With extreme interest, I read Lawrence Sherman's article “What Do I Do for a Living?” (June 2007), and it was like a revelation. I said to myself: “This is what everyone, my wife included, always asks me.” Even though I don't live only for my work in continuing medical education, it is becoming more a part of my life, particularly given the CME growth in Europe since 1999.

At that time, a small group of colleagues and I decided to start an association called CME-ICAP (Italian Council for Accreditation in Pneumology). We were trying to understand the U.S. CME system. There was nothing in place in Italy, and only the recently formed European Accreditation Council for CME in Brussels was acting as a credit exchange clearinghouse for specific events. I remember banging on the door of the European Union of Medical Specialists (UEMS), EACCME's parent organization, talking with Cees Leibbrandt, MD, then general secretary, and learning the ropes about how to request European credits for educational events.

CME, Italian-Style

The first accredited event in Italy was the National Pneumology Congress in Catania, Sicily, which remains a landmark in CME history. Soon other medical societies wanted to follow suit, and because I was a member of various commissions of the Italian Federation of Medical Societies, I started helping others to follow a European CME path.

In 2002, the Italian Ministry started its own CME program, theoretically mandatory, and very extensive, reaching more than a million healthcare professionals, from doctors to nurses, pharmacists to vets. This program started a new wave in Italy, changing the way events and congresses were structured, and gaining a strong interest from pharma companies, which are allowed to provide support through grants.

The rest of Europe started opening up to CME, and I had the good fortune to be invited by my friend Helios Pardell, MD, head of the Spanish Accreditation Council for CME, to witness the birth of formal accreditation in Spain. I also saw a strong interest develop in distance learning, in both online activities and enduring materials, with the UEMS forming committees to study these new developments.

I started a group of colleagues, called the Rome Group because we have met in Rome for the past five years; all of the members are responsible in their respective countries for accreditation and CME. Among the members are two from the United States, Murray Kopelow, MD, chief executive, Accreditation Council for CME; and Alejandro Aparicio, MD, director, CPPD, American Medical Association. I became board member of the Global Alliance for Medical Education in 2004, and helped to organize the annual meeting in Rome in 2006, the first time the GAME meeting was held outside the U.S. In Europe, I was elected a member of various accreditation committees of international medical societies. Now I also assess CME events that are held in Italy through UEMS/EACCME.

My Life Passion

In short, the net is spreading, and I am more involved every day. And I hope that with this article I have been able to explain to my family and friends how a complicated and little-known, at least in Europe, business such as this has become my life passion, and how it has given me great satisfaction and rewards. In almost 10 years, I have seen a great world community shape up and open borders, change mentalities and approaches, and truly educate the medical profession in a different way. Therefore, to quote Lawrence again, I will simply say that I work in continuing medical education — and I am very proud of it!

Alfonso Negri, MD, PhD, is Foreign Committee Member, Italian Federation of Medical Societies, Milan; and president, Scientific Seminars international Foundation, Rome. Reach him at a.negri@alice.it.