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On-the-road learning

April 2008

Published in the April 2008 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

HAVING TROUBLE keeping up with the staggering volume of medical journals and new studies? A free subscription service provides podcasts of study abstracts to help keep you up-to-date.

The service, called Journal Junkie, is the brainchild of Craig Dalton, MD, a preventive medicine physician who practices in his native Australia. Dr. Dalton spent three years in the U.S. as an epidemic intelligence service officer and preventive medicine fellow for the CDC. (He says that hospitalists are “an emerging concept” Down Under.)

Starting in medical school in the 1980s, Dr. Dalton realized he had a problem: He loved reading medical journals, but he also loved to exercise.

“I started putting summaries on cassette tapes and listening to them while I was washing up or jogging or driving,” he says. “I found that listening to a summary two or three times really helped me remember the material.”

Fast forward to five years ago, when podcasting emerged. “I thought, ‘That’s it! That’s the perfect way of doing this!’ ” Dr. Dalton says. He teamed up with a computer scientist who’s also an ex-nurse and launched Journal Junkie in 2006.

The Web-based service offers MP3 downloads of audio summaries from several of the most prestigious journals. Those include New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, Evidence Based Medicine, The Lancet, The Lancet Neurology, The Lancet Infectious Diseases, Annals of Internal Medicine and Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Most of the journals provide the audio summaries themselves; some summarize all of their articles, while others focus only on a featured study or two. Dr. Dalton says that he and his partner, who have maintained the service so far on a shoestring, would like to eventually sell online and audio advertising and sponsorships.

That would allow them to “really customize the service so we can add more journals and ‘theme’ the podcasts with cardiology, pediatric or endocrine focused summaries, for example,” says Dr. Dalton. “The other thing subscribers have asked for is the ability to cut up each journal’s summary so readers would hear only the articles that they want.”

All of that is technically very doable, he adds, with time and money. To subscribe, go online to www.journaljunkie.com.