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.

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.”

Sigh.

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?

[thinks]

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!

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.

 

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.

CMEpalooza Intern Applications Due Friday

You may have missed it as you queued up for another cup of grog at the company holiday party, but we announced last month that we are taking on our first ever CMEpalooza intern. Since we know everyone has a lot on their minds during the last few days of the year, we decided to keep the application process open until Friday, January 3. That’s tomorrow. So, um, don’t wait too much longer if you are interested. Here is a direct link to the very short application.

Why should you want to be the CMEpalooza intern for Spring 2020? I’m glad you asked, friend.

  1. It’s something different. I know, you are groaning already about another RSS you need to schedule or that budget you need to complete, and it’s only the first work day of 2020. Guess what? There will be no drudgery assignments for the CMEpalooza intern. You get to have fun and be creative.
  2. We’ll work with you to make sure you get to learn what you want to. Really, our expectations for the CMEpalooza intern are low. You’ll write a blog post or two, preferably having something to do with CME (or ’80s pop culture), and we’ll include you in some of the planning for a Spring 2020 session. Beyond that, we’re flexible.
  3. You will get to make fun of Derek to your hearts desire. I am somewhat more sensitive so wisecracks aimed at me must be limited to 2 per day.
  4. We will give you 100% of the revenue from learner registration to CMEpalooza Spring. That’s right, all of it. Every single cent. Oh, ahem, did we mention that CMEpalooza is free? Sorry about that.

I am sure there are many, many more benefits to being the CMEpalooza Spring 2020 intern, but I still have a gallon of leftover egg nog to deal with. So if you’ll excuse me…

The Best Gig Ever: CMEpalooza Intern

Hello everyone. We’re back. Did you miss us?

Yes indeed, the CMEpalooza caravan is in operation once again after a much-needed rest following our Spring and Fall successes in 2019. Our staff returned recently from a week-long retreat in luxurious and balmy Pekin, IL, where we broke down the data on CMEpaloozas past and made plans for CMEpaloozas future. We’ve got some fun things in store for 2020, which we’ll get to, er, eventually.

We are here today, though, with some exciting news – we’re hiring! Well, sort of. OK, we’re not really hiring someone who will actually be paid, but we are looking to bring another energetic and entertaining voice into the CMEpalooza family in 2020. After six years of putting up with us making fun of each other in less and less creative ways, you deserve a new perspective, which is why we are officially opening up the process to select a CMEpalooza Spring 2020 Intern.

We thought of opening up the CMEpalooza coffers to put a flashy ad up on Indeed.com to attract applicants from around the world, but then we realized we didn’t have any coffers to open and so we had to settle for the corporate blog. Good news for you though – you now likely won’t be competing with anyone from the Seychelles for this gig.

So what exactly are the expected duties of the CMEpalooza Spring 2020 Intern?

  1. You’ll have the opportunity to contribute to the CMEpalooza blog at your leisure. Maybe once a month or so. You can write about just about anything that won’t offend people. Scott is in charge of the offensive material.
  2. We’ll have you shadow one of us virtually as we plan a CMEpalooza session. You’ll learn how the proverbial sausage is made. Maybe you’ll even pick up a thing or two that you can incorporate into your real job. You’ll likely even have the chance to show up on camera during a Spring session so you can show your doubting friends and family that, yes, you are officially part of the CMEpalooza team.
  3. You will spend every other Saturday with a bullhorn outside of your state capitol building singing the CMEpalooza fight song for 2 hours (optional duty)

What qualifications are we looking for?

  1. You should be working in CME in some capacity
  2. You should have a thick skin – it’s pretty certain that we will make fun of you at some point
  3. You should not be a Dallas Cowboys or Boston Celtics fan (sorry, we have to draw the line somewhere)

Beyond that, we’re open to anyone. Maybe you have only worked in CME for 1 year and want to learn more about our industry? Great. Maybe you’ve worked in CME for 25 years and want to do something fun in 2020? Also great. Maybe it’s been your lifelong dream to meet Derek and you think that this is your chance? You need professional help.

While this is an unpaid position, Derek has promised to send our CMEpalooza Spring 2020 Intern a half-eaten box of Thin Mints as a personal thank you (note from Derek: Very clever idea, Scott. Everyone knows there is no such thing as a half eaten box of Thin Mints.)

The application process for the CMEpalooza Spring 2020 Intern is simple and short. Fill out a brief questionnaire by clicking on this link to apply. Every answer is vitally important so please think before you respond. The application process will close on Friday, January 3, at which time a special task force will cull through the applications to select our winner. You can email us if you have any questions (our email address is on this site somewhere – you just need to find it).

Great Big CMEpalooza Quiz Answers

Thank you to everyone who participated in our wrapup session to CMEpalooza, The Great, Big, Play at Home in Your Jammies CME Quiz. We know covered a lot of information in a very short amount of time. Consequently, our faculty was kind enough to put together this document explaining all of the answers and providing detailed rationale. If you want to argue or disagree with any of these explanations, that’s why we provide links to all of our faculty LinkedIn pages on the agenda tab 🙂

Everything You Need to Know for CMEpalooza Week

I usually let Derek take the lazy way out in the blog with Top 10 lists, but we’re busy what with CMEpalooza Fall going live in less than 48 hours and all, so here are a few quick things to keep in mind:

  1. It goes without saying that you should either have blocked off your calendar by now or plan to call in sick on Wednesday. Really, there isn’t anything more important you should be doing between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET.
  2. If you suddenly get hungry, we have even built in a lunch break (or breakfast break if you are on the left coast) this year thanks to one of our Gold sponsors, AcademicCME. No, unfortunately, they will not be picking up the tab for your lunch. You’ll still have pay $6.99 for a McRib, which apparently is back again (Note from Derek: gross.) I’m not quite sure why.
  3. We’ll be using Poll Everywhere for a few of our sessions this year to get some interaction going. If you want to get a head start on things, you can download the app in the Apple store or Google Play for your mobile device. You don’t need to have the app, but I find it helpful to have it on my phone.
  4. We’re using a brand-new platform this year for our sessions called StreamYard. From the perspective of the viewer and panelist, you won’t note much of a difference. There are some different sorts of camera views we’ll be using, but otherwise, CMEpalooza will look the same as always. So then why am I telling you this? Hmm, good question. Moving on.
  5. When you have a few free moments, go look at our sponsors and check out some of the great work others are doing in CME/CE. I actually met one of our sponsors last week in person for the first time at one of their activities (I was helping at a program in an adjoining room). As with all of our sponsors, they seemed like good people.
  6. Feel free to use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. to tell all of your friends and colleagues how cool you are by being a fan of CMEpalooza. Best fan post gets a virtual hug from Derek. He’s a cuddler.
  7. We encourage our live audience to ask questions during our sessions. We aren’t one of those annoying meetings where we hold all questions until the end of each session (God do I hate that). If you have a good question that is relevant to what our panel is talking about, we don’t mind butting in to ask it. There are several ways that will be listed on our LIVE page to ask questions. If your question is a good one, we’ll make sure it gets asked. If it’s bad, well, we may ignore you. Sorry.
  8. Want to offer some wardrobe suggestions for Derek and I during individual sessions? We’re game. I believe I saw a feather boa somewhere in Derek’s office (Room 421B in CMEpalooza HQ, right next to the trash chute). It’s not like we haven’t had panelists do dress-up sessions before. Derek and I have simply tried to uphold some sort of professional standards in the past. I think it’s time we admit that we have failed.
  9. There will once again be a survey after each session where we rely on your feedback to help plan future sessions. And to replenish our joke bucket (a recent fave: Did you hear about the fire at the cheese factory in France? All that was left was de brie).
  10. It’s almost time for tipoff, so let’s have a song everyone.

The Proud, The Few, The CMEpalooza Bingo!! Winners

There was suspense, there was hype, there was even a bit of trash talking this morning as the qualified participants in the CMEpalooza Bingo!! gathered in the Executive Suite at CMEpalooza HQ for our prize drawing. Five $100 prizes were in the offing – for that kind of scratch, you could buy four cases of Whatchamacallit bars.

In the end, the winners were appropriately dignified, the losers gracious, and the morning’s emcee was, well, competent. We tried for Small Wonder star Tiffany Brissette, but she never responded to Derek’s stalker-like email. We’ll set our sights lower next year.

Here are your now filthy-rich CME colleagues:

  • Vanessa Gray, Director, Continuing Medical Education, Des Moines University Medicine and Health Sciences
  • Jill Hays, Executive Director, Primary Care Network
  • Allyson Baer, Program Manager, Data Analysis and Reporting, CE, American Society of Clinical Oncology
  • Amanda Kaczerski, Senior Director, Educational Strategy & Design, Academy for Continued Healthcare Learning
  • Noreen Duffey, CME Program Administrator, American College of Physicians

Congrats to our winners. To our losers (and everyone else), don’t forget that we’ll be giving away another $500 during our 4 p.m. session of CMEpalooza Fall. This one requires more skill than luck, so brush up on your industry knowledge.