The CME community could learn a lot from the meetings industry. Caught up in the recent media spotlight on corporate excesses, meetings have been labeled as junkets and boondoggles. To fight back against the barrage of public criticism and impending federal regulation, a group of meetings industry and business travel associations formed a coalition to educate lawmakers about the industry's economic importance, created an online public relations tool kit to galvanize meeting professionals' advocacy efforts, and launched a Web site, meetingsmeanbusiness.com. Although the meetings industry, like the CME community, is extremely diverse — the coalition's members represent organizations ranging from multinational Fortune 500 companies to local nonprofit associations — leaders encouraged meeting professionals to speak with one voice. (See story, page 17.)

The CME community has yet to demonstrate a powerful, united voice in the face of media, government, and public attacks. Now, three major CME organizations, the Accreditation Council for CME, the Mayo Clinic, and the Society for Academic CME, have spearheaded an initiative that includes among its goals building a national voice, brand, and identity for CME.

Developing something as seemingly simple as a branding message, like Meetings Mean Business, would help jump-start efforts to establish CME's identity. Here are a few examples to get the discussion started. Send me your ideas and I'll publish them so we can continue brainstorming.

  • CME … Because patients deserve the best-educated doctors

  • CME … Bringing healthcare providers the education of a lifetime

  • CME … Teaching doctors how to provide top-quality patient care is our top priority.

Creating a code of ethics for the profession is another way to demonstrate CME's accountability and begin to build public trust. The Association for Hospital Medical Education, the Alliance for CME, and the Society for Academic CME have joined together to write such a code. As I learned during an exciting and interactive session at the Alliance for CME annual conference held in January in San Francisco, the Tri-Group, as it is called, is gathering input on the big questions such as what values the code would include, who the signatories would be, and how violations would be handled. In addition to strengthening CME's credibility, one of the goals of the code, speakers said, would be to foster an environment where CME colleagues treated each other with respect. In fact, there is a section entitled “Respect” in the National Association of Social Workers' Code of Ethics that encourages cooperation and discourages negative criticism among social workers and allied professionals.

The CME community is grappling with contentious issues, such as conflict-of-interest management and funding policies — issues exacerbated by the economic crisis. But too often, the debates get nasty. And, unfortunately, tough times usually inflame the divisions in a community, rather than bringing people together. To succeed in forging a national identity and brand, CME professionals need to view the community's diversity not as a weakness, but as a strength, and focus their energies on speaking with one voice.

On a personal note, I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of longtime CME leader David Lichtenauer. I admired his dedication to CME provider/industry collaboration and always looked forward to hearing his impassioned, incisive take on the latest developments. I extend my deepest sympathies to his family, colleagues, and friends. See our In Memoriam on page 17.