THIS YEAR'S ALLIANCE for CME annual conference, held January 26 to 29 in San Francisco, was an eye-opener in many ways for me. In addition to learning all kinds of new things from the sessions themselves, I found the attendance patterns of the various types of sessions to be a stark indication of where CME providers are at these days.

For example, on my way to session after overcrowded session on the Accreditation Council for CME's updated Standards for Commercial Support, I couldn't help but notice how less well-attended some of the other sessions were — most notably, some that focused on research in adult education. An afternoon-long session on working with commercial supporters was so crowded that I found myself not just sitting on the floor, but literally sitting at the masters' feet as I inched my way in through the doorway and crawled almost under the panelists' table. Yet more academically minded sessions were sparsely attended, at best.

Like the Alliance attendees, MM's readers are most interested in knowing what they can do to keep themselves in business these days, which means I had to go to the sessions that outlined how to comply with the regs and how to get the money they need to put on their activities. And these were uniformly excellent. But it was a shame to see so many other good topics fall by the wayside because everyone's in survival mode.

This was my first Alliance meeting, so I don't know if it's always like this; my guess is that what ACCME is up to is always pretty high on participants' must-go-to lists. But it was striking to see the difference in attendee patterns between the Alliance meeting and the CME Congress held last spring in Toronto, where many more of the more academic topics were SRO, too. A lot has changed since then, obviously, with the release of the updated Standards and last fall's panic attack over its effects on the part of CME providers and commercial supporters alike.

I completely understand that right now, the business side of CME is in the forefront of everyone's minds. After all, if you can't get the accreditation and commercial support you need for your activities, it doesn't matter how well-designed they are — they're not going to happen. But my fervent hope is that, when the dust settles and people begin to feel more comfortable with the Standards — and I hope the pharma CME budgets begin to edge upwards again — we can all relax our business senses a bit and start learning more about what can be done to make CME more effective for physician learners. That is, after all, what it's all about.
Sue Pelletier,
(978) 448-0377,