Sunday, June 19, 2016

When the FDA Met #FOAMed

For a while now, there has been a lot of discussion among folks in the free open access medical education (FOAMed) community related to the acknowledgement and recognition in the academic realm. Recently, one major academic institution that has now set the stage for the recognition of FOAMed as scholarly activity for the purposes of promotion and tenure: The Mayo Clinic. This unprecedented move should surely serve as a stepping stone for other academic institutions to follow suit.

Nonetheless, I think it is important to go back to the very beginning and ask ourselves, at least those of us involved in free open access medical education, one essential question. Why do we do what we do?

In no way, shape, or form did I ever anticipate that my engagement in the world of FOAMed, at least in producing content, could ever lead to much. To be quite frank, I have been of the opinion that if FOAMed is recognized by the academy, all the better; but if not, then no love is lost on that end. The opportunities that are built out of FOAMed, whether it be speaking gigs, research and educational collaborations with colleagues, and leadership roles within professional organizations, may come to fruition unexpectedly, but are of much value. As discussed in a multitude of other forums, these are traditional platforms that are indeed recognized by promotion and tenure committees.

From my own perspective, when I set out to engage in this endeavor as a side activity of sorts, I did it for my own sake; really, to educate myself on a disease state or treatment based on experiences during my clinical shifts in the emergency department. It has been therapeutic in some ways as well, as not only does writing help me retain facts and controversies related to clinical topics more readily, but it also helps facilitate reflection on my own experiences. If anything that I have written is of benefit to anyone in a challenging situation during a difficult clinical shift that can be applied at the bedside, then all the power goes to the reader. I am certainly appreciative of the feedback that I do receive from international colleagues related to my posts, especially that which pertains to being of much benefit to clinicians in the emergency department in a tight situation.

But I digress...

For the most part, with every post that I write for this blog (and anything else I do in the world of social media), I try as much as possible to include solid references - not only to cover myself, but also to spark the reader to look into the referenced information for themselves. I firmly believe that any educational blog post, podcast, or other tool that falls under the umbrella of "FOAMed" ought to follow this standard. Most do; but it is essential to emphasize to our audience that they themselves need to critically read and analyze literature and decide whether the information in the medium may be something that is not only worth practical application at the bedside, but is also solid and accurate from this standpoint - especially since you may never know who may be tuning in to your podcast or reading your blog post.

So imagine my surprise a couple of weeks ago when I came across this traffic source via the administrative functions for the blog:

I thought at first it was a mistake and that my eyes were playing tricks on me. I mean, after all, this occurred during the first few days of Ramadan, and my energy levels do tend to wane throughout the day.

So I did what any sane person would do: I clicked the link.

The link indeed led to the actual US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website. It was a detailed drug safety communication related to cardiotoxicity secondary to loperamide abuse, an occurrence that has become increasingly recognized and reported in the literature here in the States.

I had written about this topic nearly a year ago on the blog after having to manage a patient in the emergency department who presented with Torsdes de Pointes secondary to this very phenomenon. Prior to this experience, I knew nothing about it, so again, writing the post was simply a means of educating myself...and anyone else who stumbled upon the post.

I kept reading through the safety communication...and then I got to the references section. My heart dropped when I saw that the third reference listed was the very same blog post that I authored, fully cited in true form.

Needless to say, I am still in the "mind blown" state.

I am not quite sure how the FDA happened to find the post, nor am I fully aware of the exact reason as to why the individuals who pieced together the safety communication decided to include my post in their list of references. Perhaps because it is what it is - FOAMed - and any individual of the general public who accessed the communication can easily find more information covered in the post.

We now arrive at the state of things. For all intents and purposes, it is safe to say that FOAMed has officially gone mainstream. Can this keep up? I think (and hope) so, as quality content continues to be produced by us creators.

This may be a bold statement, but given the circumstances, I think it ought to be said. If FOAMed is good enough to be recognized by the FDA, then it certainly ought to be good enough to be recognized by any other entity - yes, that includes academic institutions.

Mic drop.

"Nice to meet you, where have you been?
I could show you incredible things..."

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