The 18th Annual Conference of the National Task Force on CME Provider/Industry Collaboration yielded numerous spirited discussions about demonstrating competence within the CME enterprise and formalizing a certificate program for CME professionals. During the Schickman Lecture, Robert D. Fox, EdD, professor, adult and higher education, University of Oklahoma, Norman, noted that there has been a shift away from PhDs and MDs running CME offices. Instead, CME professionals either are noncredentialed or hold bachelor's and/or master's degrees. With increased federal scrutiny, would a return to more structured, traditional educational requirements for CME professionals give our industry more credibility? Perhaps having an overall systems framework in place that supports competency across the board for everyone involved in the CME enterprise, regardless of the level of formal education attained, would meet this objective.

Embracing Work/Life Experience

While advanced degrees in science or medicine certainly augment a CME professional's understanding of educational content, we should not discount the importance of the life and work experiences that continue to enhance our competency. From our own continuing professional development experiences (CME conferences, webinars, journal reading, peer-to-peer interactions/collaborations), we can begin to understand, as do our physician educators, how to design education that is effective in encouraging adult learners to translate knowledge into performance improvement. On a daily basis, CME professionals are responsible for researching and preparing needs assessments, writing and submitting grant proposals, managing complex budgets, incorporating quality assurance and performance improvement indicators, measuring outcomes, comprehending regulatory guidelines governing this arena, and understanding and applying adult-learning principles. Formal education is a great start; however, it is the experience that can only be gained on the job that ultimately helps CME professionals transition from CME theory to practical application strategies and real-world understanding.

Value Competency at All Levels

CME knowledge, interpersonal and communications skills, and professional behavior are just some of the 48 competencies that are being considered as part of a formal CME curriculum. Many CME professionals (with varying levels of formal education) already demonstrate these competencies, as evidenced by the CME activities they develop. It is critical that those of us who can and do effectively collaborate with other stakeholders continue to form lasting partnerships with our expert faculty to plan innovative, independent CME activities that improve physician performance and patient health outcomes. Through these collaborations, we will ultimately remain successful as CME professionals and our competency will be apparent. We must also continue networking and showcasing our skills so that our voices are heard and taken seriously. Let's work collectively — those with academic credentials and those without — to promote creative and practical solutions to our industry's challenges. Our differences can and should be what unite us, not divide us.

Ann C. Lichti is the assistant director of operations for Veritas Institute for Medical Education Inc., Hasbrouck Heights, N.J. She has worked in the healthcare industry (both CME/CE and clinical research) for six years. Reach her at ann.lichti@veritasime.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not constitute the views of Veritas Institute for Medical Education Inc.