TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO, when many of our current CME leaders began their careers as medical educators, the field was narrow, fragmented, and insular — yet somehow less pressured. While the task of designing quality programs for physicians was never an easy one, CME professionals in most institutional settings seemed to find the time to help groom the next generation of leadership for the challenges that lay ahead.
Now healthcare has become big business, ruled by managed care and bottom-line issues while our media and citizenry wage war on many of the industry's segments. Once a low-key and dignified enterprise, CME has come under fire as an out-of-control marketing tool that tars all industry-supported programs with the same brush.
Faced with stepped-up scrutiny, where every mistake is magnified and every day another regulatory edict is handed down from government agencies, CME departments are under pressure as never before. As part of the fallout, everyone has less time than before to develop the leadership skills of younger staff.
Yet the need to develop new CME leaders has never been stronger. In the ongoing debates over medical marketing programs, CME has emerged as the most effective approach for keeping physicians on top of rapid advances in medicine. The government's own Institutes of Medicine reports that CME should have an expanded role in educating the nation's 600,000 physician-learners and even larger numbers of allied healthcare professionals. How ironic that CME is coming into its own as a valued activity just as its leadership structure is being eroded by cost controls and time constraints!
Training Tomorrow's Leaders
As we in the vanguard of CME leadership get older, we must take the time to ensure that America's next generation is prepared to take over our roles.
Tomorrow's CME leaders will come from all provider segments of our industry — hospitals, professional medical societies, medical schools, not-for-profit and for-profit communications businesses, and institutions. A major grassroots CME task force I belong to, the National Task Force for CME Provider/Industry Collaboration, serves as an example of how effective interaction and collaboration among diverse groups with common interests can be. These pluralistic conferences have helped participants gain perspectives into other areas of CME, breaking down barriers and improving communications.
It is easy to get so caught up in the pressures of our day-to-day jobs that we forget the guiding principles underlying our mission to provide value to society. We need to spend more time teaching the next generation of CME leaders that our work is not boring, that we do what we do because we really love it, and we believe what we do is important. At the end of the day, the fact that each one of us can truthfully say, “I've made a difference,” is the ultimate reason and reward for the CME profession.
In addition to serving as president and CEO of Thomson Physicians World, Secaucus, N.J., Martin E. Cearnal is president of its accredited CME division, Thomson Professional Postgraduate Services.
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