IN THE LAST ISSUE, I PONTIFICATED about the importance of tracking behavior changes CME providers and other medical meeting professionals make as a result of attending industry meetings. Then I received this letter from a reader — who prefers to remain anonymous — reminding me of what it's really all about. I thought I'd share it here, with her permission: “When you talk about measuring results, you're assuming that there is a direct, measurable, and presumably quantifiable relationship between activities at meetings and results.

“But meetings are so much more than just attending a lecture, workshop, small group discussion, or exhibit. They are more than the sum of information acquired and contacts expanded. Professional development is progressive in the same way that good nutrition and health are the result of good eating habits — not crash diets.

“How can you quantify the benefits of the less tangible value meetings provide, such as:

  • “Removing yourself from the familiar routines and re-viewing your work from a different perspective. Speakers, co-participants in the meeting, and exhibitors all build the new vantage point from which you can get a different ‘take’ on your work and your priorities.

  • “Reflecting on the whole of what you do, as opposed to a particular task or CME activity. Reflection can often lead to renewal and insights that are out of reach of your consciousness when you are immersed in daily routines.

  • “Rest. Yes, meetings afford time away from the demands of home, work, and community. An afternoon swim in the hotel pool, a stroll in the city or resort area — even flights to and from the meeting can be restful. If you're like me, you return to work with new energy and feel more productive for some time after your return.

  • “Sifting and synthesizing what you learn at meetings and integrating it with the reality of where you live and work. Sometimes meetings inspire great ideas and projects, and even though these great ideas cannot be executed as I had imagined, they do contribute to the renewed evaluation of current practice and may contribute to better ways of doing things — but how, when, and where may be difficult to determine.

  • “Networking. Yes, a colleague may offer a good idea that leads to measurable improvement. Beyond that, though, the benefits of the professional ‘mirrors’ colleagues hold up are invaluable for self-assessment.

“Measuring results reduces a rich professional experience to a commodity — a measurable improvement, a thing with dollar or time value. That's not necessarily bad. But as professionals committed to medical education and the public good of healthcare in our society, we need to enlarge ourselves — not only our knowledge and skills — to meet that commitment.

“We need to expand our minds, rest, renew our spirits, and recommit ourselves to the larger social good that we and our colleagues throughout the U.S. and the world share. That's what meetings for CME professionals are for — meanings beyond measure.”

I have no words to add to hers, other than to thank her for bringing this perspective to the discussion.

Sue Pelletier, (978) 448-0377,