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FOAM and Ongoing Education – An Interview with Dr Melanie Clothier

An Interview with Dr Melanie Clothier

Last week we introduced you to Dr Melanie Clothier, a GP Registrar passionate about using the internet for connecting with other medical professionals, sharing information and learning. In the article, Dr Clothier discussed her online behaviour including blogging at GreenGP and using social media as a General Practitioner.

Here we follow up with a few more questions regarding her opinions on FOAM, General Practice and the issues around encouraging more GPs to work in rural areas.

What do think of Free Open Access Medical education? Does it influence your practice?

I really believe in FOAM and it is obvious that it is growing rapidly due to enthusiasm from many different health professionals worldwide. There has always been sharing of educational material amongst health professionals, but with FOAM this is so much easier and it is accessible to a much wider audience. Depending on what I learn from a FOAM resource, it may well influence my practice, however I always ensure I check the references and validity of the information before taking it as fact.

Do you think FOAM is the future of medical education?

I don’t think it is the only way health professionals will learn in the future, but I can already see its emerging role as an augmenting educational resource for students and doctors. I see its use mostly in post-graduate education and continuing professional development.

What do you think are the risks/dangers of FOAM?

There are concerns around peer review and testing veracity of FOAM resources, which are valid, however as far as I can see, if the resources are referenced appropriately or are clearly from a trust-worthy source, they are just as valid as a textbook.

As far as peer review is concerned, FOAM resources are likely to be more scrutinised than paper resources as they are accessible to a much wider audience not just locally, but worldwide. They are certainly more scrutinised and checked than the ‘expert opinion’ level of evidence from the professor in a white coat whose word in years gone by was taken as fact without questioning.

Possible dangers could include patient privacy concerns and perhaps fears around plagiarism or theft of intellectual property.

We know that even with more doctors coming into the system, staffing regional areas is still an issue. What’s your take on how to attract GP’s to country areas?

This is the million-dollar question really, and sadly there is not one answer.

Firstly, although I can’t reference any papers on this, I believe that graduates who are originally from rural areas are more likely to return to rural areas to work, so encouraging and facilitating country students to study medicine would be a start. I was shocked to find that my careers counsellor in Year 12 at my country high school did not know what the Undergraduate Medical and Health Sciences Admissions Test (UMAT) was when I was enquiring about applying for medical training! Clearly there are areas for improvement here!

Secondly, after a recent quick survey of GP registrars performed by a colleague, it became clear that financial incentives were not at the forefront of registrars’ minds when choosing a practice to work at. Mostly it was a nice community where their partner could find work and their children could be safe and educated, as well as a friendly team environment in a practice with good systems, which would attract a GP registrar to take up a position in a practice, either rural or urban.

Some have said that generalist doctors are the way of the future, and that extreme specialisation isn’t what we need in most areas of Australia. Do you agree?

In a nutshell, yes. As the cliché goes, ‘it takes all types’; we need generalists, as well as what some colleagues of mine jokingly refer to as ‘partialists’. We are all a part of the healthcare team and I rely very much on advice from my specialist colleagues regarding management of more challenging cases.

To read more about Dr Clothier’s experiences as a rural GP, visit her blog GreenGP, or follow her on Twitter @drmelclothier.

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