Did you ever feel like Bill Murray's character in the movie Groundhog Day? Well I do, several times every year — and it is always when I am at a CME conference and the hot topics are being discussed. There is always an issue that everyone is talking about, and a talk that is going to focus on that issue. For example, in the past these hot issues included the release of the updated Standards for Commercial Support, and the Senate Finance Committee report. More recently, at the National Task Force on CME Provider/Industry Collaboration meeting in October, the hot topics session was given by Murray Kopelow, MD, chief executive, Accreditation Council for CME, who reviewed the ACCME's new definition of a commercial interest. I sat there listening to Murray, thinking to myself, “I am sure I have been here before…”

I arrive at CME conferences refreshed and ready to hear the latest information (good or bad). I see friends and colleagues whom I haven't seen since the last meeting. I walk the exhibit hall and schmooze a little (OK, I'll admit it, I schmooze a lot). And then I go to the hot topics session to hear the primary information that I am seeking. But here is where the movie analogy kicks in: it always feels like I am experiencing a déjà vu. And I turn to my colleagues and I hear the same things that I've heard before. Things like: “Are you going to hear what the ACCME has to say this time?” and “Those exhibits look just like they did last year.” (Note the irony in THAT statement!) And, of course, “Where are you going for dinner tonight and who are you going with?” That is the single most frequently heard question in the halls of these meetings.

Learning Repetition

So, how can we take the lesson that Bill Murray's character learned in the movie and apply it to the CME profession? We should take each meeting as a new opportunity, building upon what we learned at the meetings before. In the movie, the character took advantage of the repetition to save a life, learn to play the piano, succeed in love, improve his professional persona and reputation, and lastly, become the person that he'd always wanted to be. In CME, we can plan appropriate responses to challenges that arise on a regular basis, identify opportunities for success through collaboration rather than competition, promote the growth of individual organizations as well as the CME enterprise itself, and assume the role that we want to take within our chosen profession.

For example, we hear a lot about collaboration among providers, and we always say that we will be in touch soon, but does that ever really happen? Or how about actually preparing a response to a presentation that was either right on the money or so aggravating that you were talking about it for weeks afterwards? The question is: Do we learn from our past mistakes?

Each meeting may well feel the same as the ones before, but we can learn, build, and succeed if we take each day as a new day. This is really a challenge to us all: Learn from the past or we will be destined to wake up at the next meeting wondering if it will be the same day all over again.

Lawrence Sherman, FACME, is president and CEO of Physicians Academy for Clinical and Management Excellence, New York. A 12-year CME veteran, he is a frequent lecturer on topics related to CME activities. Reach him at LS@physacad.com.