I’ve always loved this quote from cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” It’s been in the back of my head since I set down my loaded buffet plate at a table next to Ilsa Klinghoffer, MPA, at the Global Alliance for Medical Education meeting in Montréal earlier this summer. We got to talking and, between bites of asparagus and roasted potato, she told me about an initiative the chief surgeon at her institution, the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, had started a few years ago.

The object of the initiative, called the International Society of Orthopaedic Centers, was to gather together the best and brightest from the world’s largest academic and research-oriented orthopedic centers at one of the member centers every year and a half to not just talk about the hairiest clinical, educational, and research-oriented challenges they face, but to actually do something about them. And they are starting to see some results. See our cover story to learn more about it.

Thomas P. Sculco, MD, ISOC’s architect and instigator, calls Ilsa both “the glue that’s held the whole thing together,” and “an iron fist in a velvet glove.” I’d say that both glue and glove are essential to keeping a movement like this going, especially when you are communicating with people who live and work in places that span the globe. Ilsa, who serves as ISOC’s administrative director as well as director, International Learning and Training Center, in HSS’s Education Division, tends to downplay her role, saying, “It’s just a matter of staying organized, communicating often, and being there to answer questions.” But I’ve seen all too many good small groups of all stripes get together, brainstorm, and come up with some intriguing projects, only to fall apart later on for lack of having someone who’s willing to keep the momentum going once everyone is back home.

It’s hard to do, but, as Ilsa says, “If we can stay together, we’ll see some good results.”

In her column, “My CME Wish List,” Ann Lichti answers the question: If you could change anything in continuing medical education, what would it be? I’ll adopt all her items for my own wish list, and add this: Let’s have more small, intensely focused meetings. And let them be meetings, not necessarily accredited CME, and not necessarily clinically oriented education. I’d like to see more specialties—and CME providers—do what these enterprising orthopedic docs are doing: Building relationships across organizational lines, and across borders and cultures, to discuss the larger issues that drive how we do what we do, and how we could do it all better. The specifics on how they do it may be unique to that group, and that’s how it should be.

I’m a big proponent of social media and social networking, and I can see many ways in which it can revolutionize the CME profession (if we let it, but that’s for another column). I love what we’re doing in online CME, and I know that it will continue to be an important growth area. Huge congresses that gather tens of thousands together to learn the latest advances will always be vital to the world of CME. But never underestimate what can happen when you get a small group of committed, smart, and driven people together in one place—preferably with some good food for the body and the soul as well as the mind—and let ’em rip.

We may just actually change the world. Tell me that isn’t a goal worth shooting for.

Other editorials from Sue Pelletier:

GAME Meeting Gets Global Learning Right

The CME Provider/Parent Parallel

Keeping CME Clean in a Biased World

Just the Facts?