The Case: Fred Frandango, the meeting planner at the small, nonaccredited patient advocacy organization Association of Rheumatoid-like Symptoms, contacted the American Association of Rheumatism in December 2011 regarding certification of his October


2012 annual meeting. In January 2012, he paid a joint sponsorship fee and signed the joint sponsorship agreement sent by AAR’s CME coordinator, who assured him AAR would provide AMA PRA Category 1™ credits for annual meeting sessions, pending final review of the CME application and content.

In February, AAR’s executive director notified Fred that AAR could no longer sponsor the conference because the Acccreditation Council for CME had rejected its progress report in December 2011 and placed AAR on probationary accreditation. Then Fred learns that AAR’s director of education resigned three months ago. A totally dismayed Fred schedules a meeting with AAR.

Talk About Awkward!
What responsibilities does the accredited provider have when notified of probationary status?
Parochka: The accredited provider rightfully fulfilled its responsibility by informing ARS that it was on probation, albeit after the fact. If the joint sponsorship agreement had been signed before the change in status and ARS presenters had started developing content, then the accredited provider could have met its obligation by reviewing the information submitted by ARS (narrative and attachments as requested on the CME application), ensuring compliance, and issuing CME credit.

Overstreet: This situation not only puts the provider in an awkward position, it also jeopardizes the work of the joint sponsor who had been counting on the collaboration for an upcoming activity. The accredited provider could offer great service to its nonaccredited colleagues by recommending other potential providers.

How can ARS locate another accredited provider that might certify its annual meeting sessions?
Parochka: The ACCME’s Web site provides a list of accredited providers, including the name of the accredited organization and the contact information (name, phone number, and e-mail address of the person in charge of the CME unit, and the organization’s location on a map). However, Fred would need to contact each provider to determine whether the organization jointly sponsors CME activities.

Overstreet: Fred could also reach out to the faculty for his upcoming conference—they may work for an organization that is an accredited provider, or they might be able to recommend providers that they have worked with successfully in the past.

How can organizations avoid embarrassing situations such as those described?
Parochka: One sure way is not to jointly sponsor the activity! This might sound harsh, but without a director of education, the accredited provider is in no position to jointly sponsor activities. Only those who have leadership in place and four years of accreditation with no deficiencies or areas of noncompliance, and six-year providers—those with accreditation with commendation—should be authorized to jointly sponsor activities.

Overstreet: Accredited providers, nonaccredited organizations, and other educational partners all should conduct due diligence before entering into a collaboration: Ask for references, document accreditation status, and understand organizational structure and staff stability. And, when selecting an accredited provider to work with, a joint sponsor should ask about the provider’s accreditation status. If a provider’s reaccreditation decision is due at a time when an adverse decision would jeopardize certification, the joint sponsor may need to seek a different partner.


Karen Overstreet, EdD, RPh, FACME, CCMEP, is executive director, instructional design and outcomes with Medscape Education, Blue Bell, Pa. Reach her at

Jacqueline Parochka, EdD, FACME, is president and CEO, Excellence in Continuing Education Ltd., Gurnee, Ill.; and partner, PTR Educational Consultants. Reach her at

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