Where Do I Watch CMEpalooza Spring?

Where do I watch CMEpalooza Spring?
You watch it on the LIVE page.

Will people be able to hear me on the broadcast?
No. You are not on the broadcast. You are only watching a video feed of the broadcast. You can play “Basketball” by Kurtis Blow at full volume and no one will hear you except your neighbors, who might call the police, who might interrupt you while watching CMEpalooza. So, don’t play “Basketball” by Kurtis Blow at full volume while watching CMEpalooza.

Can I watch CMEpalooza at home?

Can I watch CMEpalooza at the office?
No! Stay home!

Can I watch CMEpalooza in a conference room with 150 other people?
No! Stay home!

Can I watch CMEpalooza while at a coffee shop?
That depends. Do you own your own coffee shop and will you be watching by yourself? If no, then…No! Stay home!

Can I watch CMEpalooza at home with my kids?
I don’t know. Let’s ask them.

Yeah, maybe not.

Do I have to pre-register or register?

Do I have to pay anything to watch CMEpalooza? I love paying registration fees.

No. You don’t have to pay anything to watch CMEpalooza.

Do I have to take a survey afterward?
Well, you don’t have to, but it would be nice if you did. It’s only seven questions and shouldn’t take you more than 60 seconds. If it takes you more than 60 seconds, Scott will come to your house, stand outside your bedroom window (at least 50 feet away, to be safe and all), and recreate the John Cusack boombox scene from Say Anything.

Can I get a certificate for watching CMEpalooza?
Actually, yes. Well, kind of. We’re not accredited or certified or anything like that, and we have no way of verifying whether you actually watched any of these sessions or not. But if you want a certificate of completion that you can use to self-report participation in CMEpalooza Spring 2020, here you go. I’ll also post it on the LIVE page tomorrow. Who knows, maybe these certificates will be worth something 2,000 years from now.

How do I ask questions of the presenters?
Good question. There are two ways you can ask questions:

  1. Send a text to the Peer Audience text line at 267-666-0CME (0263)
  2. Tweet a question using the #CMEpalooza hashtag

We try to get to as many questions as we can throughout each presentation.

Do I have to watch all the sessions?
YES! No. Watch what interests you.

Will the sound quality for each presenter be crystal clear with consistent volume and no glitches?
No. Will it be pretty good for most presenters? Yes. There will be some who sound better than others. There may be a few glitches and hiccups. That’s just how it goes with a free conference where presenters volunteer their time and use their own equipment. Some people aren’t comfortable doing a presentation while wearing headphones and a mic, so we don’t force them to use it. We do the best that we can with what we have available to us.

Will I be offended by anything during CMEpalooza?
Are you offended by Sam Spade-esque, gumshoe detective, film noir satire that includes words like “dame” and “yokel”? If yes, then I suggest avoiding the Jake Powers session at 3 p.m. ET. It’s OK, really, you don’t have to watch it. Go grab a coffee and snack and come back for the 4 p.m. session. We’ll still be here.

What if I’m busy during the day of the live broadcast?
All the sessions will be archived on the website, probably within 15 minutes of the conclusion of each session. How are we able to do it so fast? We have a co-worker who is a real crackerjack on the interwebs. Here she is hard at work, writing our latest blog post.


Oops, I Haiku’ed Again – It’s CMEpalooza Haiku!

palooza haiku
oopsie i did it again
scott’s favorite post

coming up next week
cmepalooza spring
thank god it’s online

9 AM ET – How Should the CE Industry Respond to a Novel Healthcare Crisis?

health crises of our lifetime
how can we respond?

10 AM ET – We Can Do It! Getting Change-Ready Ahead of the ACCME’s Updates to the Standards for Commercial Support

SCS updates
can we can do it!? (yes we can)
people get ready

11 AM ET – Shiny Outcomes People

tiny little homes
and they all look just the same
sound like your outcomes?

Noon ET – The Intersection Between Information, Knowledge, and Practice

sometimes to adapt
slow and steady wins the race
good for us old folks

1 PM ET – Rebuilding It Better? Stronger? Faster? Moving Innovation Forward in CE Redesign

rebuild CE like
the six million dollar man
just hire lee majors

2 PM ET – Grant Request Rock!

conjunction junction
how do grant requests function?
these guys will tell you

3 PM ET – Jake Powers, CME Detective, Episode 2: Certification at Elevation – The Mile High Mysteries

hardboiled CE
and a slug of cheap whiskey
jake powers is back

4 PM ET – Common/Not-So-Common Case Conundrums in CME

common conundrum
would be so very humdrum
when does the fun come?


three precious metals
but if you want a haiku
it’s gold or silver


haiku can be hard
when you don’t know how to say

they can’t stay away
Academic CME
back for a third time

oh phil talamo
president of PER
cool video bro


it’s PeerAudience
but a group of seaside fans
is PierAudience

why did we combine
CCO and PCE?
it’s a partnership

the best name for a
medical themed escape room?
a Medscape room duh

Important CMEpalooza Updates!

Ehhhhh…the updates aren’t really that important, but I figured that if I said they were important and used an exclamation mark, more people would click and read. No, no, I am not a marketing professional…I just play one on the Internet.

That’s about all I have for an opener. You’re busy. I’m busy. Let’s get right to the updates.

Update #1
We have updated the agenda with information about our opening breakfast session sponsored by AcademicCME: How Should the CE Industry Respond to a Novel Healthcare Crisis? COVID-19 is obviously something that is having a major impact on all of our lives, both personally and professionally. Our hope is that this session can help make some sense of how the CME community can respond.

Speaking of the coronavirus, a local business near my home has a Window of Hope where they display pictures from neighborhood kids about their hopes for the future. I think 3-year-old Jack might be on to something here. Seems like as good a plan as any.

Scott wants me to remind everyone that the CMonopolE (née CMEopoly) sponsor event thingy ends tomorrow, so get your entry in ASAP. You can read all the important stuff here…and by important I mean that you can win a $100 Amazon gift card.

Update #3 is still a secret and I can’t actually tell you what it is (once again: marketing genius!), but we have something cooking for next week that we hope you will find helpful. I don’t want to say too much until we have all of the details finalized, but let’s just say that an old CMEpalooza brainchild may be making an unexpected return. More details to come! (<– building suspense! I am available for marketing consultations.)

A Day In the Life of a WFHer

After reading Scott and Katie’s eloquent posts from the past few days, I was left to wonder what I can do to make myself useful. Then, while scrolling through Facebook last night and reading the reactions from all my friends and family new to working from home (heretofore referred to as “WFH”), it occurred to me that maybe I could put my 8+ years of WFH experience to use by sharing some tricks and tips I have picked up along the way.

I started to write that up, but, honestly…it was pretty boring and not that true to reality. Instead, I thought I would share with you a typical (work) day in the life of an experienced WFHer. It’s actually not that typical since everyone else in my family is also home right now thanks to social distancing but just play along.

8:30 a.m.
(NOTE: Spare me the “You start your day at 8:30??” mockery. I spent years getting to an office at the crack of dawn…and then I got laid off. I start my day at a reasonable hour now.)

Ascend the stairs to my office on the 3rd floor, 2nd cup of coffee in one hand, 24 oz lime green Hydro Flask in the other.

Announce out loud, “I’m starting work now!”

Ignore office chair and desk and sit in easy chair instead (You don’t have an easy chair in your office? Get one. For…research purposes. Sure.)

Dog follows me upstairs, stops for a few head scratches, then continues into bedroom for her morning nap on the bed. She is technically not allowed on the bed, but we seem to have forgotten to tell her that.

Flip on SportsCenter (You don’t have a TV in your office?? Get one. Again, more research purposes.). I use it, um, for background noise while going through email. So. Much. Email.

Tom Brady is going to the Bucs??? BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA


9:15 a.m.
Turn off the TV and head back downstairs to resolve any personal hygiene issues. This maybe includes a shower. Probably not.

Attempt to ignore anyone in the house who tries to distract me along the way.

9:25 a.m.
Walk back upstairs, stopping off in son’s room on the 2nd floor. He is, of course, still in bed.

Me: “Did you see Tom Brady is going to the Bucs?”

Him: “Yeah.” (This is pretty wordy for him.)


(note from Scott: BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!)

9:30 a.m.
Turn off the TV, gaze longingly at easy chair, but instead sit in my office chair at the desk. Continue answering email or begin working on high priority projects for the day.

Turn on music.

There is some strategy involved in my musical selection. If I am doing something where I need maximum focus and concentration – like reading grant proposals – then I will listen to something relaxing and without words (Miles Davis, John Coltrane) or with words I can’t understand (Sigur Ros, they sing in Icelandic.) If it’s something that takes less brain power – like entering scores into a spreadsheet – then I listen to something peppier (I won’t give any examples because everyone will just laugh at my inclination towards Dad Rock.) And if I’m doing something really mind numbing – like reading another one of Scott’s emails – then I really crank up the volume and listen to something like Rage Against the Machine or the Melvins.

10 a.m.
The cat saunters in.

He scratches at the easy chair, knocks over some papers, tries to eat a plant, and then insists on laying on the keyboard while I’m working.

He is basically just a big a-hole (sorry, I know this is a family website.)

Eventually he climbs down onto my lap, curls up, purrs, and falls asleep. All is forgiven.

10:30 a.m.
Snack time. God, I love snack time.

10:40 a.m.
On the way back from the kitchen, stop in each kid’s room to check on them.

They are both on a device of some sort, supposedly doing homework. It’s hard to tell anymore.

Neither one seems particularly thrilled to see me, so I move back up to my office.

Resume working.

11 a.m.
Conference call.

Whenever possible, I try to schedule my calls for 11 a.m. It’s my best time for a call. I finally feel awake enough to engage with other humans on an intelligent level, but lunch is right around the corner so the call can’t go too excessively long.

Sadly, it’s a rare day when I only have one call, so it really doesn’t matter.

Could this call have been an email? Of course.

11:30 a.m.
The dog finally climbs out of bed and makes her way back into my office, sticking her head in the trashcan.

She begins stretching, a sure sign she is ready to go out.

Yell down the stairs for someone to take the dog out. No response.

Stomp down the steps mumbling under my breath about being the only one working and still have to take the dog out.

11:45 a.m.
Ignore first email of the day from Scott.

Lunchtime! God, I love lunchtime.

My wife joins me for lunch and we chat. I have no idea where the kids are.

1-3 p.m.
Peak productivity, baby!

I am cranking out work like one of those cheesy manufacturing movies we used to watch in school that shows how pencils are made or something.

I am a well-oiled machine.

Nothing can stop me!

3 p.m.
The machine is out of oil.

I keep reading the same sentence over and over.

Time for coffee.

3:01 p.m.
Coffee time! God, I love coffee time.

Walking down the steps, I hold out a small hope that someone has made coffee for their dear old dad.

No one has.

3:30 p.m.
Ignore 2nd email from Scott asking why I am ignoring his first email.

4 p.m.
Work email has finally lightened up. Time to respond to Scott…

(note from Scott: Derek spent his Wednesday afternoon sending me play-by-play updates every 5 minutes from Game 2 of the 1980 NLCS between the Phillies and Astros. He was apparently watching this on his “research” TV while “working.” I mean, this was a game from 40 years ago! But yeah, I’m the one who overindulges in meaningless emails…) (note from Derek: I would deny this if it were not true.)

4:01 p.m.
Flood of work email comes pouring in. It never fails.

4:45 p.m.
The other cat walks into the office with a confused look on her face.

She is not an a-hole like the first cat, but is dumb as a brick.

She rarely comes up to the 3rd floor and is probably just lost.

She is riveted by a rubber band under the desk.

5 p.m.
I have lost all focus and the dog is whining to be let out. Again.

Work day over.





CMEpalooza is Still April 15

In a secret location somewhere in northwest Philadelphia, Derek and Scott meet to discuss Derek’s suggestion to delay CMEpalooza by a few weeks.

Derek: [sips coffee]

Scott: [strums fingers on table]

Derek: [sips more coffee]

Scott: [sighs deeply]

Derek: [sips even more coffee]

Scott: [glares]

Derek: [clears throat] “So-”


Derek: [nodding] “Fair poi-”

Scott: [slams door on way out] [peels out in driveway]

CMEpalooza is still on tap for Wednesday, April 15. We don’t anticipate that changing. Take care, everyone.

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.


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.

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.