Back in the grad school days, keeping up with the literature was critical to keeping your cred on the anthro streets....okay, there are probably no anthro streets, but, nonetheless, it's important...
anyway, in med school, the literature is still important but not nearly as crucial to your academic life. That's because, as a med student, you are more responsible for the background information than the foreground information and creative research questions. It's still necessary to just get a hold of the huge amount of human disease and illness in all aspects of pathophysiology, pharmacology, etc.
However, now that I'm about to make the transition from med student to residency, my life will become more similar to my like as a PhD candidate with a true obligation to make some type of research contribution and certainly to understand the relevant advances within my field/fields of interest -- emergency medicine, global health and applied medical anthropology...
So, having said that, it is simply NOT possible to keep up with all the articles and journals that you should keep up with - you can't read everything while still keeping up with your normal clinical duties and maintaining some type of life. I heard a recent stat that you would have to read 18 articles a day to stay up to date in just one discipline of medicine.
Now, there are some great tools in medicine that I didn't have at Michigan to help with this task. For instance, Journal Watch monitors, collects, and summarizes the important journal articles in a field of your choosing for a monthly price. Furthermore, the conferences in medicine are not solely devoted to presenting new research - they also have time for interactive sessions to review past literature so you can just sit for a few hours in a dark room and get up to date by osmosis.
These are all advances I'm planning on using. In addition though, I do think it's important to make an effort to read a least a fraction of the important publications. Thus, I've chosen 10 journals that span the breadth of my professional interests, collected their publication dates and made a schedule to keep myself aware, up to date, and hopefully sufficiently read-up on their contents. Right now, I've got a list of 9 and for two weeks now, I'm doing pretty well with keeping up - not reading everything, but at least the abstracts of the articles that have only tangential relevance....
1. New England Journal of Medicine
3. Annals of Emergency Medicine -- ACEP
4. Journal of Emergency Medicine -- AAEM
5. Academic Emergency Medicine -- SAEM
6. Journal of Trauma
7. Human Nature
8. Current Anthropology
9. Evolutionary Anthropology
10. Health Affairs