Much like what happens during a long political campaign, we're beginning to lose sight of the real issues. We continue debating about who should or should not receive funding from industry and the need for more regulation when we already have acceptable policies, guidelines, and standards. Instead, we should focus our energy on the critical CME needs all around us.

Needs, Needs Everywhere

After Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, emergent CME needs came to light (and still exist) in this hard-hit region. Last year, the conditions at Walter Reed Army Hospital shocked our nation. Even more tragic is the plight of our returning veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which continues to make the headlines. Post-traumatic stress disorder, increased suicide risk, depression, and a host of related comorbidities continue to take a grim toll on these soldiers. Recently it was reported that the HIV infection rates among black women in the Southern states have skyrocketed. In fact, national health statistics now show that nearly half of the people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. are black. This isn't an emerging need; HIV/AIDS has been a global crisis for more than two decades. As CME providers and members of a greater healthcare community, we are in a unique position to help the clinicians on the front lines of these healthcare crises and, ultimately, the patients they treat.

Setting Our Priorities

CME providers have the chance to send a powerful message to President-elect Obama and the new Congress in Washington, to the media, and to those within our own CME community who question the legitimacy of our activities. Let's produce CME that educates clinicians in underserved communities so that they can help reduce the disparities in healthcare. Quality, evidence-based CME that teaches clinicians about the appropriate use of both new and existing therapeutic agents and medical devices is still essential. Of equal importance is education that encourages the use of patient-screening tools, assessment scales, and other nonpharmacologic strategies to increase early and accurate diagnosis and treatment of disease. We can demonstrate that CME is being used to address well-documented patient health needs.

CME is becoming increasingly competitive. Now is the time for us to actively seek nontraditional funding sources to augment those from industry. We cannot continue to argue about which provider type (academic institutions, hospitals, specialty societies, or medical education and communication companies) should be able to certify activities — we must look to each other as educational partners allied in a fight to save our industry. To borrow from Robert Frost: Two roads are diverging in CME; will we take the one less traveled? In the end, that might make all of the difference.

Ann C. Lichti, CCMEP, is the vice president of Health Care Education Strategy for Veritas Institute for Medical Education Inc. She has worked in the healthcare industry (both CME/CE and clinical research) for 6 years. Reach her at ann.lichti@veritasime.com.

Harold I. Magazine, PhD, is the president of Veritas Institute for Medical Education Inc. He has 18 years of combined experience in academic research, publications, and medical education. Reach him at harold.magazine@veritasime.com.

The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not constitute the views of Veritas Institute for Medical Education Inc.

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