James Montague, president of the Professional Meeting Planner’s Network in Durham, N.C., always said that the plan was to establish a not-for-profit meeting planning organization to support the Medical Meeting Manager Certificate program PMPN launched in 2006. While that’s not happening—at least, not yet—he, another meeting management firm, and an audiovisual company have formed a for-profit association to manage the MMMC program and further the profession of medical meeting planning.

On September 1, Montague; Pat Schaumann, CMP, CSEP, DMCP, president of the meeting management firm Meeting IQ, St. Louis; Marissa Wolfard, CMP, Meeting IQ’s director of meetings; David Gillette, vice president of audiovisual company Image Technologies Corp., St. Louis; and Henry Wu, president of China Connect, an arm of Meeting IQ based in Beijing, announced plans to launch the International Medical Meeting Professionals Association, or IMMPA, to be headquartered in St. Louis and Beijing, in November.

The goal, says Schaumann, is to provide uniform training for medical meeting professionals, and certification through a revamping of PMPN’s existing MMMC certificate program. Also included in the IMMPA plans are an online community with groups, blogs, forums, chat rooms, threaded discussions, and webinars; along with a referral center for domestic and international travel and meeting support resources such as vendors/suppliers, speakers, destination management companies, and translators. For now it will be privately owned, says Schaumann, though it may become a nonprofit association in the future.

A Global Resource of Its Own
But does the medical meetings industry really need its own association? Schaumann says that, after surveying medical meeting planners of all stripes—corporate medical meeting planners, medical association planners, independent planners, and providers of continuing medical education—she feels the answer is, “yes.”

“While I think there are a number of good meeting planner associations out there—I am, after all, a member and past president of Meeting Professionals International, and I think they’re wonderful—there is a need for an organization that is geared more to healthcare’s many aspects, including veterinary medicine and hospitals.” The plan is an ambitious one: To provide education that is backed by universities. IMMPA already has formed an alliance with St. Louis University, which, Schaumann says, “has an incredible medical school.” It will be providing an “articulation program” with the University of Peking , which consists of discounts on some course work for IMMPA members, along with some IMMPA-accredited classes.

The latter is especially important, Schaumann says, because the organization is going to be global from the get-go. There are plans to hold a conference in China within a year. The certification piece, which the founders expect to catch on in the United States, will be even more important in China, where healthcare is also a hot topic, and certification and education are highly regarded.

While the certification IMMPA will provide will be largely the same as the current MMMC certificate—with meeting planning aspects similar to those covered in the Convention Industry Council’s Certified Meeting Professional designation as well as content regarding the PhRMA Code and other regulations specific to medical meetings—Schaumann says the plan is to retool and relaunch it as an ongoing certification program quickly—before the end of September.

Ready, Aim, Launch
Other aspects may take a little longer to put in place. “We’re still crawling. We want to do this in the right way,” says Schaumann of IMMPA’s impending launch, which will happen with a conference November 2–3 in Kansas City, Mo., held in conjunction with another conference, Missouri Meetings and Events. In addition to a keynote address by Lisa Keilty, who is a team leader with Pfizer Meetings, the IMMPA conference will include a panel of industry experts discussing the state of the industry and future trends, and a certificate class. The board also will be meeting for the first time at the conference.

The organization, which is incorporated as a limited liability company (LLC), will be funded by membership fees, meeting registrations, certification fees, and possibly a bookstore, and will be managed by Drake and Associates, an association management company based in Chesterfield, Mo. It will be staffed with one full-time executive director, a position currently held by one of the founders, Marissa Wolfard, CMP.