Launching a Journal Club for Medical Professionals

Amy Thomasson
April 01, 2021

Last fall, one of Affinity Strategies’ clients, the American College of Medical Quality (ACMQ) launched their monthly Quality Improvement Journal Club. ACMQ’s Student, Resident, and Fellows (SRF) section created and launched the journal club, which highlights current articles focused on medical quality. Each month the SRF selects and article and invites the authors to join us to discuss their work and their findings. The discussions are also led by one or two experts in medical quality who share their perspectives and impressions from the article and help place the article’s findings into a broader context.

ACMQ has had some key learnings since launching the QI Journal Club. Here are some takeaways any medical association or society can apply to launching or running a journal club:

Experiment with Timing
Google the best time to host a webinar or online event and the results will tell you late morning to mid-afternoon. Factor in a variety of time zones and the ever-evolving, never dull schedules of medical students and professionals, and the correct timing will be even more of a head scratcher. The first two QI Journal Club events were held in the early evening, as the launch team wanted to see if they could capture a student and professional audience after a busy day of learning and working. While the audience that ended up attending the first two events wasn’t terribly large, it was highly engaged. Content is king, and while timing can be experimented with and refined, great content and positive engagement is harder to come by, and much more meaningful.

Subject Matter Experts are Critical
Having great guests starts with knowing your audience.Before hosting your first journal club event, ask yourself these questions: Who is my ideal audience? What challenges or problems are they currently facing? What are their goals? Why would they spend an hour listening to a virtual journal club event rather than doing something else? Answering these questions will help you determine what subject matter expertise and which type of guests to pursue. This allows you to then take advantage of the built-in networks and relationships that exist within your volunteer base. For the QI Journal Club, the SRF section chose to reach out to a diverse mix of ACMQ members and nonmembers. This has allowed ACMQ to highlight and elevate excellent individuals within the member community, while also exposing ACMQ to a larger audience outside the member base.

Leave Time for Networking
I recently read a post from Socio, a virtual event platform and company, that stated “If a virtual event doesn’t include networking, it’s just a webinar.” The pandemic devastated the events industry and has changed the way all of us think about networking. Networking online is no longer a ‘nice to have.’ When your audience skews towards medical students and early-career professionals, networking is a necessity. The QI Journal Club podcast features lively discussion between guests and moderators, which typically leads nicely into additional lively discussion and networking amongst guests. However, each audience member is different, so don’t forget to help coax your quieter attendees into discussion with some ice breaker questions.

Incorporate these tips, and your next journal club event is sure to be a success!