The Elephant In The Room

The editorial “The Elephant in the Room” appeared in the December 2004 issue of Medical Meetings and the November 30 edition of Meetingsnet Extra, the e-newsletter for MM and its sister magazines, Corporate Meetings & Incentives, Association Meetings, Insurance Conference Planner, and Religious Conference Manager.

Dear Editor: I found your article, “The Elephant in the Room” somewhat disturbing. I guess there are people who would like to blame their failures on the re-election of President Bush and the policies that his administration and the U.S. Congress have put in place to provide adequate protection from terrorism for U.S. citizens.

If foreign physicians wish to attend an American medical conference to gain knowledge that would help their patients, I suggest that they put these minor inconveniences in perspective and wait in line with the rest of those who want to visit this country. I especially find this disturbing when many of these foreign physicians come from countries with some of the most repressive governments in the world.

You're right, the United States isn't about one individual, it's a tapestry of cultures, experiences, and opinions, and the overwhelming opinion of the American people, as expressed on November 2, 2004, was to continue with the policies that have kept us safe from terrorism in this country since the tragedy of September 11, 2001. We owe no one an apology.
Larry P. Vervack
Executive Director, Dannemiller Memorial Educational Foundation
San Antonio

P.S. Thanks for your great coverage of CME. I look forward to each of your issues.

Dear Editor: Thanks for your even-handed article about the concerns of meeting attendees coming to the States and the impact this has on the meeting industry. I do remember the tremendous effect the tragedies of September 11 had on the travel, meeting, and most every other industry in our country. When we've been lax on a matter, and tragedy strikes, there is sometimes an over-reaction: thus the photographing and fingerprinting requirements. Rather than criticism and avoidance, suggestions on what would be acceptable screening might be helpful. In keeping the “bad guys” out, the “good guys” are sometimes inconvenienced. It isn't personal — or maybe the needless loss of innocent lives is very personal.
Mary Frye
President, Home Furnishings International Association
Dallas, Texas

Dear Editor: You identified a perception from your unidentified planner but you did not address the security issue with yours or Potton's suggestions.

Instead of promoting the conclusion that “anti-Bush sentiment could have a detrimental effect on attendance during the next four years,” it would make more sense to conclude that because Bush was elected over Kerry, this country will be a safer place to travel to during the next four years.

Many countries in Europe have been attacked by terrorists, but their governments have not recognized the threat for what it is, and they are still quite vulnerable to future attacks. Anyone who has a passport has had their picture and fingerprints taken. I can't believe one would be “offended” by the requirement for a photo and fingerprint. Granted, a passport should be sufficient for permission to board a flight to the United States, but the fact is that past screening/identification methods are not sufficient to meet today's requirements for identity verification.

As an international traveler, I am concerned that U.S. and international authorities have not yet met the challenge to ensure safety because of all the resistance created by human-rights groups. I would feel secure if my “human rights” were equally balanced by my responsibilities to help ensure safe travel. If security is defined as knowing the passenger so that the captain of the airplane (or ship, etc.) can be confident that the only thing he has to worry about is the craft under his command, then my responsibility is to provide all the necessary information that I can, such as a background check, eyeball scan, thumb print, or other means to verify my identification. Would you expect less?

Don't people remember the plane and ship hijackings and bombings over the last 20 years? Before suggesting exporting education, or other weak compromises, I would suggest that the meeting promoter send the following statement to potential attendees: “To ensure that your travel to the meeting and your stay at the meeting site be as safe as possible, we will provide the involved security agencies with advance attendee information so that you will not be delayed when checking through security lines. Please complete the enclosed (or online) immigration form and submit it at least 14 days prior to your arrival.”

Awareness and acceptance of reality are necessary to dispel negative perceptions. Even with hijackings and bombings, air travel is still far safer than any other mode of transportation. In this country we kill more than 40,000 people every year on our highways. (I would guess other countries have similar statistics.) Event promoters can't guarantee that everyone will arrive safely at the meeting and return home safely, but every effort can be made to increase the probability that their participants will be safe and secure.
Tom L. Kelly, P.E.
Director of Engineering, EndoVascular Instruments Inc.
Vancouver, Wash.

Code Blue

Dear Editor: I read the article “Code Blue” [December 2004] and was very disappointed about more doom-and-gloom news.

In particular, I was distressed about the PACME [Pharmaceutical Alliance for CME] breakout session report at the AMA Conference [for CME Provider/Industry Collaboration] in Baltimore. If half the participants (roughly 37 persons) said they were pulling back from funding CME, what did the other 50 percent say? And, were any of those persons who said they were pulling back from the same company? Certainly, that should be a factor reported in the article as well. The magnitude of those pulling back is difficult to gauge from the numbers indicated in the article.

Although the numbers reported provide an interesting spin for an article, is it truly accurate reporting? Just thought I should raise the question, since I believe we can create any self-fulfilling prophecy we choose. Why not make it a positive one?
Jacqueline Parochka, EdD, FACME
President, Excellence in Continuing Education Ltd.
Gurnee, Ill.

Editors' note: Regarding the PACME session, when asked what the biggest barrier is to CME provider/industry collaboration, 44 people answered “fear/compliance problems.” They did not say that they were necessarily curtailing CME funding — we apologize if that was unclear. The rest of the people who responded said training (value of outcomes, CME core competencies, needs assessment) and advocacy about the role of industry in CME were the biggest barriers. The concerns expressed by participants at the breakout session were similar to the concerns we heard in our research and interviews. However, it is certainly possible that there were people from the same company answering the questions — that is a good point. Parochka is absolutely right that it is difficult to gauge the magnitude of the decrease in funding from our article. A survey of companies' commercial support policies and funding levels would be an excellent service for CME providers. Please contact Executive Editor Sue Pelletier at if you are interested in partnering with MM to conduct a survey.

CME, Cranberries, and Cereal

Dear Editor: I have read your editorial [“CME, Cranberries, and Cereal” September/October 2004, page 8], and thought it over for some time. I am excited about the idea of food companies funding CME. After all, what we eat definitely affects our health.

As we are planning for 2005 programs, I wanted to explore the possibilities of applying for educational grants or at least display fees from such companies. I am seeking your help in advising me where I might go to find the person whom I need to contact. I am sure that the companies have regional sales forces, the same as pharmaceutical companies do. I am not sure whether to apply directly to the home office or go to a regional office.

Any help or advice that you could give me would be greatly appreciated.
Virginia Nelson
CME Coordinator, Danville Regional Medical Center
Danville, Va.

If you have advice for Virginia, contact her at