Did you have a clue what the title of last fall's Annual Conference of the National Task Force on CME Provider/Industry Collaboration, “From Silos to Synergies,” meant? Do you immediately pull out a newspaper or paperwork from the office instead of a notebook and pen at the Alliance for CME plenary sessions because you know that you won't understand what the speakers are talking about? If so, you have lots of company.

According to the providers interviewed for this column, who asked not to be identified, there's a deep, and apparently widening, gap between the theory-intensive education offered by the current leadership — most of whom are professionals in adult education with lots of letters after their names — and what those in the trenches need to know to do their jobs more effectively.

As one up-and-coming CME professional says, “Theories and philosophies are fine and good. We need the academicians to keep pushing. The disconnect occurs when no one shows us how we in the trenches can actually use the information at the practical level. Those who educate CME providers need to be able to talk to both worlds, not just the academic side.”

Out of the Trenches

Why not get some of the trench-dwellers involved in industry associations to balance the theory with real-life solutions to real-life challenges? Not only would other providers receive a more balanced education, but that person would be enhancing his or her leadership skills by making presentations, leading workshops, holding poster sessions, publishing, and getting involved with various industry committees.

But providers who don't have PhDs and MDs behind their names are already beaten down by dealing day in and day out with physicians who constantly second-guess them. They feel equally uncomfortable submitting posters, presentations, or even ideas to the MDs and PhDs on industry planning committees. The problem is compounded for women and people of color, who may feel an extra layer of distance between themselves and today's mostly male, mostly white CME leaders. And, while some providers may have institutional support for putting in the extracurricular time and effort to take on leadership positions, all too many don't.

Still, one provider says, “If I want to change things, I have to step up to the plate. I just wish today's leaders would reach out to me.”

Lose the Fear, Feed the Future

“When I first started getting involved in industry associations, I was afraid these people would think I was an absolute idiot,” admits one provider. “I had to realize that my fear was my own handicap, not something today's leaders put on me. It's up to all of us to cross the divide between those with pedigrees and the rest of us.”

Look for the Life Support column in the June issue, where we'll begin a series designed to apply CME theory to real-life situations through case studies. If you'd like to provide input for this series, please contact Executive Editor Sue Pelletier at (978) 448-0377 or e-mail her at