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Journal Clubs serve a vital role in helping enhance the education and training of tomorrow’s physicians. The first journal club was started by Sir William Osler, the Grandfather of American Medicine and the founder of Johns Hopkins Medical School. Journal clubs enable participants to review papers and through collaborative discussion engage in a critical analysis and appraisal of the study. Regular review of the medical literature is necessary for clinicians to ensure that the care they provide their patients is evidence-based. It’s critical for consumers of medical literature to be able to understand the clinical implications of papers. The ability to do this in a meaningful way requires the reader is informed and familiar with the format and structure recognized as useful prism through which to view these papers. For instance, it is critical that clinicians are able to delineate the difference between a randomized controlled trial versus a cohort study or case-control study. Understanding the hierarchy of evidence and thus the value that should be assigned to papers is paramount.
The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine provides an excellent repository of articles that explain in detail how to critically read and evaluate the medical literature. To fully appreciate how necessary it is for today’s physicians to have access to useful evidence-based recommendations, upon which they can rely when providing care to their patients, one only needs to consider the number 800,000 – according to Dr. Sepkowitz, deputy physician in chief for quality and safety at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and a professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, that is the number of scientific articles added to the Library of Congress every year. With such an overwhelming amount of new research and new information available to physicians, how is a practicing clinician expected to stay up-to-date with the most critical advancements in their field, and importantly hone in on the papers that really have the potential to alter clinical decisions. One such tool, the Cochrane Collaboration is a phenomenal resource and significant proponent of evidence-based medicine.
The purpose of a journal club is not only to teach participants how to critically evaluate the literature but also to reach clinically useful conclusions about the medical issue addressed by the paper under review. Given that every medical school and residency program typically maintains their own journal club, wouldn’t it be great if these respective journal clubs were provided an appropriate platform to share the results of their effort and conclusions? Considering the sheer volume of new papers added to the medical literature every day, a platform for journal clubs to share and collaborate has the potential to dramatically improve the efficiency with which new scientific discoveries reach and impact a clinician providing patient care.