Growing Your Journal Club

by Dr. Damian Marucci (@DamianMarucci) and Dr. Shiv Chopra (@THEQUACKGUIDE)

Journal clubs are an important part of continuing medical education. The open discussion of selected scientific papers with one’s peers and mentors is a great way to learn, to promote further reading and to stimulate research. The PRS Plastic Surgery Journal Club has taken the traditional concept to a new level through the use of podcasting and social media. For those of you not familiar, the PRS Journal Club was launched in January 2016. Each month, three papers are selected by the PRS resident ambassadors to the editorial board, Drs Sammy Sinno (@sammysinnoMD), Amanda Silva (@AmandaKSilvaMD), and Raj Sawh-Martinez (@docrfsm). These papers are presented and discussed in a podcast with a guest expert moderator. This is all available free on iTunes, with a follow up Twitter discussion of one of the papers held a week or two later. These podcasts are great learning aids for training and consultant plastic surgeons alike. You can download the podcast onto your smart phone and listen at a time and place that suits you.

Most plastic surgery training programs run regular journal clubs and, no doubt, many a good point is made during the discussions. So why not share these insights with the rest of the PRS community and the world? It is easy to do and, best of all, free.

We have been running a monthly Plastic Surgery Journal Club out of St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney Australia since 2007. Since 2012, we have made our journal club accessible on social media. We created a twitter account (@PlasticsJClub) and started a Facebook page to better communicate with the attendees and let people know which papers were for review. We soon found that some plastic surgery trainees were unable to attend the journal club due to work or family commitments, so we started to produce a short 10 minute “video blog”, summarizing the papers and what people at the journal club thought of the papers and uploaded them onto YouTube. The video blogs were basic, but the papers were presented succinctly and encouraged further reading and reflection. The YouTube video’s also further widened our subscribership to a more global audience. Doctors from around the world could watch for free our critique on the latest PRS papers.  However, the videos took some time to edit and upload and we were in search for a better solution.

Following the lead of the PRS Journal Club, we have moved away from YouTube videos to podcasts that people can subscribe to via iTunes or Soundcloud for free. Sometimes the papers we review in our journal club cover those discussed by PRS Journal club, but most of the time they don’t. Our journal club is and remains independent of the PRS Journal. The priorities and interests of different plastic surgeons around the world will vary. What this means is, for the interested student of the plastic surgery literature, there are more accessible viewpoints available for consumption.

We would strongly encourage those of you who currently run journal clubs to engage with the authors of the papers reviewed and to other surgeons by using social media to record and broadcast your thoughts. Join the online conversation of plastic surgery. The platforms mentioned here – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and iTunes – are free. Almost all aspects of production and editing of the content we produce is done on smartphones.

So how do you get set up?..Well this is how we did it. Firstly, set up an email account for your journal club (we recommend a gmail account, as it makes using some of the social media platforms easier). Go to Google for this. Armed with your new email address, set up a twitter account by going to Twitter and a Facebook account. Your journal club is now on social media. You can communicate with the members of your journal club, letting them know when and where the next meeting will be and what papers to read. Try to link as many of your social media accounts together so you only need to send a few notifications out each time to save you time.

But don’t stop there. Let your voices be heard. You can either record your journal club or (like we do) record a short summary of each paper presented and what people said about it. Now it starts to get a little trickier. We recommend you download the Opinion app to your smartphone. This app allows you to easily record and edit podcasts. The Opinion app allows you to upload a limited number of recordings onto their server for others to access. We recommend, though, that you create a Soundcloud account. You can upload your podcasts to your Soundcloud account from Opinion app. Anyone can listen to your podcast on Soundcloud. You can Tweet the link and publish the link on Facebook.

You are there – your journal club is now being heard world-wide.

There is another level – iTunes. You can have your own Podcast show on iTunes but you need to do a little work and wait a while. We recommend you record a podcast or two and have it on soundcloud – so the iTunes people know what you’re on about. Then there are a few other requirements that the Apple folk need before you re on iTunes, so best you prepare them in advance to avoid disappointment. Here are some of the key items below:

  • Get a good image to use for artwork as it will be the face of your podcast for the world to see and recognize, so spend time on the artwork. Make sure it is a square jpg or png formatted image at least 1400 x 1400 and at most 3000 x 3000 in size in RGB colour space (1400 x 1400 jpg image is recommended).
  • Do a quick check on iTunes to make sure your program title is unique, again a simple and memorable name will be easy for your listeners to remember and search for.
  • At least one iTunes category selected.
  • Apple will send you regular updates and notifications so create a new email account separate to your personal one.

The next big thing you will need is your personal RSS feed. RSS stands for “Rich Site Summary” and it allows content that you produce to be frequently updated to iTunes or to listeners who want to receive notifications on your latest Podcast.  You can utilse the in-house RSS feed tool in most PodCasting sites or Soundcloud (if you chose to use it). Also you can use Google’s speedburner tool which adds another layer of complexity but allows you to monitor/analyse your feeds in more detail.  Note the RSS feed is not your web page or account details but a unique http address.

Okay…so if you survived and understood most of that then you deserve an iTunes account! Finally, once all the above have been sorted, you beg Apple to join the club.  iTunes will validate your site and confirm that it’s unique and, hopefully, within a few days you will be granted permission to upload your podcasts! After that it’s all up ot you. Record and edit your podcasts, upload them and then post the links of Twitter or Facebook for others to find.

We hope that this blog has inspired you to take your journal club online. We look forward to hearing from you.

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