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Disseminating evidence in medical education: journal club as a virtual community of practice – BMC Medical Education


The COMSEP Journal Club started in its current format in 2011 as a monthly review of the medical education literature for the edification of its members. Reviewers select a recently published article (within the last 2 years) from the medical education literature on a topic felt to be of interest to the COMSEP membership, with a focus on pediatric medical student education. Reviewers then write a brief 300 to 350 -word summary of the article in a standard format, with the following four sections: (1) What was the study question?; (2) How was it done?; (3) What were the results?; (4) What are the implications? (how can this be applied to my work in education). These reviews are edited by the COMSEP Journal Club editors, who provide brief additional commentary to foster readers’ reflection on applicability of the study to their educational contexts. Three to four reviews are curated and published each month. The Journal Club editors oversee the process of recruiting reviewers, assist with and ensure suitability of article selection, edit reviews, and disseminate in electronic format the monthly Journal Club to the general COMSEP membership. An example of a Journal Club review is included as Supplemental File 1.

The COMSEP Journal Club was established to meet the needs of its members in the following ways: (1) to give reviewers experience examining and applying evidence in medical education; (2) to provide the general COMSEP membership a brief synopsis of important and relevant articles in the medical education literature in order to improve the evidence behind their medical education decisions; and (3) to give COMSEP members an opportunity to enhance their educational portfolios by serving as reviewers and giving back to the COMSEP community.

Review of our data on COMSEP members’ contributions to the journal club, along with primary journal sources and review topics, demonstrates that over a three-year period, 58 reviewers contributed a total of 129 article reviews, with the majority of reviewers contributing more than one review (Fig. 1). These reviews came from more than 20 different medical education journals and represented a wide range of themes (Table 1). However, we had no data regarding if and to what degree COMSEP members read the Journal Club article reviews and/or use them for their educational practice, nor regarding the benefits to members, real or perceived, for their contributions to the Journal Club. Specifically, we did not know if members include their reviews in their curriculum vitae or educational portfolios and, if so, whether they proved helpful in the path to promotion. Finally, given challenges with recruitment of COMSEP members to complete reviews, we wished to explore barriers to participation as a reviewer for the Journal Club, in an effort to identify and implement strategies to support members’ contributions. Using a continuous quality improvement lens, we sought to explore these issues so the COMSEP Journal Club could evolve to meet the needs of the membership.

Fig. 1

Number of journal club reviews completed by 58 COMSEP member reviewers, over a three-year period

Table 1 Examples of medical education journals as source of articles for reviews, and examples of common content areas or themes of articles reviewed

Data Collection and Analysis

In the spring of 2021 we surveyed members of COMSEP about their perceptions of COMSEP’s current Journal Club format using the established COMSEP Annual Survey as a study instrument. COMSEP’s membership is composed of leaders in pediatric undergraduate medical education and includes pediatric clerkship directors, site directors, subinternship directors, and other associated faculty and clerkship administrators. Annual survey topic areas are solicited and then chosen by a committee based on their importance to the COMSEP membership and the medical education community at large. Topics are chosen by blinded peer review, and questions are pilot tested prior to inclusion. Questions for each topic area are limited to a response time of a few minutes, to maximize response rate for the overall survey, as per the directive of the COMSEP Annual Survey Committee.

All COMSEP members were invited to participate electronically in the survey via email. Weekly reminders were sent to non-responders for four weeks, at which point the survey closed. Participation was voluntary and confidential.

The complete annual survey consisted of 43 questions, six of which were applicable to the COMSEP Journal Club; the remaining questions related to member demographics and other study topics approved by the survey committee. Our portion of the survey focused on current member participation in the Journal Club both as readers and reviewers, factors that motivate members to read the Journal Club, and perceived benefits and barriers to writing reviews. Specific questions can be found in Supplemental File 2. This study, as related to the Journal Club items, was approved by the Institutional Review Board of the University of Alberta.

Data were analyzed using Microsoft Excel for descriptive statistics (Microsoft Corporation, 2018) and R Core Team for chi square analysis (R Core Team, 2021).

Rizwan Ahmed
Rizwan Ahmed
AuditStudent.com, founded by Rizwan Ahmed, is an educational platform dedicated to empowering students and professionals in the all fields of life. Discover comprehensive resources and expert guidance to excel in the dynamic education industry.


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