Fear Not Technology

That shriek of terror you heard a few weeks ago at 9:15 am ET? Yeah, that was Derek when I emailed him to tell him that Google Hangouts On Air (GHOAs) were officially, finally, kaput. It was something that had been rumored for a while but frankly, we don’t listen to rumors (well, unless it’s a rumor about the Philadelphia 76ers trading a 2023 second-round draft pick for a third-string center. That we are interested in. [note from Derek: this feels like Scott is challenging me to work current 76ers third-string center Kyle O’Quinn into my next blog post. Challenge accepted, Kober!!).

As you may be aware, we’ve been using GHOAs (or its more recent incarnation, YouTube Live, which was the same thing with a different name) since the very beginning of CMEpalooza. It was technology that was predictable, reliable, relatively easy to master, and, of course, free. Being a Google product, it automatically linked to YouTube, making it easy for us to embed broadcasts on the CMEpalooza website and then archive. The technology wasn’t perfect, and we learned a lot about troubleshooting problems over the years, but all in all, it worked well enough and we knew how to use it for our needed purposes.

So then you can imagine there was good reason Derek began shrieking like, well, this when I broke the bad news to him. Truth be told, I was panicked a bit myself as I quickly searched the Interwebs for “Replacement technology for Google Hangouts.” I figured it would take a while – a day, maybe two – before we found something that might, maybe, work as a platform for CMEpalooza.

Happily, it took all of about 15 minutes before we stumbled onto a website called StreamYard, which has a broadcast platform that was developed by two millennials who look like they graduated high school one night, rolled out of bed the next morning, and threw something together before heading to Taco Bell for a 4 pm chalupa. Here they are (I won’t even try to pronounce “Geige” but I will steal his hair. Heck, I’ll steal anyone’s hair):

Derek and I did some initial testing of the StreamYard platform, and found it intuitive, relatively easy to master, and, of course, free (for now). Like GHOAs, Streamyard also links directly to YouTube. It looks slightly different than GHOAs from a viewers perspective, but it’s a pretty decent facsimile. In some ways, it’s even better than GHOAs. They don’t have a lot of useless bells and whistles, they added some useful screen sharing features, and other small stuff that you probably don’t care about.

We wanted to wait until we had done a few AV tests with our Fall panelists before crowing about our sleuthing, but now that we have several behind us that all went smoothly, cock-a-frigging-doodle-doo. Yeah, that’s a rooster and not a crow. I know. Move along.

So here are today’s takeaways:

  1. Derek panics easily (another note from Derek: Am I worried that Scott just jinxed us by bragging about how great this new technology works? Of course I am!!)
  2. There are young people who are really good at technology and can create stuff in their sleep (as long as they are still living at home and don’t have to pay rent)
  3. CMEpalooza is saved.

And oh yeah, it’s a month(ish) away from our broadcast date of CMEpalooza Fall (Wednesday, October 16). Don’t forget.

Welcome to the End of Summer

When Derek and I flew down to our multi-day, tropical, semiannual CMEpalooza retreat earlier this summer, we spent many days thinking and strategizing about the future of our wildly-successfully extravaganza.

Me (said silently): “We’ve come so far in 5 years, but we could go so much farther. How do we expand our footprint and impact on this world so desperate for our education?”

Derek (said aloud): “I wonder how many more banana daiquiris I can consume before Happy Hour pricing ends?”

Yes, we all get there in our own ways, but once our focus sharpened (the answer, Derek tells me, was five. Five more banana daiquiris), we did indeed come up a lot of exciting and innovative ideas. Alas, all of those exciting and innovative ideas unfortunately were forgotten the instant that our kindly cocktail waitress told Derek after banana daiquiri number 4 that, “You look like you need a vacation.”

Thus was born the International CMEpalooza Summer Promotional Road Trip.

In early August, I spent several days lugging my family around Montreal speaking to countless potential CMEpalooza consumers about our event. I don’t speak a lick of French, but just kept saying “Mon dieu!” every time a question was asked of me. “Mon dieu!” just seems like a catch-all kind of phrase although I admittedly don’t really know what it means. I only got a few questionable looks.

Derek meanwhile took on the more difficult task of traipsing through the United Kingdom spreading the good word about CMEpalooza (note from Derek: this is true, though technically speaking I drove, not traipsed. Nothing like hurtling down the narrow streets of Cornwall at 55 MPH to make you feel alive!). His sullen, slightly disgruntled personality seemed perfect for the task, and I’m told by reliable sources that he fit in just fine. Alas, his introverted personality restrained him from actually, you know, trying to talk to anyone about CMEpalooza, but I’m assured that he used some sort of Jedi mind tricks to do what he promised.

And now we’re back again, settled in to domesticity in our homeland, with at least 2 new subscribers to our blog and 1 likely new viewer of our Fall sessions. That’s the owner of the ice cream parlor, or café crème glacee (see, I did learn some French!), around the corner from our Montreal accommodations who I saw, oh, every 4 hours for 7 consecutive days before he finally asked, “What the heck is this CMEpalooza think you keep talking about?” Mon dieu, monsieur!

You’ll be hearing much more from us in these next few weeks – we promise – about our Fall meeting coming up on Wednesday, October 16, as we ramp up our preparations and connect with our panelists to see what kinds of kooky ideas they have spun off of our original concepts. Meanwhile, enjoy your last few hours of summer this Labor Day. Derek suggests a banana daiquiri.

The CMEpalooza Fall Agenda Has Arrived

Anyone else have a nagging spouse? I sure do!

(She doesn’t read the blog so she’ll never know I told you – mums the word, people)

But when it comes to Derek and I, it’s often up to me to play the role of the nagger to the nagee (is that a word? Let’s pretend for today that it is).

Day 1 Nag: “So, how are your sessions coming along for the Fall agenda? We gonna make our deadline of the end of the month?”

(Silence)

Day 2 Nag: “I repeat, how are your sessions coming along for the Fall agenda? We gonna make our deadline of the end of the month?”

(Crickets)

Day 3 Nag: “If you don’t answer me, I’m going to tell everyone in the blogosphere that you still wear Aquaman Underoos (It’s true. He does. Don’t ask me how I know). One more time — How are your sessions coming along for the Fall agenda? We gonna make our deadline of the end of the month?”

(Finally, a response)

“Sorry, I was busy watching replays of the Game 7 of the 1986 Philadelphia 76ers-Milwaukee Bucks series on YouTube. Can’t believe Doc missed the game winner. What am I supposed to be doing again?”

The man never lets me down.

But to Derek’s credit, as usual, he rose to the task, got himself organized, adjusted the waistline of his Aquaman Underoos, and got to work. He begged, pleaded, and cajoled. One success led to another, and then another, until, “Yes, Scott, yes, my sessions are ready. Sort of.”

And so, on this last day of July, we indeed have an agenda to present for CMEpalooza Fall. It’s pretty great. Click here for the CMEpalooza Fall agenda.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some laundry to do, groceries to buy, and plants to water. You’ll have to wait another week or two before we start telling you more.

Coming dear!

 

We Have Momentum (Finally)

A few weeks ago, Derek wrote about an upcoming meeting of the austere CMEpalooza planning committee that was on the calendar after weeks and weeks of coddling and begging. As those of us in the industry are familiar with, getting anyone to carve out time in their schedule for a planning call can be quite painful.

Well, imagine dealing with a whole cadre of egos (“My time is more important than your time”) where any affront is taken personally (“Wait, why are we rescheduling this meeting because she is unavailable? I told you I was unavailable, and you told me that was too bad. I hate you guys.”) and perhaps you have a sense of what Derek and I have to deal with on a semiannual basis.

OK, OK, so perhaps our planning committee isn’t quite as austere as I hinted at earlier. OK, OK, perhaps it is just Derek and I. Nonetheless, scheduling was a bit more challenging this year than most.

As you may recall from Derek’s near-catastrophic snafu with jury scheduling this spring, he is not always great at planning around important events in CMEpalooza-ville. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he bailed on our first meeting when he realized he had to see the dentist to get a few cavities filled. That’s what a lifetime of Laffy Taffy every night after dinner will do to your teeth, folks. (Note from Derek: Tough but fair.)

I was to blame (well, kinda sorta) for the second cancellation – water damage to our property caused by massive construction going on next door that is slated to be completed… oh, sometime in 2068.

But never fear my feathered friends, Derek and I persevered! Our personal assistants stayed with it, cross-referencing dates and times to find a Friday afternoon where we could both sit down and talk through ideas for CMEpalooza Fall.

But alas, another chink in the armor. Derek chose a Mexican restaurant near his house as our meeting spot. We show up. Oops. “I guess it isn’t open for lunch,” he says.

For some people, this would have been the last straw, but again, we persevered! Fortunately, another mediocre restaurant was located just across the street. What luck! OK, OK, there are lots of restaurants within a few blocks of where we met, but I’m simply trying to create some drama here.

Anyway, we sat down, ordered our iced teas and lemonades, and got down to business.

Let me approximate how these planning meetings typically go.

Me (rifling through many pages of notes and doodles during my preparation for the meeting): “So, what session ideas so you have for the next CMEpalooza?”

Derek (rifling through a blank notebook): “I dunno. Maybe something about grantors?”

Me: “So it’s on me again, eh?”

Imagine then my surprise last Friday when Derek actually had, gasp, several good ideas! I mean it everyone, a week at the beach must have sparked a few neurons into creative overdrive deep within Derek’s cerebral cortex. Between my mediocre ideas and his, we actually have a good collection of topics and formats for the Fall meeting (Wednesday, Oct. 16). We still need to flesh things out, get moderators/presenters on board, negotiate schedules, and everything else, but hey, at least we’re building momentum.

Let’s just hope life gets out the way for a while.

Announcing Our #CMEpalooza Pursuit Winners

We had a record number of entries into our Sponsor event, #CMEpalooza Pursuit, this spring – who knew that people liked free money?

I’m also pleased that our audience learned so much about our 21st president, Chester Alan Arthur. Derek tells me that he is planning to grow muttonchops like Our Most Forgotten President just in time for Wednesday’s live broadcast of CMEpalooza Spring. I think it’ll be an improvement.

Anyway, we gathered a roomful of our trusty interns this morning to witness the highly anticipated drawing for the winners of our Sponsor event, each of whom wins a $100 Amazon gift card. Here are the champions, my friends:

  • Jayzona Alberto, EdD, MS, Education Development Specialist, Continuing Medical Education, Stanford Center for Continuing Education
  • Judith Orvos, ELS, President, Orvos Communications
  • Stephanie Staggs, MHA, CHCP, Program Coordinator,Graduate & Continuing Medical Education, College of Medicine, Texas A&M University
  • Allyson Baer, MA, Senior Program Administrator, Data Analysis and Reporting, CE, Education, Science, and Professional Development, American Society of Clinical Oncology
  • Katie O’Connell, Senior CME Event Coordinator, Continuing Medical Education, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

For anyone interested in the right answers for the full quiz, here they are.

Don’t Forget: CMEpalooza Pursuit Entries Due Friday

A quick reminder for those of you who like free money: Entries for CMEpalooza Pursuit, our annual Sponsor event, are due on Friday, April 12 at 11:59 p.m. ET. You can get all of the information you need to enter by reading last week’s announcement available here.

Here is what some of the early entrants have been saying about CMEpalooza Pursuit:

  • “What a great way to learn about some of the companies who develop CME programs. I wasn’t familiar with a few of these companies, and it was a fun way to learn about them.”
  • “A good excuse to stop doing real work for a few minutes. And American history? Wow.”
  • “I got some good ideas for our future programs just by looking through what other providers are doing.”
  • “You suck” (this was Derek’s entry, which was disqualified for many, many reasons)

CMEpalooza Pursuit: Money (for You) for Free

About 2 weeks ago, I got one of those pesky automated emails in my Inbox:

Your mailbox is at 99% capacity. Please delete unwanted messages to free up space for future emails.

So of course I stopped everything immediately to make sure I didn’t miss that email from the producers of Wheel of Fortune inviting me to be a contestant on that show (I’d dominate for reals, yo).

I went back a week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks, 1 month, to see what I could delete. And wouldn’t you know it, but it seems like at least 50% of the “unneeded” emails came from our adoring tolerating public asking rabidly, “When is the next iteration of CMEpalooza Pursuit coming?” I guess people really, really enjoy it. Or maybe they are just greedy. Whatever.

Anyway, we’re happy today to announce the launch of CMEpalooza Pursuit 2019, our annual Sponsor event.

Here is how CMEpalooza Pursuit works:

  1. Click here to download the list of questions
  2. Click here to download the entry form
  3. Use the Sponsor tab of the CMEpalooza website to get links to all of the companies involved in this event. You’ll need to visit the Sponsor sites to get the answers to all of our questions. We promise there is nothing that can’t be found within a click or two.
  4. Complete the entry form by coming up with a correct response to one question in each category. That’s six questions/answers in all. Now, we have had some brown nosers who have tried in the past to answer more than the required amount of questions, which is fine. It just won’t help you win.
  5. Send your completed entry form to me via email at scott@medcasewriter.com by 11:59 p.m. ET on Friday, April 12.
  6. Cross your fingers.

We’ll be giving away $500 in Amazon gift cards this Spring – there will be 5 winners of $100 each.

Here’s a little secret that may convince you to play – there aren’t thousands of people expected to complete CMEpalooza Pursuit. If you play, your chances are reasonably good of winning a prize. Better than my odds of one day calling out vowels and consonants to Pat and Vanna, for instance.

And…go.

 

Your (Ha Ha) #CMEstory

A few years ago, I tried to talk a few colleagues of mine into presenting a session at a live conference entitled something like “Humor in Medical Writing.” They laughed me off. (Insert rimshot).

“What exactly is funny about medical writing?” they asked. “Wouldn’t this session last like, I dunno, 20 seconds or so?”

Instead of grumbling and arguing, I let those crumbums burst my bubble and shelved the idea. Temporarily.

But dammit, there have been too many funny things happening to me lately professionally to simply let it go forever. And so today, we step aside from our usual veiled promotion for CMEpalooza Spring (it’s coming up in about a month for those of you who care, on Wednesday, April 17) so that we can all share a recent (ha ha) #CMEstory.

There were about 3 or 4 I had to choose from, but this is the one I settled on:

A few months ago, I flew down to Florida to oversee the filming of a series of enduring activities. For one of the broadcasts, our faculty – a pair of rheumatology nurse practitioners – were discussing a case involving a new patient that had recently come to one of their practices. Let’s listen in.

“Today’s case involves a 15-year-old male who presented with joint pain of approximately 1 year’s duration that has recently worsened. He is in good general health overall and had no unusual childhood illnesses to speak of.

During our initial exam, the patient noted about an hour of daily morning stiffness in the fingers, elbows, toes, knees, and back. He specifically emphasized decreasing strength and flexibility in his right wrist that prevented him from enjoying certain activities.”

The case went on for another 10 minutes or so as the faculty discussed the possible diagnosis, how they would approach treatment, and so on. When the discussion ended, I went up to them with just one general comment.

Me: “So you do realize which sorts of ‘certain activities’ this patient was talking about having trouble enjoying due to impaired grip strength in his right wrist, don’t you?”

Pause for a second. Here comes a quizzical look.

Two seconds. Trying to figure out what I’m talking about.

Three seconds. Light bulb goes on.

Four seconds. Blushing begins.

Five seconds. Uproarious laughter.

Them: “Oh my God, I hadn’t even thought of that. But you are absolutely right.”

Put that in your differential diagnosis file, people.

So that’s my recent simple (ha ha) #CMEstory. Add yours in the Comment section below. Everyone could use a laugh.

Participation is recommended but totally optional for everyone but Derek (it’s about time he supported one of my ideas).

As long as it’s not another of his hilarious, “You’ll never guess what happened in last week’s Grant Review Committee meeting” anecdotes. I swear if I have to hear one more story about the multi-hued sweater that Gary the medical director wore, I’ll… well, I won’t be happy.

Revisiting the Past with CMEpalooza Redux

Back when CMEpalooza started, Derek and I were both in a funny place professionally.

His most recent employer – a medical education company (MECC) whose name you can probably find on his LinkedIn page if you are really interested – had gone under, and he was trying to figure out the next step in his professional career. While the career of “Derek Warnick – CME Consultant” only lasted a short while before he realized he’d be better off with, you know, a job with a regular paycheck and health insurance and all, that stretch plays a very important role in the history of CMEpalooza.

Consultant Derek was, as usual, sitting alone in the corner during an “audience participation” session at the annual Alliance conference thinking deep thoughts.

“Why can’t I put together a conference like this (only better)?”

“Who can I convince to buy dinner for me tonight?”

“Did ALF ever make it back to Melmac?”

We’ll ignore the last two questions for the time being, and focus on the first one, which was obviously the seedling from which CMEpalooza grew. With lots of time on his hands (alas, the life of a newbie “consultant”), Derek was able to go home and think more about his idea of a CME “free-for-all” conference. He bounced the idea off a few colleagues who presumably responded, “Great idea” (or at least that’s what Derek tells me. I have my suspicions) and off he went.

Derek heard from someone that there was a person in the CME world (i.e., me) using this newfangled, and most importantly, free platform called Google Hangouts to live-stream certified education, and he thought, “Huh, maybe this is what I can use.” From there, the pieces fell into place. He came up with a catchy title for the conference, used WordPress to develop a website – this very website we still use today — and basically said to anyone who wanted to present at the inaugural CMEpalooza, “Go for it. I’ve got nothing better to do.”

What, you were expecting a story that involved a business plan, heavy-hitting investors, and accomplished advisers? Surely you know us better than that.

Anyway, while Derek was toiling away at the inaugural CMEpalooza, my employer – a different MECC – was also going under. In a few months, my self-employed career took launch and I too was left with a little too much time on my hands. I sat down with Derek one afternoon and agreed to come aboard as co-producer/co-director/co-something of CMEpalooza (actual transcript of the negotiation: “Me: Do you want help with CMEpalooza?” “Him: “OK.”).

The first order of business for us was to come up with an agenda for our first Fall meeting. Unlike the inaugural CMEpalooza where Derek allowed everyone with any semblance of an idea onto the agenda, it was deemed that we should tighten the reins a little bit for the future and come up with some topics people in the industry would be interested in. With our recent professional history, one of the first sessions we hit on was entitled, “Death of the MECC: Fact or Fiction?” Yes, it was somewhat of an autobiographical topic that hit close to home for both of us, but there was legitimate concern in some MECC circles that our days were numbered.

Jan Perez of CME Outfitters gratefully agreed to moderate this session and recruited a panel from a cross-section of providers to delve into the current and future state of the MECC. As with every CMEpalooza throughout our history, you can watch the session in our Archives (or just click here). To this day, it’s one of my favorite sessions in our history.

Five years later, the MECC model is facing a whole new set of challenges, although fortunately things overall seem to have stabilized since Derek and I had our career crisis (wait a minute, were we the reason our respective MECC employers failed? Let’s not dwell on that too much. Moving on…). As we celebrate the 5-year anniversary of CMEpalooza, we thought it’d be a good idea to revisit that session from our inaugural Fall meeting with a new spin. We’re calling it “The MECC Reborn: Our Present and Future.” It’s on the Spring agenda. There will likely be a “redux” session or two in the Fall as well.

Jan Perez graciously agreed to moderate this session once again (actual transcript from the email invite, “Me: Will you moderate this again? Her: Do I have to?” I kid, I kid). I think it’ll be fascinating to get a sense of where some of our industry leaders see the future of the MECC world heading.

Probably not to Melmac.

The CMEpalooza Spring Agenda (Phew!)

Big day for our team of crack interns. They have put in dozens of hours of unpaid overtime over the last few weeks categorizing and collating the many, many abstracts submitted for our Spring event, routing everything to the appropriate team of judges for evaluation, tabulating results, and then inputting everything into a very intricate spreadsheet.

I think I saw Derek pop his head into the interns work area one afternoon just after lunch last week and say, “Good job boys and girls. Extra credit for all of you,” before ducking back out into the game room for another marathon session of Frogger. He’s quite the motivator. (Side note from Derek: I will kick anyone’s butt in Frogger on the Atari 2600. Challenge extended.)

Anyway, we tapped the kegs, cued up a little Digital Underground, and let out a massive “Huzzah!” around 10 p.m. last night when we finally slotted the last session into the Spring agenda. The website was then quickly updated with all of the information so that our adoring (yes, you love us) public can stop with the phone calls, emails, and faxes telling us to, “Get off your lazy butts, and give us an agenda!”

So here is the official Agenda for CMEpalooza Spring (or click on the Spring 2019 tab). There is some good stuff from some new faces (and some old ones too) that we think you’ll enjoy.

Remember, Wednesday, April 17. Highlight it on your calendar.

A few things to note:

  • After experimenting with dividing CMEpalooza Spring into two half-days last year, we’re back to a full day this year. While people told us on surveys that they would be more likely to watch our sessions if they were split into two days, the actual viewership didn’t bear that out. Numbers don’t lie. Plus, it makes our lives a bit easier mushing everything together in one big lump.
  • There is a open slot at noon ET for the first time in a long while. Is it because Derek and I want a break to grab some lunch? While yes, that would be nice (my lunch usually consists of a scarfed down bowl of Corn Chex between sessions on our broadcast days), the truth is that we’re still looking for a Gold sponsor who wants to claim that session. Anyone? Anyone at at all?
  • Because this is a fifth anniversary of CMEpalooza, we will be having a “redux” session in both the Spring and Fall meetings where we revisit a topic from our first year of Palooza-ing. This spring, we’re bringing back Jan Perez from CME Outfitters to moderate a session looking at the business side of the medical education company (MECC) and how things continue to evolve. More on this in a later blog post.

Rejoice, everyone, rejoice. And join Derek in the game room at 3 p.m. today with a pocket full of quarters, ready for play Burger Time into the wee smalls of the evening.