When Words Matter (Maybe)

One day last week, Derek and I were exchanging emails about some nonsense topic (it’s amazing how much time we spend on this every week), when I responded to something he wrote with, “We just need to figure out how to do it differently than those other moolyaks.”

Moolyak? What’s a moolyak? Frankly, I couldn’t even remember where I pulled it from, but I knew it wasn’t a phrase I created myself. So off to the trusty Interwebs I went, and tada! — it was from one of my all-time favorite Cheers skits where Cliff offers a story about ritual circumcision. Watch till the end – it kills me every time.

Anyway, “moolyak” is not a term I use often. Frankly, I can’t remember using it recently at all outside of this email. Perhaps it was because I had just come from a bris a few days before and my subconscious pulled up the phrase. Have at that, psychotherapists of the world!

What’s important, though, isn’t to think too deeply about these topics but rather to focus on Derek’s response. He didn’t say, “What’s a moolyak?” He was able to use those fancy things called “context clues” to figure it out. I could have wrote “ding-dongs” or “beetlebrains” or “ninnies” or any one of a number of colorful adjectives instead of moolyak and it wouldn’t have made a difference.

Let’s now tie things back to CME by taking a look at something that’s been in the our industry’s news a bit in the last week – the Outcomes Standardization Project (OSP). We had a session in the Fall of 2018 as this group was ramping up their efforts, and they have done impressive work. There is a comprehensive website that is now available with a variety of resources, and just last week, an article was published in the Journal of European CME that looked at the progress of this consortium of experts over the last 3 years. We are even acknowledged at the end of the article among those who have “provided meaningful contributions.” Why Derek’s name appears before mine, I am not certain, but let’s overlook that insulting error for now (note from Derek: [exchanges a knowing nod with the reader]).

Every few years, there is a call to “standardize” something in CME. For instance, a few years ago, there was some brief momentum to standardize grant submission portals. We all know how that went. The OSP team has certainly done much better, and produced something that might, might be valuable to our community. After years of hearing people throw around outcomes terms that some in our industry simply assumed meant the same thing to everyone, they realized that, no, there are a lot of different interpretations of some really basic vocabulary and well, goshdarnit, we should do something about it.

Now that the brunt of the OSP’s initial work is complete, they have offered to us how they believe specific common outcomes terms such as “participant” and “learner” and “completer” should be defined. They have even have included terms which I would have though were somewhat obvious such as “pre-test” and “follow-up assessment.” This group has done a lot of hard work with undoubtedly hours of conference calls and emails behind them, but really, the hardest work is still to come. It basically comes down to the question, “Will anyone care?”

We have likely all heard about how it takes approximately 17 years for medical research evidence to be adopted into clinical practice. It’s a number that is startling. We all often educate the medical community about the latest and greatest, yet the truth is that it’s going to take many years and many repetitions before a large part of our audience even considers changing their practice how we and our faculty might suggest.

So is the CME community going to be any different? Do we want to be any different? Are there those among us who will decide, “You know what, I am going to change how I determine when a learner has actually completed an activity now?” or will we simply fall back upon the definition we have always set within our organization?

To their credit, the folks who make up the OSP seem to understand the challenge before them. In their recent article, they highlighted the importance of consensus-building and outreach throughout the CME community to get all-important buy-in. It won’t be easy, for example, to convince company XYZ that their “1000 learners and 500 completers” based upon their internal definitions must now be revised to “500 learners and 250 completers” with the OSP’s new proposed definition. When funding dollars are potentially at stake, there is undoubtedly going to be pushback. “If company XYZ isn’t revising their internal definitions, why should I?” That sort of thing. We’ll see if some of the major players in the world decide to become trendsetters or naysayers.

In the meantime, go have a beer with your favorite moolyak. You can send Derek the bill.

What If Faculty Were Chocolate?

Hey, you know who is annoying? No, not the barista at the coffee shop yesterday who gave me a condescending look when I ordered a macchiato and sniffed, “Just so you are aware — we make a true macchiato here, which means a properly pulled shot of espresso and a dash of foamed milk. It’s not like something you would get at…[sigh]…Starbucks.” Uh, yeah, no duh, coffee-dude. Who doesn’t know that? I mean, really.

No, I’m talking about those annoying people who get to know a little something about something and suddenly they’re a “marketing guru” or a “social media ninja” or some other term that tries to emphasize expertise. I mean, I guess those things sound cool or whatever, but just because you’ve figured out how to use SnapChat to share a tweet about your most recent TikTok, it doesn’t make you some kind of masked avenger. Looks pretty rad on a business card, though.

Over the course of the past 6 years, I have probably run, I don’t know, 50 or 60 CMEpalooza sessions. We have more than 100 sessions in the Archive, so probably somewhere right around there. Multiply that by however many presenters we get for each session — usually at least 2, if not more — and I think it’s fair to say that I have a reasonable amount of experience working with faculty. I haven’t given myself a neat title like “Faculty Wrangler” or “Speaker Swami,” but I have made a few observations about some common trends among our faculty. Maybe you have noticed something similar.

Faculty, I have found, can often be grouped into three categories, similar to chocolate. Let’s take a look:

Dark Chocolate: The best of the best. Without question, dark chocolate is the superior form of chocolate. It presents with a much more complex and grown-up flavor profile than other forms of chocolate and provides a more exquisite overall tasting experience.

Faculty who fall into the dark chocolate category are easy to pick out. They don’t need the voice of a professional voice-over artist, but they are confident, well-prepared, and speak with ease. When I have my A/V test with them (as Scott and I do with all our faculty), they show-up on time, frequently have their own headset ready to go, catch on quickly, and we’re done in five minutes. It’s a joy to work with them

Not all dark chocolate is created equal, though. The Hershey’s Special Dark (sorry guys, it’s not good) faculty of the world give all the appearances of a smooth 80% cocoa, but once the spotlight is on them, they’re staring at their notes and talking in a droning monotone. The packaging is nice, but the actual taste is a disappointment.

Milk Chocolate: Milk chocolate is…good. It’s not the best, but it’s not terrible, either. Sometimes, it can even be really good, especially when it is combined with something like peanut butter. There’s a lot you can do with milk chocolate, and I think all of us are happy to have it in our lives. Milk chocolate is certainly better than no chocolate, even though it’s not as good as dark chocolate.

Milk chocolate faculty are critical to any conference. We can’t all be the best speakers in the world (I certainly am not), but we can be pretty good. Some of us, like a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup, are improved when we are combined with something else, like participating on a panel. It makes everyone a little bit better. It’s one of the big reasons that we try to encourage panel sessions when planning the agenda for CMEpalooza. Do milk chocolate faculty sometimes show up late for A/V tests, not have headphones, and take repeated instructions to understand what is going on? Sure, and that’s fine. We like milk chocolate a lot.

Side note: How is a Snickers bar like our faculty from last year’s Jake Powers, CME Detective session? They both contain nuts. HEY-OOOO! And thus ends this episode of Terrible Dad Jokes. (Note from Scott: Wait, now we’re doing episodes of Terrible Dad Jokes? I am giddy with excitement. Just wait for my next blog post…)

White Chocolate: Awful. It is true that I have been known to refer to white chocolate as the secret spawn of Satan, which is perhaps a little harsh. But as Verbal Kint taught us in The Usual Suspects, the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. So, I might be on to something. Anyway, white chocolate is horrible, and you should never ever eat it, especially this abomination M&M’s created combining the flavors of white chocolate and candy corn. Why would you do this M&M’s?? WHY???

I don’t think I need to go into much detail here about white chocolate faculty. We have all had the dreadful experience of working with faculty who just aren’t very good. It’s a bad time for everyone involved. Fortunately, we have had very little experience with this type of faculty during CMEpalooza. In fact, I can really only think of one…and I’m not telling. Am I saying that just so you will have to go back through every session in the Archive to try and figure out who it is? Maybe…maybe not. (Note from Scott: I remember this person very well. Let’s just say it’s a bit awkward when we cross paths at live conferences.)

We are working diligently to finalize the agenda for CMEpalooza Spring and should have something for all of you to see fairly soon. I think I can confidently say that we will have a pleasant mix of dark chocolate faculty, milk chocolate faculty, Reese’s Peanut Butter cup faculty, and hopefully a few Snickers faculty, too.


Completing the “Origin” Chain

It seems as if this is the week that we’re all writing about our “CME origin” stories — Derek led us off last week and Intern Katie followed him a few days ago — so I guess I’d better share mine. It’s equally riveting.

As a 16-year-old high school junior, I remember completing an assignment where we had to write a letter to ourselves 25 years in the future. You probably had to do it too – seems like one of those things every high school English teacher in the country would have conspired to assign to their students.

The assignment was given right about this time of year, so I wrote something like, “I assume you are at the Super Bowl getting ready to cover the game for Sports Illustrated.” (Keep in mind that Sports Illustrated was a big deal back then. Now? Not so much.) The details of my essay are a bit hazy, but I definitely remember writing, “I’ll be very disappointed if you aren’t doing something related to sports.”


Yes, 16-year-old Scott would not be particularly impressed with my career path, but as with many of us in our little CME niche, it’s actually turned out quite nicely, thank you.

Unlike Derek, I did actually find full-time work in my initial chosen field — sportswriting — spending 5 years toiling away in the glamorous “not-Phoenix” part of Arizona and the equally-glamorous “not-Chicago” part of Illinois before becoming frustrated enough with my lack of professional progress and walking away.

My first healthcare job was at a medical publication company, where they apparently churned through people like me who didn’t know the difference between a myomectomy and a myeloma every couple weeks. I was told that one recent hire started on Monday morning, went to lunch, and didn’t come back. Great. That was reassuring.

What came next was even worse. As a “Welcome to our new employee!” gesture, the team I was working with said they’d take me to lunch.

Great, I love a free meal!

I sat quietly in my corner cubicle waiting for someone to come get me “around noon.” Noon came and went. 12:05. 12:10. I didn’t want to be the annoying newbie interrupting busy people, so I waited until 12:15 to stand up and see what was going on.

The department was empty. Everyone else had gone to lunch but no one had thought to take the new guy along. Was it a hint? (Yes Derek, you can insert your snarky comment now) (Note from Derek: Too easy. I’ll let it slide.)

Anyway, I survived the day after profuse apologies (“Oh, we all thought someone else was taking you.” Sure, sure) and kept plugging away. I could talk about the intricacies of Temple basketball’s 1-2-2 zone press for hours, but now I had learn about the ABCs and XYZs of bulk allograft transplantation for osteochondral lesions of the talus. It was not easy. There were many days when I felt way, way over my head. Katie wrote about how she was overwhelmed by all of the jargon and abbreviations at her first CME department meeting. We’ve all been there.

Within a year or so, I transferred over to the medical education group and found my home. This was back in the “Wild Wild West” days of CME where supporters were typically very much involved in the development of content. I remember numerous lavish dinners the night before a live program where the “supporters” (these were all marketing folks back then) would drop lots of money on food and drink and then sit side-by-side with you the next morning at the actual program offering their thoughts or commentary to be shared “during a break.” It was certainly different.

I was likely a bit of an arrogant, self-absorbed 30-year-old know-it-all (things haven’t changed very much) as I meandered about professionally over the next decade, wondering why no one realized how brilliant I was (Note from Derek: Again, too easy.) I finally started making some real progress about a decade ago, making enough friends that striking out on my own as a freelancer back in 2014 wasn’t quite as risky as it might have otherwise been.

I’ve been extremely fortunate to be able to partner with some really talented and kind people over the last several years. I am not naturally a particularly nice person (I was quite proud of my last professional nameplate where we all were assigned a cartoon doppelgänger. I was Oscar the Grouch), but I like to think the CME world has made me a bit more well rounded. I make fun of Derek a lot – you know you love it!! – but it’s OK because he is truly one of nice guys. I think that people like me more just because I’m tied with him through CMEpalooza. I tell my son all the time, “Surround yourself with good people. That way, everyone else will think you are a good person too, even if you aren’t.” It’s good advice for you too.

(Note from Derek: Well, crap, I wasn’t expecting that. Does this mean I need to go back and delete the jokes I made about Scott?


Nope. Nice try, Kober.)

How I (Katie) Learned About CME

We’re joined again today by our CMEpalooza Spring intern, Katie, who brings her cheery, sunny personality back to the blog. Needless to say, you don’t get that from either of us, so enjoy the respite!

Hello CMEpalooza groupies — hope you are having a great day! I wanted to share with you what happened on my first day in CME and how I’ve learned the ins and outs of our little nook.

So one day while I was in a different sort of role at Memorial Sloan Kettering, I had just gotten back from going out to lunch (which I rarely do) and got a message that the vice president of human resources was looking for me.

Oh no! Did I do something wrong? Was I about to get fired for taking a 1-hour lunch? Stupid, stupid, stupid!!

So I enter her office and see that my manager is also sitting there… and now I’m really scared! Fortunately, they weren’t there to fire me, but rather to tell me that there was a department that needed some help and they both thought I would be the perfect person to assist them with a current project. I forget whether I said anything, but I guess I must have said, “OK,” because 30 minutes later, we were walking over for a 2 p.m. meeting.

I arrived and sat down with a room full of people I didn’t know throwing around a bunch of cancer terms I had never heard of, with one dizzying acronym after another. I wrote as many down as I could, planning to look things up later. At the end of the meeting, the woman sitting next to me asked nicely, “Please let me know if there is anything I can help with.” It’s one of those throwaway lines that you are supposed to say to people to be polite, right? I mean, I probably mean it, but Scott and Derek? Eh. (Note from Scott and Derek: She’s right. We don’t mean it.)

Anyway, instead of pretending I captured everything perfectly, I looked at her and asked, “WHAT DO ALL THESE LETTERS MEAN?” She kindly talked me through a few, but I was still left with a lot of research to do. The most important abbreviations that stood out for me, the ones I heard over and over, were  “ACCME” and “AMA PRA Category 1 Credits.” So I took to the ACCME and AMA websites and read through them multiple times.

That’s how I’ve primarily learned about CME – it’s been self-taught, on-the-fly education through reading, asking my peers (they should know by now not to say to me, “Please let me know if there is anything I can help with,” right?), and engaging with the CME community. I’ve also learned a lot from attending live meetings. My first was the annual ACCME meeting where I took the pre-conference session that discussed the basics of CME. I learned about the Alliance for Continuing Education in the Health Professions, became a member, and have gone to their annual meeting for the last two years. I attend the local CME meeting for providers in the northeastern United States. I learn so much from attending these meetings, not just at the sessions, but also at the networking opportunities where I have the chance to discuss my day-to-day struggles and learn best practices.

I participated in my first CMEpalooza during the Spring of 2019. I love going to the Archive page and being able to view any one of the 100+ previous CMEpalooza sessions if I’m curious about a topic or need a fresh perspective on something. Where was Jake Powers when I started in CME?!

I’ve learned when I feel puzzled about something, I’m never alone, and that no one should be afraid to ask questions. So if you’re new in the CME community, don’t be afraid to speak up when you don’t understand something — we’ve all been there!

Everything In Its Right Place

It was during my 8-week residency at Penn Therapy and Fitness on Market Street in West Philadelphia that I began to wonder if I had made a terrible mistake. I had just one more rotation to go and then I would graduate from Thomas Jefferson University with a Master of Science degree in Physical Therapy. Riding the Market Street line home to my dinky apartment in Center City after another frustrating day of massive amounts of paperwork and constant lecturing by my supervisor, I was forced to confront the reality of my situation: I hated what I was doing and I hadn’t even started a real job in my field yet.

Despite my growing trepidation, I did finish out my residencies and graduated, never talking to anyone about my growing concerns about my chosen career path. For the next year, I worked numerous odd jobs while mailing out over 80 resumes (yes, you used to have to mail out resumes in the pre-Internet days) for any and every position a freshly graduated physical therapist could apply for in the Philadelphia region, all for naught. On the bright side, the temp agency I was working for at the time sent me all over Philly, so it was a great opportunity to explore a city that I quickly grew to love.

(Extended note from Scott: Am I the only one who finds it impossible that Derek was actually a physical therapist for like, a split second.

“Um, excuse me, am I doing this right?”

“Um, yeah, uh sure. Sorry, I was looking at another 76ers blog. You look fine to me.”

I think we all agree he made the right career choice.)

In the fall of 2000, I was assigned a temp job in the continuing medical education office at Thomas Jefferson University (TJU). I was back at my alma mater. My one-week assignment turned into two weeks, then 1 month, then 3 months. By this point, I was completely disheartened with the idea of searching for a job that I was no longer sure I even wanted. I had also reached the point that for numerous reasons, most of them financial, I had to find more permanent employment. A full-time position opened up in the CME office, and I took it.

I can still remember the job title: Secretary B. My main tasks were tons of data entry and assisting with the logistics and setup for live meetings. Our office was two floors directly below the room where I had just had gross anatomy lab 18 months before. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to have the work. But I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a humbling experience to come back to TJU in that capacity, rather than in the position for which they had trained me. My doubts about being a physical therapist were replaced by even sharper doubts about the decision I had made to leave it behind to be, well, Secretary B. I spent many hours that first year banging away at a beige keyboard, entering registration info and evaluation results, Radiohead’s Kid A blasting out of my headphones to drown out that inner voice asking me “What have you done?”

Fast-forward 17 years to the summer of 2018…and things at that time have worked out pretty well. My career in CME has had some ups and downs, but has steadily progressed. My parents no longer regularly ask me if I’m considering going back to work in physical therapy. I have a job that I like and help produce a pretty cool online conference called CMEpalooza that other people seem to enjoy. I can’t complain.

A friend from across the street texts me – “Radiohead is coming to Philly. Let’s go!” I’m in, I text him. Then he sends me the ticket prices and I am aghast. There is no way, NO WAY, I am paying that much to go to a concert. I’m out, I text him back.

But I keep thinking about it and thinking about it. I really want to go. I double-check my bank account and then I talk to my wife. You should go, she tells me. I’m back in, I text my friend back.

And so I go to the Radiohead concert, paying way too much for my ticket, and have an amazing time. Towards the end of the concert, the opening beats from “Idioteque” – my favorite song from the Kid A album – start up and I realize to my embarrassment that I have tears streaming down my face. I know this sounds rather mawkish and trite, but all I can think about is how lost and overwhelmed I felt while listening to that song over and over again as Secretary B and how far I have come since then. The moment got to me.

I think about that moment often whenever we start preparing for the next CMEpalooza. I might still be Secretary B at TJU if it wasn’t for access to professional development resources that helped me advance my career (and I would be remiss not to also mention the value of a strong mentor, who in my case was the wonderful Jeanne Cole, recently retired Director of CME at TJU.)  My hope is that CMEpalooza can in some small way be a help to those just starting their careers. We have a ton of resources in our archive, but if there is something you think we are missing that would of value to you, please feel free to reach out and let me know.

Tomorrow night, I am going to hear a Radiohead tribute band that is playing Kid A in its entirety. I don’t think I’ll get teary-eyed this time, but it should be an excellent reminder to me of why we continue on with CMEpalooza. Here’s to keeping everything in its right place.

The Alliance Conference by the Numbers

OK, yes, I realize another blog post about the Alliance conference two weeks after its conclusion isn’t exactly timely, but my Christmas break was kind of crappy so I decided to treat myself to a few extra days in northern California after the conference, cruising around Sonoma Valley with friends and family, gazing at big trees, and drinking too much wine. Scott wrote something while I was away, then we wanted to introduce everyone to Katie, and now here we are. I’m certainly not going to let a great good OK idea for a blog post go to waste, so better late than never!

Number of Alliance conferences I have attended: 16 (I started going in 2002 and have only missed a couple, so I think that number is correct)

Number of Alliance conferences I have attended in San Francisco: 6 (or 7, it’s somewhere around there)

Number of scheduled meetings I had at this year’s conference: 14 (one of the true miracles of the conference is that despite my complete befuddlement with scheduling meetings while dealing with the ET/PT time change, I somehow never double-booked myself. Not all heroes wear capes…)

Number of sessions I attended at this year’s conference: um…2.5 (hey, I had a lot of meetings!)

Number of times I strolled down Mission Street to Blue Bottle Coffee: 4 (this has nothing to do with the number of sessions I attended)

Number of New Orleans cold brews I purchased at Blue Bottle Coffee: 3 (the best cold brew I have ever had)

Number of times I walked to City Lights Bookstore: 2 (one of my favorite bookstores in the country)

Number of books purchased at City Lights Bookstore: (Drinking at the Movies by Julia Wertz, The Captain and the Glory by Dave Eggers, and Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg)

Number of CME-related parodies of Howl I wrote on my old blog: 1 (And you thought I was crazy writing a story about a CME detective. Just wait until I update and re-post my Google Hangouts themed ghost story. You think I’m kidding…)

Number of books I swapped at Integrity CE’s exhibit booth (a very cool idea): 3 given (The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson, and City of Thieves by David Benioff) , 1 taken (Milkman by Anna Burns)

Number of times I listed books in this blog post just because I know it will annoy Scott: 2 (I’m laughing just thinking about him reading this and yelling “Nobody cares!” <insert laugh-crying emoji>)

(NOTE FROM SCOTT: He’s right. It annoyed me.)

Number of times I skipped a reception at this year’s conference to go to a sports bar and watch the Sixers beat the Boston Celtics: 1 (totally worth it!)

Number of times I told the person I was watching the game with that the Sixers were definitely going to lose (they won): 5 (at least, probably more)

Number of meetings at the Alliance conference Scott and I had with Katie the Intern: 1

Number of times I wondered if Katie could now do all my CMEpalooza work for me: How do you insert the infinity sign in WordPress?

Number of people I knew from CMEpalooza but met in person for the first time at this year’s Alliance conference and didn’t immediately recognize because I realized I had only ever seen them from the chest up and they were taller/shorter than I realized: 3

Number of people I met through attending the Alliance conference over the years who I now call “friend”: too many to count (seeing old friends is my favorite part of going to the Alliance conference every year)



Introducing Our CMEpalooza Spring Intern!

A few weeks ago, we announced that we were going to be bringing a new voice into CMEpalooza by opening up applications for a CMEpalooza Spring intern. We were surprised and humbled by the number of applicants we received – let’s face it, the fact that anyone would voluntarily want to work alongside us is kind of surprising.

Anyway, after a rigorous review and interview process, we selected Katie O’Connell, a senior CME event coordinator at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York as our Spring 2020 intern. God help her.

Special note: This has been edited by Scott for “accuracy.” Perhaps you’ll be able to figure that out.

Additional Special note (from Derek): All credit to Scott for coming up with the CMEpalooza intern idea, though I do wonder if this is part of his secret master plan to find a replacement for me. He’ll miss my haikus when I’m gone…

Hello CMEpalooza!

Katie O’Connell here reporting for her FIRST EVER CMEpalooza post! Scott, I’m still honored and excited that I was chosen, but now that this is becoming a reality, I am extremely nervous. My hands are shaking so much I just typed “RYXHYJLHG UYTHF” instead of “Scott is funnier than Derek.”

At the recently completed Alliance meeting, Megan Swartz spoke to the question of “How did I get here?” during her acceptance speech for the Frances M. Maitland Memorial Mentorship Lecture and Award (Congratulations again, Megan!!), so I figured I’d start out by answering that question.

So how did I get here?

It was a cold, snowy winter morning in the Bronx, NY, on Jan. 16 (let’s ignore the year, shall we?). The doctors told my mom on Jan. 15 to “Enjoy your weekend. There is no way the baby is coming early.” But then, SURPRISE. She took me home to a place that seemed huge as I was growing up (a recent visit proved otherwise). I enjoyed Irish dancing, karate, basketball, and softball growing up.

Oh, wait, you don’t really care how I actually got here as a person on this planet? You just want to want to know how I got here, like, how I ended up in CME. OK, fine, let’s jump forward to my CME journey.

As with many of us in this field, I ended up in CME not by choice but by accident. I graduated college with a bachelor’s degree in human resources and started working at a healthcare staffing agency. I joined Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in 2014 where I worked in the human recourses department as an onboarding coordinator. It wasn’t long before I found the job to be repetitive and sought out new challenges. Sensing my boredom, the Vice President of Human Resources asked me if I was interested in helping out the CME department with a project. That project turned into a new career.

So here I am 3.5 years later, where almost every day I learn something new, and now I get the opportunity to learn and engage my peers in a whole new outlet that I’m excited and nervous about (ugh, I meant to write “Scott is smarter than Derek” and it came out “GHRFJKK GRUYKIG NHTDJK”).

I enjoy reading the CMEpalooza posts and watching the videos not just because they add laughter to my day but because I always take something away from them. I had read the post about the CMEpalooza intern and thought that would be new and exciting, but shrugged it off at first. Then I woke up the morning of the deadline thinking about the CMEpalooza intern opportunity and thought, “What do I have to lose? They probably won’t pick you anyway.” Well, to my shock, they did! Thank you, Scott and Derek, for the opportunity. I hope to live up to everyone’s expectation of the first ever CME Spring Intern. If anyone wants to share what those expectation are, please do!  I’ll try my best to be little bit funny and bring AHA moments to your day.

Hey, What’s the Big Idea There Fella?

And we’re back from another year of the Alliance conference where Derek once again won the late-evening talent show with his surprisingly catchy rendition of Supertramp’s Take the Long Way Home on the glockenspiel. I tell you, the hidden talents that guy has are truly astounding.

I, meanwhile, devoted a good deal of my time to thinking. I know what you are saying – “Um, er, aren’t you always thinking?” Sometimes, yes, yes I am, although that thinking is often more focused on “How do I get done what I need to get done today?” This thinking was more devoted to strategic thinking, where I was able to sit, listen, and consider how what other people were talking about could be adapted to future planning for my business. For me, that’s one of the most valuable things about full-day or multi-day events (such as CMEpalooza) — it allows me to shut down the “fight or flight” part of my brain and think creatively and strategically.

It goes without saying that there are many creative people in our industry – one of my favorite things to do is to go up to colleagues and ask, “So, what interesting things are you working on?” Not only does this allow people to do what they often do best — talk about themselves — but it also will sometimes spark an idea in my head about something I can adapt to my business. Some of the best CMEpalooza session ideas are sparked in this way, and I jotted down a few notes for things you may see from us later this year.

A few other notes for you:

  1. I was very excited to get a chance to try out the Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality device that was featured in one session. “Maybe, if you are nice to us, you can come up after the session and try it out,” they told me the day before the session. I guess I wasn’t very nice because they packed that thing up faster than this guy ate a watermelon. Eh, I probably wouldn’t have trusted me either.
  2. I took up the heroic San Francisco challenge of, “I’m going to keep walking uphill until I can’t walk uphill any more” one evening. Two hours later, I think I touched a cloud. Or maybe that was just a mirage. Not one of my brightest ideas.
  3. Maybe most importantly, Derek and I met our CMEpalooza Spring intern! You’ll be hearing from her later this week, so her identity will remain a secret for now (ooohh, the suspense!). She was both “honored and excited” to meet us in person. Needless to say, those feelings went away pretty quickly once she saw who she was dealing with. I was just happy Derek didn’t spill his drink on her.


Choose Your Own (Alliance) Adventure – 2020

Well, another Alliance annual conference is upon us, though a bit earlier this year. I’m still slogging my way through all the email that built up over the holidays, just in time to leave for a few more days and get even more email. The solution to this problem is obvious: ban email. Who’s with me??

For those of you unable to attend the annual conference this year, we at CMEpalooza are here to help. While your colleagues are holed up in a conference room somewhere in San Francisco, why not take one day this week to create your own personal annual conference?

We’ve recently updated the CMEpalooza Archive page to include all of the sessions from CMEpalooza Fall 2019, and there are now over 100(!) different (free) educational sessions for you to choose from. You can easily put together a whole week’s worth of faux-annual conference days if you want to (Don’t do that. You have better things to do with your time, like writing an essay explaining why Hot Wheels are superior to Matchbox cars.)

To help get you started, I’ve taken the liberty of attempting to re-create a typical day at the Alliance conference, but using archived CMEpalooza sessions for the agenda. These are just suggested sessions; feel free to substitute in any of the other sessions and choose your own annual conference adventure.

The night before: Drink a few too many adult beverages (I recommend a Manhattan with Bulleit Rye) and stay up a minimum of two hours past your usual bedtime. This is a critical step in preparing for the next day’s learning experience. Also, set out your running clothes so you are ready for an early morning run before the conference starts.

6:00 a.m. (everyone else): Turn off your alarm and go back to sleep. Curse yourself for drinking too much and/or going to bed too late. Scowl at the waiting running clothes mocking you from their place on the shelf.

Breakfast: Get out of bed and walk to the coffee shop around the corner to eat breakfast. Remind yourself of the promise you made to eat healthier this year. Order a breakfast sandwich and mocha anyway. Pat yourself on the back for getting your bacon, egg, and cheese on a whole grain bagel.

9:00 a.m. Keynote: Back to the Future (of CME)
What better way to kick off your conference than with a look back at the future of CME?

10:00 a.m. Keynote Discussion: Hop on the Twitters and share your thoughts on the keynote address using the #CMEpalooza hashtag. Send an email to one of your colleagues or to Scott with your key takeaways and ask for their opinion. I’m busy, remember.

Break: Grab an overbrewed coffee and tell anyone around (including your pets) that you are going to your room to check email. Turn on the TV and watch SportsCenter instead.

11:00 a.m. Plenary Session: Can You Define and Articulate the Value of Your Education?
Dwindling budgets, inconsistent results, lack of organizational support for IME, lack of standardized reporting, lack of consistent operational definitions for learners, and many, many more… these represent a few of the many reasons why deciding which grant to support is becoming ever more critical for our IME stakeholders. A “failed” educational program is not a luxury most supporters can afford. Through interactive panel discussions, members of the MEC and IME communities discuss best practices,take viewer questions, and hear examples on the following topics:

  1. Can we define value as a return on educational investment? (NOT ROI)
  2. Beyond pre/post, how can providers better define educational outcomes in terms of the value of the education to the patient, the clinician learners, the provider, and the supporter?
  3. How can IME build a better story that demonstrates the value of educational investments by extracting outcomes data from a myriad of reporting styles?
  4. Building a better grant – how can providers help IME committees see the potential value of the education through the grant request?
  5. For IME, what elements should committees look for in a grant request that reduce risk, and which are red flags?
  6. How can supporters share return on educational investment with their respective internal teams (medical affairs, commercial, etc.)?
  7. When is the appropriate time to report outcomes?

Lunch: To really recreate the conference experience, go gaze in your refrigerator at the free food available to you. Decide you don’t like any of the options provided because they either don’t appeal to you or aren’t healthy enough. Go out to eat at the closest restaurant to you with the intention of ordering a salad and glass of water. Order a hamburger and fries instead. For the sake of authenticity, pay the confused waitress $45 for the food.

1:30 p.m. Plenary Session: Nobody Puts Outcomes in the Corner
It’s been more than 10 years since Don Moore’s pivotal article on outcomes levels was released, revolutionizing the CME industry’s thinking and approach to outcomes. But has Moore put us in a corner? Rather than being creative with our approach to measuring outcomes, we are stuck in a pyramid of levels that pushes us to try to collect and analyze data that might not be ideal for all educational interventions. This session will include representatives from pharma, medical education companies, and academia as they discuss the hot topic of Level 5 outcomes and if and where it fits into education.

The session will begin with a focus on aligning the outcomes measure to meet the identified gaps and goals of the program along with the preferences of the commercial supporter, as well as share barriers and problems with standard performance-level outcomes. The second half of the session will focus on the importance of reporting to stakeholder and what elements of outcomes (Moore’s, TELMS, others) are of most value to whom. Members of the panel will use case studies and experience to describe creative solutions to assessing performance change.

Break: Click over to the Exhibit Hall (ie, Sponsor page) and gaze in amazement around the companies who have signed up for CMEpalooza Spring 2020 so far (“Geez, I wonder how we could be like them”). In order to replicate the true exhibit hall experience, invite a family member/colleague/neighbor/pet to come into the room and then avoid making eye contact while you read more about the sponsors. After you’re done, tell them you need to check email, but go on Facebook instead and update your status (“OMG I am at the BEST conf EVERRRRRRR!!! lol YOLO, amirite???”)

3:30 p.m. Plenary Session: Jake Powers, CME Detective – Accreditation with Complications
The cigarette smoke rises slowly. The bourbon goes down easily. A dame raps incessantly on my door. She has a problem. A CME problem, of course. That’s why people come to me. They have problems and I fix them. I’m Jake Powers, the world’s only CME Detective.

The gritty underbelly of continuing medical education awaits me, where shadowy corners hide compliance issues and guidelines are always just around the corner. Care to join me? You sure you can handle it? Ready to solve some CME mysteries?

Yes? Good. Then take a shot of courage and grab your fedora and trench coat. We’ve got work to do. The CME industry needs us.

Reception: Invite a bunch of people over to your house for drinks and light hors d’oeuvres. As they come in the door, ask each person for I.D. in order to verify it is the person you invited. Give them each two tickets they can redeem for drinks and glare at them if they ask for another. Make sure you have a giant cheese ball, because a reception just isn’t a reception without a cheese ball. Walk around for 10 minutes, pretend to get an urgent phone call, and stride quickly out the door with the phone to your ear. Leave. Hopefully, when you come back home in 2 hours, everyone will have left for the lobby bar at the nearest hotel.


Finally, Something Both Sides of the Aisle Can Agree Upon

Let’s go ahead and make a prediction – you are going to be exhausted by all of the election talk by, oh, January 10. In fact, many of you probably already are.

One thing, though, we can promise you – pulling the lever for a CMEpalooza sponsorship is always going to be a winning choice. While we won’t viciously target you in a tweet if your organization decides against a sponsorship in 2020, we will surely give you a very public pat on the back if you make the wise business decision to climb aboard our campaign.

Yes indeed, the voters have spoken and CMEpalooza will be back for its sixth year, with the usual Spring and Fall meetings on tap. You can mark your calendars now if you want to – Wednesday, April 15 and Wednesday, October 14.

We are again inviting CME providers, supporters, and service companies to take advantage of sponsorship opportunities with CMEpalooza Spring and Fall in 2020. There were 31 organizations who sponsored CMEpalooza in 2019, and we hope that even more forward-thinking organizations stuff the sponsorship ballot box this year. There are already a number of sponsors who have climbed aboard as early supporters of CMEpalooza (check them out on our Sponsor page). Join them, won’t you?

Don’t forget that we were way way way ahead of the game with this FREE EDUCATION FOR ALL thing. That’s Fake News as far as we’re concerned. CMEpalooza was free for all learners, is free for all learners, and will continue to be free to all learners.

Here is a link to our 2020 Sponsor Prospectus. There are individual and package sponsorships available, as well as other creative opportunities to promote your company. We’ve thrown a few new goodies out again this year as well. If there is anything particularly creative you have in mind, come talk to us. No matter what your political persuasion may be, we’ll be happy to work with you on a suitable compromise.

Derek and I will be leading the CMEpalooza caucus out at the Alliance conference this week if you have any questions or simply want to make a non-tax deductable contribution to our campaign. We’ll probably use it to buy ad time on your local public television network between the hours of 2:48 and 2:58 am on a random Tuesday night.