THE ASMA SCIENTIFIC ASSEMBLY
Every May, experts and enthusiasts in aerospace medicine from across the globe gather to network, learn, and teach one another the latest ideas and innovations in this niche medical specialty. A little over a month ago, I finally attended my first Aerospace Medicine Association (AsMA) Scientific Assembly. This year, the conference was held in a sunny, but humid Dallas, Texas.
The 5 day conference was energizing. Every time I attend a conference, I reconnect with old friends, depart with new, meaningful relationships and reinvigorate my professional passions. AsMA 2018 succeeded on all 3 counts. Conference attendees were a motley crew of military flight surgeons, aerospace physiologists, FAA aviation medical examiners, and NASA & European Space Agency (ESA) flight surgeons or scientists. I was also impressed with the number of medical students, residents and other trainees in attendance. Lectures varied from reviews of new aerospace medicine guidelines to presentations of narrow scientific datasets to debates on how medicine will be practiced on Mars.
Every morning there was a keynote address from prominent figures such as former NASA chief scientist John Charles PhD, Airbus’ Perlan Project glider pilot Morgan Sandercock, or the Veteran Affairs Director of Genomic Medicine Ronald Przygodzki MD. My favorite presentation took place at the Space Medicine Association’s (SMA) luncheon when physician astronaut David A. Wolf MD recalled his harrowing and nearly fatal space walk on his first STS mission.
All in all, the conference was a uniformly positive experience. But I couldn’t help but notice how limited the use of social media and digital sharing was compared to other medical conferences I had recently attended. There was an AsMA digital application for smartphones and it even had a twitter feed. But I only noticed a handful of users actually sharing ideas on this forum, using the distinct hashtag #AsMA2018 (Check out what you missed!). Here we are the medical specialty that NASA & Elon Musk will rely on as consultants for how to safely maintain the health of future human martians, but we seem light years behind using simple technologies to promote and advance our current agendas. It got me thinking a lot about why I created this website in the first place.
FOAMed & THE ORIGINS OF GO FLIGHT MEDICINE
In 2013, I was loving life stationed at Aviano AB in Italy as a junior (GMO) Air Force flight surgeon in an F-16 squadron. It was the perfect job. I flew weekly in the back seat of an F-16D. I took care of my pilots and their families in the flight med clinic. And I frequently accompanied my unit on amazing temporary deployments to dozens of European & North African countries. I couldn’t believe I was actually getting paid. But I knew it was just a transitory job. I needed to return to residency and complete a legitimate medical specialty. My ultimate goal had always been a career in Emergency Medicine (EM), and as the time grew near to apply to competitive medical residencies, I began to consume everything I could on the topic. What I found shocked me. In just a few years since my medical school graduation, an entire online educational forum had come to life and evolved into a rich network of dynamic, high-quality FREE medical education. I quickly discovered that this was a bonafide movement. It seems the term FREE OPEN ACCESS MEDUCATION (medical education) or FOAM, or hashtag #FOAMed, was first used around 2012.
Was this a unique phenomenon in emergency medicine or were other specialties exploring open source digital education as well? I instinctively turned to my current speciality- Aerospace Medicine. I began digging. Like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, I spent a few late nights diving into the abyss of google searches and hyperlinks. But…I didn’t find much- literally almost nothing. Aerospace Medicine organizations had a few informational pages, but no where could I find a network of enthusiasts sharing ideas and communicating about this cutting edge niche specialty. So, I decided to create it. And Go Flight Medicine was born.
Fast forward 5 years and the website has definitely had its ups and downs. Over the last 3 years as I’ve strained to learn how to save lives and not kill people in a busy Emergency Department, GFM had to take a backseat. But I graduated from residency last week and I am determined to resurrect my original vision and build it to become an active FOAM community made up of doctors and other healthcare providers who love aviation, space exploration, SCUBA, and all forms of wilderness medicine. But, FOAM is not one person writing a blog. It needs to be an online community. This is real-time peer review. Its the digital sharing of ideas and creating something out of nothing.
Basically, I need your help.
PLEASE CONTACT US AT GFM IF YOU WANT TO CONTRIBUTE TO FOAMED FOR AEROSPACE, DIVE, WILDERNESS, OR TACTICAL MEDICINE.
“If you want to know how we practiced medicine five years ago, read a textbook. If you want to know how we practiced medicine two 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.”
~ Joe Lex MD
MORE ON FOAMed
For the reader uninitiated to the concepts of FOAMed or a flipped classroom, a number of articles have been written as means of introduction. The Australasian critical care and emergency medicine blog, Life in the Fast Lane (LITFL) probably features the most comprehensive review on the subject. Forbes’ online publication also ran an article in 2013 explaining how the falling interest in nephrology by medical students could potentially be mitigated by embracing the FOAM movement.
LEADERS IN FOAMed
Below is a list of some of my favorite FOAM websites by specialty:
- WikEM: Literally an open source peer-reviewed wikipedia for Emergency Medicine. Can also download as an app.
- Life in the Fast Lane: Up-to-date Critical Care & Emergency Medicine FOAMed blog.
- EM Crit/Pulm Crit: Critical Care & Emergency Medicine podcast and blog by EM superstar, Scott Weingart MD
- Academic Life in EM (ALiEM): Online medical education blog and digital journal by Michelle Lin MD from UCSF
- Radiopaedia: A slick open source, digital radiology resource, compiled by radiologists and lots of other docs.
- Ortho Bullets: Fractures. Splints. Casts. Strains/sprains/tears. All things ortho, all the time. A great resource!
***Share your favorite online free medical educational resources in the comments below!