Sir William Osler organized a journal club at McGill University in 1875, and several authors suggest that journal clubs were found in certain European countries (in particular, Germany and England) prior to that time. The evolution and development of the journal club, however, has not been recorded in the medical literature. Through personal communications and interviews with senior clinicians and historians, I have traced the history of the journal club as an educational modality. In the early 1900s in Germany, journal clubs were routinely found in departments of medicine and medical schools. From 1917-1975, journal clubs evolved into a forum for continuing medical education. Recently, journal clubs have been designed to teach critical appraisal skills to physicians-in-training. Journal clubs are currently found in the fields of medicine, surgery, psychiatry, nursing, pharmacy, obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics and geriatric social service. This powerful educational tool has played an active role in medical education for over a century. The journal club should be more formally incorporated into the medical educational curriculum.
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