The inspiration for this Article was twofold: first, I was thinking about how so many of the meetings that CME professionals attend for their own development wind up focusing on the latest hot issue or problem. Second, I was home with the flu and the movie Apollo 13 came on; I heard the infamous line, “Houston, we have a problem,” and it got me thinking, again, that our own education is often based on problems, issues, and challenges. So, our learning is, in essence, problem-based.

You have to admit that we react to situations a lot more often than we take proactive measures. Shouldn't our own education be more like the education that we deliver? Would we benefit from a more extensive assessment of the varying needs of the different segments of the stakeholders in our profession?

Moving the Emphasis

Perhaps we need to move from problem-based learning to problem-based learning. How does moving the emphasis make a difference? Well, in the first phrase, the starting point is the problem and the result is the learning. The problem had to occur first. Now I know what many of you are thinking: true problem-based learning should originate with a problem. That's correct, but in the second phrase, I placed the emphasis on learning, and this is where our focus should be.

To begin, we have to function cohesively and collaboratively as a profession. We have opportunities to do this on a regular basis, for example, at the meetings of the Alliance for CME, the National Task Force on CME Provider/Industry Collaboration, the Global Alliance for Medical Education, at private conferences about CME and grants, and, frankly, whenever we can get together. We have to start submitting abstracts and recommendations for sessions that will foster dialogue about potential future issues rather than scrambling to put together panels focusing on the latest problem.

Should we form collaborations such as the Healthcare Education Leadership Program on Underestimated Stuff (HELP US)? Or would the Global Assessment Program and Joint Educational Activity Needs System (GAP JEANS) be a better fit? The answer is neither of these two choices (although the names are rather catchy). The starting point is a lot simpler.

Caucus About Cures

Instead of factions from within the CME community trying to exclude each other, perhaps leadership from the stakeholder groups (accredited providers, nonaccredited providers, educational partners, supporters, etc.) should caucus to identify opportunities to improve the future of CME. They could perform a professionwide SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis, and submit it to the entire CME community for comment. When the Accreditation Council for CME releases proposed changes to its requirements and calls for comments, the community reacts. Perhaps we should use this model to evaluate and improve ourselves. We need to move the emphasis from short-term problem-solving to long-term learning.

I'm willing to participate — how about you? Send me an e-mail at the address listed below and tell me what you think.

Lawrence Sherman, FACME, is president and CEO of Physicians Academy for Clinical and Management Excellence, New York. A 12-year CME veteran, he is a frequent lecturer on topics related to the strategic development, dissemination, and evaluation of CME activities. Reach him at