FOAMed Made Me A Better Lecturer

My glossy, relentless smile slowly began to sag. My enthusiasm waned. I asked myself, “Why are you even here?

Although that was the first time I actually asked the question, truth be told, it had been germinating in my brain for the past few months.FullSizeRender

It was during one particularly bland and unprepared lecture in my first year of medical school when I found it nearly impossible to read the deluge of text on the PowerPoint slide and listen to the speaker. Not only was I quickly losing interest, but the speaker appeared to be caught off guard by the content of his own slides.  The phrase “Why did I put that in this slide?” was uttered over and over again. Unfortunately, my despair was not limited to this one professor or this one lecture. In fact, getting a good lecture was more outlier than standard.

It was at that moment I decided to stop attending lectures. I figured since the speakers gave me access to their slides and all they were doing in class was reading the slides, I could stay at home and do just as well. As validation for this theory, my grades improved.

Shortly after graduating medical school, I was asked to give my first lecture as an intern. What did I do? I created a PowerPoint with bullets. That lecture went over about as well as those medical school lectures did: horribly.

While the content was acceptable, the presentation wasn’t engaging, and worst of all, it was boring. I found myself perpetuating the cycle and becoming a part of the problem rather than a solution.

For my next lecture, instead of focusing on the required content, I focused on my audience. Luckily I had a group of mentors who had grappled with this so I began to study not only the content of their lectures but also how they lectured.

Soon after, I discovered podcasts and the #FOAMed (Free Open Access Medical Education) movement. Inexplicably, I found I could watch an entire 20-minute talk online without checking my phone. For someone with the attention span of a small bird, this was no small feat.

I tried to emulate what I had been learning and observing for my next talk, and when I gave my next lecture to the residents, I found they were spending less time on their phones and computers and more time engaged in my lecture. After that experience, I immediately asked for more opportunities to lecture because I knew the only way to improve was to do more of them. While the residency was very accommodating, they were only able to give me a lecture every couple of months, and I needed more.

Since I couldn’t give lectures to our residents as frequently as I desired, I thought maybe I could practice on my computer. Initially, I figured I could record a few lectures and put them on YouTube. But the more I thought about it, the more I wasn’t sure this is how I wanted to distribute my content. I always got distracted when I went on YouTube. I would start looking for ultrasound videos and then somehow end up watching an hour of compilations of cats falling asleep and rollerbladers falling.

That’s when I thought about creating a website. I wanted a place where I could upload all of my lectures in an easy-to-navigate format, with minimal distractions. I remember reading somewhere that the average student attention span was approximately 10 minutes, so decided I was going to try and make my videos 5 minutes long to increase the likelihood that people would actually watch the whole video. That’s where 5-minute sono was born.

Eventually I purchased a USB microphone and paid for good screen capture software and began recording. Initially I wanted to focus on purely instructional videos without any mention of the evidence or current literature. This made it much easier to keep my content as short as possible, with the long-term plan to create a podcast where I could talk about literature as much as I wanted. Setting up a website to look good and work seamlessly is very difficult. Thankfully the ultrasound director where I went to residency is kind of a genius on that front. There have definitely been a few hiccups along the way, but overall the experience of been pretty amazing. This has taken a tremendous amount of work, but viewership has been steadily increasing, which is encouraging.  I still have a large amount of instructional 5-minute sono videos to create, but decided to start introducing more literature reviews in the form of a blog and podcasts. Soon I’ll begin my faculty position at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Department of Emergency Medicine, and anticipate I’ll be able to lecture to the residents to my heart’s content. But that won’t stop me from continuing the steady stream of ultrasound instructional videos and supporting the FOAMed movement.

How do you make your talks more engaging? What are your favorite FOAMed resources? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Jacob Avila, MD, is Co-fellowship and Ultrasound Director, Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, Tennessee. To check out some of his FOAMed material, visit 5 Min Sono.

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