The Certified Medical Meeting Manager project took another step forward this fall in the form of a completed pilot program, according to James Montague, president and CEO of the Professional Meeting Planners Network, Durham, N.C., which created the CMMM program. PMPN offers a network of independent meeting planners nationwide who often serve as on-site logistics managers for medical meetings. Of the 18 PMPN planners who completed the pilot program coursework and test, 11 passed.

“We were really looking to get feedback on the body of knowledge we were presenting,” says Montague. Other goals included enhancing planners' knowledge of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America's Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals, the Office of Inspector General's guidance for pharmaceutical companies, and the other regulations, codes, and guidances that govern medical meetings of all kinds.

Of the three learning modules offered, two centered on the rules specific to medical meetings, while one dealt with meeting management and logistical issues. “If someone has a Certified Meeting Professional designation, they could opt out of [the latter] portion of it,” says Montague. The study guide includes not just information about the rules regarding medical meetings, but also why and how they are relevant to the meeting planner. “Why is it an issue if a pharmaceutical sales representative is in the room? Why is it so important that the feedback forms are sent in a timely manner? We wanted to take the guidelines and make them relevant to what are people are doing on site,” he says. While the information currently offered is focused on what on-site staff like PMPN's planners need to know, the company wants to expand the body of knowledge so it is more useful to those who are full-time planners in CME offices and pharmaceutical companies. Although the content now tilts heavily toward CME, PMPN also wants to broaden it with information for those who plan non-CME medical meetings.

The goal of the fledgling CMMM program at present is to be a certificate program, where one studies and takes a test once, Montague adds. Recognizing that things can, and do, change frequently in the medical meetings industry, he says that the ultimate goal is to provide a certification program, which would have pre-requisites for certification, and ongoing recertification, instead of a one-time course and test.

“What we're doing now is putting together a snapshot of where we are at this one point in time and making sure people are competent in what they need to know now,” Montague says. To roll it out to a broader audience — such as the 200 people who have sent PMPN requests for information about the CMMM — the company is looking for a nonprofit or accreditation organization to partner with on the project.

“We're looking to work with bodies that are already used to accreditation and that are removed from the perception of commercial bias,” says Montague. PMPN has been criticized for starting the certificate program for its own commercial benefit. “We want it to be clear that this isn't the PMPN certificate. We're calling it what it is: A Certified Medical Meeting Manager certificate.” Working with a noncommercial partner to turn it into a full accreditation program, he believes, would make the distinction clear, and would further the credibility of the CMMM's noncommercial status.

In the meantime, Montague says, PMPN is taking the feedback from the pilot program graduates to fine-tune the study guides and related materials. In addition, one of PMPN's clients plans to use the CMMM certificate program internally to broaden its meeting planners' skills sets. “This is different than what we intended,” says Montague, “But still a great use for it.”