The other day I was talking with an accredited continuing medical education provider about the challenges involved in producing high-quality education that results in real learning and, as they say down South, “God willing and the creek don't rise,” changes in physician behavior and improved patient health. She talked about the ins and outs of all the paperwork required for reaccreditation, the similarity to pulling teeth of pulling full and timely disclosure information from faculty, the irritation of having to read again and again about how it's not possible to provide unbiased education that is commercially supported by pharma … feel free to hum along, since I know you all know that tune. At the end, I couldn't help but say, “I'm so glad I just have to write about CME, not actually do it.”

To which she replied, “Oh, but the rewards are so worth every bit of the pain. I can't imagine doing anything else.” It really struck me, most of all because it was almost word for word what a friend said that very morning during our pre-work dog walk about the challenges of raising her kids. And, just as my friend relies on her group of mothers-in-arms for support, suggestions, and plain old venting, the CME provider was so grateful for the network of friends and colleagues she has developed through attending conferences of the Alliance for Continuing Medical Education and other organizations.

Just as parents have formed online groups, CME providers nowadays don't have to wait until the annual conferences to get to know potential allies, mentors, “mentees,” and friends who can feel your pain firsthand. Check out online resources like the LinkedIn CME group our columnist, Lawrence Sherman, has started. With his permission, we excerpted on page 20 a small piece of one of the group's recent discussions. All who want to learn more, share knowledge, or just discuss daily issues that crop up are welcome to join, he tells me. And, instead of “mommy bloggers,” you also have some blogs dedicated to CME, including Thomas Sullivan's Policy and Medicine (policymed.com), Conversations with Floyd Pennington (convcme.wordpress.com), and Debra Gist's CME Linkages (debragist.blogspot.com), along with Medical Meetings' Capsules (blog.meetingsnet.com/capsules).

While the parent/CME provider analogy can only stretch so far, I do think the two roles have another thing in common: a need to protect and nourish something unique and important as it grows and, someday, fulfills all the promise we can only glimpse right now. On the CME LinkedIn group, a discussion about the American Medical Association's Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs' latest report on CME and commercial support (see page 10 for more on the report) quickly morphed into a call for the creation of a group that would advocate for CME in a way that the Alliance and other existing organizations can't, due to their organizational structure.

I think that's a great idea. What can we do to make it a reality?