I have a passion for decaffeinated coffee, and my decaf of choice comes from Starbucks. I have a personalized Starbucks Card that has my favorite drink printed on it: venti decaf. The other day when I went to get my fix, one of the Starbucks folks was wearing a pin that indicated that she was a certified barista. I appreciated that the person in charge of creating great drinks had accomplished coursework and/or training.

When I left Starbucks I headed to the gas station. While I was waiting for the tank to fill up — and to avoid looking at the cost — I scanned the signs above the garage doors at the station. The one that stood out was the Official Inspection Station. I learned that only a certified motor vehicle inspector could complete the inspection on my car.

That got me thinking: If there are certifications for baristas and car inspectors, the need for certification of CME professionals is even more clear to me, in part because of its potential to help solidify CME as a true profession.

Full disclosure: I am an advisor to the National Commission for Certification of CME Professionals Inc. and recently took over as the head of the financial development committee.

CME Exam Guinea Pig

In order to put my money where my mouth is, I registered to become a beta tester for NC-CME, and to be one of the first to take the newly created certification exam. I sat for the exam in San Francisco in May in a room surrounded by the CME elite. We were all there for one purpose: to take the first step in making certification of CME professionals a reality.

While I cannot comment on specifics of the exam, I can tell you that it challenged my knowledge. I left the room after completing the exam with as much apprehension as confidence. How could I, a Fellow of the Alliance for CME with 15 years' experience in medical education, not be sure of nearly every answer?

I learned that I would receive my pass/fail notification on July 15. The time seemed to drag on forever. The e-mail arrived, as promised, but it might have been the longest July 15 in my life; I was in Europe and had to wait an extra six hours. While sitting in a downtown Munich wine bar I opened the message with excitement and relief — I had passed!

In order to move our profession forward and to help ensure the high quality of the education that we develop, I encourage you all to consider sitting for the exam.

Lawrence Sherman, FACME, CCMEP, is president and CEO of Physicians Academy for Clinical and Management Excellence, New York. A 15-year CME veteran, he is a frequent lecturer on topics related to the strategic development, dissemination, and evaluation of CME activities. Reach him at LS@physacad.com.