Dr David Lyness graduated from HYMS in 2013 and is currently an Anaesthetics/ICU Trainee in Northern Ireland. While at HYMS, David co-founded the pre-hospital care programme in Yorkshire, and was the academic forum lead for two years. More recently, David set up his website propofology.com which showcases his original infographics, as well as signposting other useful resources for medical students. I caught up with David to find out more about his exciting new project.
Hi David, could you tell us more about your website?
I launched propofology.com in March last year to showcase my infographics that focus on anaesthesia, ICU and pain medicine. Much of the critical care and pain postgraduate exam syllabuses can be quite dry and devoid of concise explanations on topics that most of us explored (and forgot!) as first and second year medical students; topics that are often relegated to very boring areas of textbooks. This was an attempt to make a lot of the postgraduate exam content more interesting, accessible and relevant to people from all specialties.
Infographics appeal to visual learners, which I believe more and more students and doctors these days relate to. I’m a big believer in bringing medicine out of dusty old textbooks and into a more relevant medium. Everyone carries a smartphone, tablet or laptop to work or has one at home, so the website is useful if you don’t fancy carting around your bulky textbooks. It’s also proved useful to people working in more resource-lacking environments or countries, and has highlighted many of the topics to other practitioners of critical care like paramedics, nurses and theatre staff.
The site now attracts anywhere between eight and fifteen thousand visits per week, and has a global audience of over 39 countries. Its social media interactions range between 300 and 430 thousand impressions per month, with over three thousand active Twitter followers.
Is your website aimed at students?
Absolutely. Your career as a doctor starts as a student, and if you have even a vague interest in anaesthesia, critical care or pain medicine then obviously the infographics will appeal to you. They’re also useful for basic sciences, pharmacology concepts, and emergency and prehospital medicine, as well as radiology and equipment topics. There’s also a large student section with lots of case discussions (PBL style, of course!) and finals questions, with a heavy clinical focus on all areas of undergraduate medicine, not just critical care. A lot of this material is from my own work as a final year student and from tutoring fourth and final year students at the medical school here in Belfast.
What inspired you to set up your site?
A lot of websites have sprung up in the past number of years, focusing on emergency medicine, intensive care and prehospital medicine. I found there was quite a void for doctors re-studying the basic sciences pertaining to their practice or revising for anaesthetic exams. The FRCA exams are a vital component of becoming an anaesthetist and they are absolutely gruelling! The days of being well supported at medical school fade away when you graduate and it really is up to you to become a ‘life-long learner’, something we all mutter at interview for medical school, but likely fail to grasp until we graduate. You need to find good resources to continue professional development or you can fall into the trap of being quite static in your practice. I think my website compliments a number of other internet resources to bring quality information to people trying to learn, revise and update their knowledge.
I also get to collaborate with people across the world including the USA, Australia, Great Britain and Canada to create new and exciting topics at the edge of new developments. I’m currently working with an emergency medicine consultant from New York to look at the CERTA (Channels, Enzymes and Receptors Targeted Action) concept of pain relief for the emergency department, which is aimed at reducing opioid use. Another project I have just published was on the approach to traumatic brain injuries with senior colleagues in the south of England. The internet brings thousands of people together who have a common interest. It’s amazing what can get done.
Your site contains nearly 100 infographics created by you. Is creating infographics something you have always enjoyed doing?
The short answer is yes. Like a lot of people, I drew out a lot of my revision sheets, made flash cards and created documents – some of which I think are still floating around HYMS! I create infographics because I’m a visual learner and I remember things when I’ve made a colourful attempt to make something concise and memorable. Distilling down the key facts and getting rid of some of the less useful points makes topics more manageable and likely promotes knowledge retention. By publishing them on Twitter, it drives discussion and improvement of individual practices across the world. I am approaching the milestone of the first 100 topics and there’s still a lot more to do! We have also started translating the project into Spanish and French.
I can see you are a fan of #FOAMed. Could you explain what this means for anyone who has not encountered it previously?
#FOAMed or #FOAM is a Twitter hashtag and worldwide movement, promoting Free, Open Access to Medical Education. I am an enormous fan of #FOAMed and Propofology is in the top ten influencers of #FOAMed worldwide on social media. It’s a movement that brings together thousands of free resources from across the world to provide up to date medical education. If we’re being technical, FOAM should not be seen as a teaching philosophy or strategy, but rather as a globally accessible crowd-sourced educational adjunct providing inline (contextual) and offline (asynchronous) content to augment traditional educational principles. But for the non-technical, it’s a lot of fun and it’s really worth while getting involved in and learning from. Propofology is a #FOAMed resource in that it is freely available to all.
#FOAMed is the coming together of people to discuss concepts, cases, conundrums and to share techniques and ideas using social media. It narrows the knowledge gap and improves performance across every specialty imaginable. If you use #FOAMed, you will be on the edge of discussing current practice in whatever specialty you’re interested in.
I, like many of my fellow contributors, believe that if you want to know how medicine was practised five years ago, read a textbook. To know how we practised medicine two years ago, read a journal. If you want to know how we practise medicine now, try to go to a good conference, but if you want to know how we will practise medicine in the future – use #FOAMed. A great description of the movement can be found at lifeinthefastlane.com/foam
How can medical students get involved in #FOAMed?
There are so many reasons to use and contribute to #FOAMed and you can see a lot of them on the website at www.propofology.com/why-foamed
It’s incredibly easy to get involved; all you really need is a twitter account. Log on to Twitter and type in #FOAMed to see what comes up! You can also google #FOAMed and the topic you’re interested in. I’m always looking for people to collaborate with for new propofology.com infographics and resources which don’t necessarily have to be linked to anaesthesia, ICU or pain medicine. I’d be keen to hear from any HYMS students who would like to get involved with Propofology. Together, we can get some work published, and it’s a great CV exercise too. Take a look at www.propofology.com/contribute for more information.
Follow David on Twitter @Gas_Craic
Dr David Lyness was interviewed by Alexandra Abel.