The COVID-19 pandemic has presented significant barriers to face-to-face clinical education for both under and postgraduate levels. Resourcefulness and innovation have been key in enabling the ongoing provision of quality medical education.
An emerging parallel educational paradigm is that of free open-access medical education (FOAMeD). The FOAMed movement promotes accessible, collaborative and contemporaneous clinical education, knowledge sharing and communication in medicine. Championed by emergency and critical care physicians, the movement has its original roots in Australia through the Life in the Fast Lane (LITFL) website. With the increasing use of social media and web-based resources, FOAMeD has come far and encompasses an exploding collection of constantly evolving, collaborative and interactive resources.
FOAMed has a particularly valuable role in providing adjunct dermatology education at both under and postgraduate levels. Almost 15 per cent of Australian general practice encounters consist of a skin-related problem. This is not particularly surprising given one million Australians live with a chronic skin condition. Despite the burden of dermatology to Australian general practice, dermatology training in medical schools has historically been limited. It has been suggested that dermatology continues as a central learning need into general practice vocational training and even following fellowship completion.
Dermatology FOAMed encompasses textual, visual, audio and combination media. Broadly, the platforms can be grouped into six categories: social networking, media-sharing networks, digital libraries, community blogs, blog comments and forums, and microblogging. Dermatology FOAMed examples include podcasts, videos, vodcasts, digital libraries, educational images, blog articles, memes, infographics, livestreams, host discussions, webinars, reels and even games.
An example of Australian ‘homegrown’ dermatology FOAMed is the podcast Spot Diagnosis, which is the brainchild of Australian dermatologist and educator, Associate Professor Alvin Chong. He is passionate about providing relevant, quality, accessible dermatology education to Australian general practitioners and medical students.
While a podcast may seem an unlikely candidate for dermatology education delivery, the podcast has been met with significant enthusiasm. Episodes are delivered in an engaging conversational manner between hosts and a guest expert on that particular topic. The first episode was published in March 2020. To date, there have been over 18,500 downloads with 360 subscribers.
There are currently 22 episodes. The most popular topics have been psoriasis, tinea and melanoma. Recently, the first episodes of Season 3 have been released and planning for Season 4 is underway. Episodes are available free of charge on all popular podcast platforms.
The podcast Spot Diagnosis is one FOAMed example of accessible, quality dermatological education. As technology and social media continue to evolve around the pandemic, clinical education must also continue to adapt to meet the needs of incoming generations of clinicians.