While sitting in the Understanding(Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education) Accreditation Workshop two years ago, a woman sitting next to me (a pharmacist) leaned over and asked me, “Are you getting any of this?” I immediately recognized the look in her eyes, that deer-in-the-headlights look, the same look I've certainly had more than a few times myself. And then I began to worry. What could I, a newcomer to continuing education, share with a pharmacist? To my surprise, plenty. She, like many of us, inherited her position in the CE office — I certainly could relate to that. Like many newcomers, she was also expected to bring back a wealth of information and translate it into daily practice. Sadly, though, many workshops don't provide CE newcomers with the practical strategies they need.
Stop me if you've seen this one: CME Basics Workshop, moderated by Jonathan Doe, MD, PharmD, PhD, FACP, EdD, a 25-year veteran of CME. While a highly credentialed speaker with decades of knowledge and experience in the CE arena might be a draw for some, to newcomers it can be very intimidating. High-level tables, slides filled with data, and the latest “academese” are a sure-fire way to alienate someone who came to receive practical knowledge on how to navigate the current CE environment.
By now, we are all familiar with the Updated Standards for Commercial Support. How many of us, however, really understand what is meant by “commercial bias?” Perhaps what we need is a clear definition of bias as it relates to CE activities or some other tool to help tackle this recurring issue. How many workshops have been offered on the topic of what to do when your activity chairperson, a nationally recognized thought leader, refuses to disclose and your activity is days away from implementation? How do you walk the fine line of asking for required disclosure information at the risk of damaging or, worse, severing the relationship between your organization and that opinion leader? Certainly, this is a situation that everyone, whether new or old to the CE world, has encountered in their career.
This past January, I attended the Alliance for CME annual conference for the first time. I also co-presented the workshop “Partnering for Success: Creating Those Win-Win Joint- and Co-sponsorship Relationships.” The first session I attended was a MECC (medical education and communication company) provider session. As I sat in the back of a room filled with CE professionals, many with years of experience in the industry, I couldn't help but wonder where I fit into the CE equation. I had convinced myself that this would be another session that was completely over my head; however, it wasn't. The audience was encouraged to ask questions, and two first-time attendees gave a presentation of their own. My conception, perhaps misconception, of CE changed during that session. This was opportunity knocking.
As more and more CE newcomers burst onto the scene, both willingly and reluctantly, it's vital that our voices be heard. We need a forum to speak about the issues that we face daily and to share some practical solutions to those challenges. We still need and want mentoring from the current leadership, but some of us also want to develop into the leaders of tomorrow. I hope that more people feel empowered to continue demystifying the process, share their own challenges and success stories, and begin to change the face of CE.
Ann C. Lichti, assistant director of CME for a New York — based medical education and communication company, has worked in CE for three and a half years. Previously, Lichti worked for a clinical research organization in New Jersey as a document/database manager. Her future columns will provide practical CE tips on a variety of issues. If you have ideas for topics or want to share your newbie experiences, contact her at email@example.com.