Joel M. Topf to Be Given Robert G. Narins Award for Contributions in Education

Joel M. Topf, MD


Joel M. Topf, MD, will receive the Robert G. Narins Award on Saturday, Nov. 4, for his innovative efforts to incorporate the latest forms of electronic communication and social media into medical education. Dr. Topf is partner at St. Clair Nephrology and an assistant clinical professor at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in the Detroit metro area.

He became involved in medical education before he even graduated from medical school. During his third year at Wayne State University medical school, he and fellow student Sarah Faubel wrote a microbiology study guide for medical students that they sold nationwide. This unexpected success inspired a second endeavor. During his internal medicine and pediatrics residency at Indiana University, he wrote a book about nephrology entitled, The Fluid, Electrolyte, and Acid-Base Companion.

After his nephrology fellowship residency at the University of Chicago, Dr. Topf returned to Detroit and began working at St. Clair Nephrology. In addition to his hospital rounds, clinic time, and dialysis duties, he continued to teach. In 2008, he started one of the first nephrology blogs, Precious Bodily Fluids, named after the obsession he shared with one of the characters in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove.

As the number of nephrologists interested in online education grew, in 2011 he joined with Kenar D. Jhaveri, MD, FASN, and Matthew A. Sparks, MD, FASN, to establish the official blog of the American Journal of Kidney Diseases. This landmark event turned blogging and social media medical education from a solo to a collaborative practice.

In 2013, Dr. Sparks and Dr. Topf created NephMadness, an online educational game that leverages the excitement surrounding the U.S. collegiate basketball tournament known as March Madness. NephMadness continues to be a high-profile, social media-based, educational campaign with participants from around the world. It involves dozens of people working to generate educational content.

The next year, Dr. Topf joined with Swapnil Hiremath to create NephJC, a journal club that uses Twitter to discuss the research, guidelines, and editorials that are driving nephrology. The outlet has reviewed more than 70 articles and engages 150 nephrologists with each discussion.

Dr. Topf is currently working with other early adopters to teach social media skills to the next generation of nephrologists through the Nephrology Social Media Collective Internship. He is helping the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology to incorporate the new medium of visual abstracts. He serves on the ASN Communications and Media Committee.

He is also an assistant clinical professor at the Wayne State University School of Medicine and the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine.

October/November 2017 (Vol. 9, Number 10 & 11)