One of the most time-consuming and often exasperating tasks CME providers face is preparing grant applications or proposals. You need to be sufficiently versed in the educational needs of particular physician and healthcare groups; the learning gaps in research, diseases, and disorders; the public health; the expectations of funding organizations; and techniques to measure the effectiveness of the educational activity. Your task may be exacerbated by online grant application processes if your proposed activity is complex or long-term and cannot be properly explained or detailed in the space provided. If you fail to understand and properly address any of these grant essentials, your application may be doomed.


You don't need to be overwhelmed by the process — nor should you go it alone. Before you set fingers to keyboard or pen to paper, devote careful thought and discussion to the basic components of a grant application. Medical education grant writing is an art with a science foundation. The most efficient and effective way to approach the application process is to address each element as a separate requirement, while understanding that the individual pieces will need to coalesce into a unified whole to form the actual submission.

Research the topic and conduct needs assessments to identify specific education and performance gaps among healthcare professionals as well as the needs of particular communities or cultures. You can usually conduct primary research into the proposed subject area on the Internet, with support from libraries and conversations with medical faculty and colleagues.

Content is the centerpiece of the grant application. Needs- and evidence-based content forms the foundation of the learning experience. You must carefully manage content development, drawing upon researched needs; faculty, learner, and colleague input and dialogue; the medical literature; current educational programs; solicited advice from independent advisers; and, perhaps, third-party peer group validation. By identifying a lead adviser, you will help to keep the process in focus and resolve areas of disagreement among colleagues.

You'll need to determine which delivery methods and media are most likely to match the learning preferences of the recipients. For example, will you present your activities in print, live, or online? Will your format will be didactic, interactive, or case-based? Perhaps you'll decide your content is best suited to point-of-care education delivered on handheld devices.

Content alone will rarely satisfy needs and expectations. Choice of the appropriate faculty to deliver the message, whether live, in print, or electronically, is right behind content in the hierarchy of importance in grant applications. The faculty must be carefully matched to the content and learning objectives. Faculty selection should be based on medical and educational credentials, direct and applicable experience with the subject matter, and proven teaching ability. It is also reasonable to propose faculty from different institutions and geographic locations.

You'll also need to develop methods to measure whether participants have learned from the activity and whether they retain and apply the information over time. Some supporting organizations also expect applicants to propose redirection and adjustment of the original educational plan should certain processes not work as expected or if learning is not achieved at acceptable levels. Outcomes research, analysis, and evaluation should be included in all grant applications, with precise definition given of measurement objectives and methods.

Grant applications trigger the education to follow. The process isn't easy, but it's essential to the delivery of educational content.

Robert F. Orsetti is the former assistant vice president, continuing education, University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark. Orsetti, a 30-year CME veteran, is a member of the AMA's National Task Force on CME Provider/Industry Collaboration. Contact him at For more of his columns, visit

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