Depending on which historical account you read, journal clubs have been a staple of medical education since around 1875. Still ubiquitous within medical education today, journal clubs help educators and students alike stay current on medical literature, provide a vehicle for teaching how to critically appraise medical studies, and convene a forum in which respectful debate can occur among colleagues. Journal clubs constitute a medical-education practice that almost no one questions, probably because they are so effective.
But that doesn’t mean journal clubs can’t be improved. As the September 30, 2018 deadline approaches to submit applications for the JBJS Robert Bucholz Journal Club Grant Program (click here for the application form), I encourage medical-education leaders to envision new ways in which journal clubs could further orthopaedic education. That might include various iterations of “virtual” journal clubs over the internet. For example, the Journal of Hand Surgery recently hosted a journal club on Twitter. Another intriguing possibility would be to invite authors of journal articles with conflicting conclusions about the same research question to discuss their findings in a point/counterpoint format over teleconference. (Today’s teleconferencing platforms are not hard to set up, are relatively low-cost, and could broaden journal-club participation to anyone with a suitable device and a high-speed internet connection.)
The traditional face-to-face journal club provides many unique benefits, but creating new, innovative platforms for using departmental or grant-based journal-club funds could increase their impact and help ensure the sustainability of these educational programs. It will also be important for everyone to share their experiences with alternative journal-club formats. It behooves the orthopaedic community to continually envision how to integrate the journal-club component of medical education into new technologies as they evolve.
Chad A. Krueger, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media