The hashtag #FOAMed on Twitter provides a platform, where we can learn and ask questions real time — even without a classroom.

FOAMed is contagious, it is a revolution, it is a community of educators who want to collaborate and freely share ideas for the betterment of all. Ultimately, FOAMed encourages the active, self-driven pursuit of knowledge required of life-long learners. We must passionately strive to maintain and expand our clinical knowledge with the goal of providing the best care for our patients. As the old adage goes: “You can’t diagnose what you don’t know.” 

Joining is easier than you think; one great resource is, which directs you to other great resources and can become your filter as you dip your feet into the ocean of FOAM.

Join Twitter:
Search some of the biggest names in FOAMed and click the follow button.
·       Suggestions: @aaemrsa, @aaeminfo, @joelex5, @ultrasoundpod, @precordialthump, @amalmattu, @emcrit, @M_Lin, @criticalcarenow, @emrapessentials.
·       Search #FOAMed & #FOAMcc and see what has been posted
Follow the thread, learn and participate!

Check out:,

Listen to podcasts, watch videos, read blogs, get involved!