Lawrence Sherman Posed an interesting question in his column “Same Time Next Year?” (January/February 2007, page 15) Why do so many of us go to the same meetings year after year? Certainly the collegial environment is a benefit. However, with more and more providers having limited resources, shouldn't we be seeking more than an expensive networking opportunity? I would argue that there is always room for improvement. Here are a few ideas.

  • Track outcomes

    We're used to measuring the outcomes of our CME activities. Why not apply the same approach to develop the educational content and learning objectives for our CME professional development curricula? Many of us have taken brief surveys after conferences, but most are designed to determine our satisfaction. It would be exciting to measure the outcomes of our CME professional development meetings. What are we really learning and, more importantly, how are we using that knowledge in our daily lives?

    Using evaluations to gauge whether learning objectives were achieved would be an excellent means for determining the content of future conferences. Presenters should be encouraged to submit one or two “clinical” statements related to their educational content so that each workshop can be measured to determine the outcome. Perhaps focus groups could be convened to determine the success rates of the workshops, identify barriers to successful implementation and address them in future activities, and rate presenters.

  • Encourage new leaders

    If our leadership is serious about cultivating new thought leaders, let's begin today. Why not use our existing leaders to audit breakout sessions? They could then identify new, dynamic presenters whose workshops discuss practical and/or novel ideas, and invite these individuals to become working group members, panelists, or planners for future activities. In other words, get them interested in shaping the future of CME. Why not use members of the same provider type to teach on topics identified by their constituencies? Accreditation standards are universal, but most providers have experiences and challenges unique to their particular type of organization. Let's build on our collective similarities.

  • Go beyond the basics

    How many of us have glanced at a meeting schedule and popped into a session that sounded interesting, only to find out it was more of the same basic information that we'd learned at previous conferences or from years of hands-on experience? Many of the workshops and even plenary sessions at conferences continue to reinforce fundamentals, but offer limited novel implementation strategies. One size does not fit all, especially when it comes to professional development. Perhaps by segmenting the learners by skill level, and designing the curricula around each type of registrant, this challenge could be addressed more effectively.

  • Create year-round education

    Data show that a single educational intervention is not sufficient to sustain physician learning. The same conclusion should hold true with our own professional development. Why not create follow-up activities — webcasts and printed materials — based on the results of session evaluation summaries? These could reinforce salient points from previous conferences to facilitate persistent learning. Design plenary sessions around an overall theme, and have the breakouts feed back into them. Help sustain the learning for CME professionals throughout the year to make our continuing education have a real impact.

Same time next year? Absolutely. Same educational methodologies? To be determined.

Ann C. Lichti, assistant CME director at Veritas Institute for Medical Education Inc. in Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., has worked in continuing education for four years. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not represent the views of Veritas Institute for Medical Education Inc. Reach Lichti at