A Letter to Our Fans

Dear CMEpalooza Groupie,

Camp is great. I like my new friends. The food stinks. We threw our counselor in the pool today. I hit the bulls-eye in archery.

And now that you are paying attention, it’s your turn to write a letter to our CME Advice Columnists so that they can help during our CMEpalooza Fall session.

What has you corporately confused, confounded, or cantankerous?

Do you often find yourself professionally perplexed, perturbed, or petulant?

Perhaps you simply want to complement my awesome, amazing, and astounding use of alliteration this morning?

It’s all fair game (well, most of it is). Just submit your letter in the form below and wait until Wednesday, October 18 to get the answers from our expert panel. Deadline to send in your letter – no stamp needed! – is this Friday (September 29).

Looking for CME Advice? Step Right Up

There are days — too many days — when we all come to work and have to bite our tongues or roll our eyes or slam our door in frustration when something happens that just MAKES US WANT TO EXPLODE.

Maybe it’s that co-worker who calls out “sick” for the 10th time this month, and every one of those days just happens to include a warm, sunny afternoon (and miraculously, she’s always better by the next morning). Maybe it’s that educational partner who refuses to answer email after email, forcing timelines to shift into summer, then fall, then winter. Maybe it’s that colleague who insists on writing a 25-page outcomes report for that 15-minute educational activity, squeezing out every last drop of picayune data because “it’s what funders expect.”

Sure, you could schedule time with a psychiatrist every week to talk through these issues, drop a couple thousand dollars each year, and perhaps get some clarity into how to deal with your professional nemesis. But in CMEpalooza land, as always, we have a FREE solution for you.

It’s our brand-new CMEpalooza Fall session – “The CME Advice Columnists.” What we’ve done is gather some of the smartest and most resilient people in our field, each representing a different specialty of the CME world — accreditation, outcomes, educational design, and grant development/partnerships — on an all-star panel to chew on that issue that is just really, really eating at you right now.

We all remember the dynamic duo of Dear Abby and Ann Landers. This is sorta kinda the same thing. You write us a short letter describing your issue, the mental gymnastics you are going through each day, and hopefully wrap things up with a question or two you’d like answered. Our panel then talks through their advice during our CMEpalooza Fall session.

Here is an example of a letter they might consider (as you’ll see, this clearly has no identifying elements that tie to any specific individual):

Dear CME Advice Columnists,

I have done a lot of work on this big event for a number of years in conjunction with another semi-prominent member of the CME community. Hmm, how do I put this gently? The dude is weird. He has this obsession with ’80s music, proudly and loudly tells everyone he meets that he’s “such an introvert,” and punctuates every conversation and email with the phrase, “Trust the Process.”

It’s not that this guy doesn’t have his redeeming qualities, but it’s becoming increasingly painful to have to suffer through his daily missives that clog my inbox. How do I politely tell him that he needs to keep our interactions more professional and focused on, you know, actual work?


Trust the Results 

Of course, these letters can be (and probably should be) anonymous. If you want to fudge some of the facts, that’s totally fine as well. But we do truly hope our panel can be helpful in solving some of the common problems that plague CME professionals.

Now here comes the hard part – this session won’t be a success without your help (well, unless you all want to hear about all of Derek and my issues). We’re asking our CMEpalooza friends — that’s you– to write letters to our advice columnists regarding whatever professional issue you are currently struggling with. Note that we specified professional issues. Your problems with your meddling mother-in-law are for a different forum.

Our submission form is below – again, since this is anonymous, I don’t want anyone to feel that you need to list your name or even send me an email. Really, we don’t care who the letters come from, as long as they focus on real-world issues that would be interesting to discuss.

Our audience did pretty well submitting questions for our no-holds barred interview with Graham McMahon, so we’re hoping you can rally again this week. We’ll keep this open until the end of September (that’s Saturday the 30th).

Have fun with this everyone. And thanks in advance.

Last Chance to Submit Questions for Our “Chatting With Graham McMahon” Session

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Graham McMahon awaits your questions
Submit them in the form below

(What, you were expecting a poem? That’s not really my thing. Scott’s the poetry guy around here. He always has a haiku or sonnet at the ready. I’m more interested in you submitting your question for our Chatting With Graham McMahon session before the deadline closes at the end of today. Go do it now. The form is below.)

CMEpalooza Greatest Hits: The Early Years

Reader Alert: Here comes another ’80s nostalgia piece. We know how you love them.

But before I begin, a reminder from Derek – if you have a question (or multiple questions) you’d like ACCME president Graham McMahon to field during his CMEpalooza Fall no-holds barred interview, please go to this link and send something in:


Deadline is tomorrow (Wednesday, Sept. 12).

And now to rip another page from my childhood…

Anyone over the age of, say, 30, probably remembers these things we used to call “albums.” They were on “records” and then on “tapes” and then finally, “CDs.” Why did I just put everything in quotes? I have no idea.

But anyway, these albums were a compilation of a singer or band’s most recent creations. Records would have an A and B side, with perhaps 5 or 6 songs on each side. If you had an album on cassette, it would take 45 minutes to fast forward through that 8-minute love ballad so that you could get to that catchy tune you just heard on the radio 10 minutes ago but JUST COULDN’T WAIT to hear again. The advent of CDs meant that you would hear the music with crystal clear audio for at least 1 week until your college roommate scratched the CD while using it as a coaster, therefore causing it to skip at the 1:25 mark of your favorite Yes tune (that would be Roundabout [note from Derek: this may be the first thing we have ever agreed on]).

Now where was I?

Oh right, albums. So anyway, there was this crazy phenomenon in the 80s called the “Greatest Hits” album (uh, oh, there are those quotes again). What a singer or band would do is, with basically zero work required, select a dozen or more of their most popular songs and compile them on a Greatest Hits album that their fans would gobble up by the millions. The best part is that you didn’t even have to have greatest hits (plural) to put out a Greatest Hits album – only one hit (singular) was enough!

Don’t believe me? Flock of Seagulls has a Greatest Hits album that has 36 songs! 36 fricking songs! Flock of Seagulls! Still love the hairdos boys.

Want more? Here is the Greatest Hits album from Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Before you Frankie-o-philes start to complain, I have one word for you – RELAX (rimshot).

Now don’t get me wrong. I have no issue with the general idea of Greatest Hits albums. They were a great way to accumulate the best songs from those singers or bands you sorta kinda liked but not enough to buy all their albums. I still have plenty of Greatest Hits albums in my CD collection.

It is in that spirit of generosity that I am writing this today. No, Derek and I are not going to replacing next month’s CMEpalooza Fall with a Greatest Hits edition where we simply replay the best sessions of the past – we’re lazy, but not that lazy.

But we do recognize that our current Archives are getting rather beefy and for people looking for a really useful session, it can be hard to figure out which sessions are worth the time. So as a public service, here are Derek and my selections for CMEpalooza Greatest Hits: The Early Years, along with some very brief commentary:

Scott’s “Greatest Hits”

Derek’s “Greatest Hits”

  • CME Pecha Kucha (2015) – I love all the Pecha Kuchas/Puntua Lortus, but the first one holds a special place in my heart because I had no idea if it would actually work, everyone did a great job, and Audrie Turnow literally made my jaw drop with how fantastic her presentation was. That doesn’t happen very often.
  • The Future of CME: What Will CME/CPD Look Like in 5-10 Years? (2014) – The very first session of the first “real” CMEpalooza and we somehow managed to get this amazing panel to participate and chat about the future of CME. This is when I started to think we might be on to something…
  • CME Mythbusters (2016) – Brian McGowan is always one of my favorite presenters, but I thought he really took things to the next level with this CME version of MythBusters. Anytime there’s an explosion involved in a presentation, it’s going to make my Greatest Hits.
  • Why Did My Grant Request Get Rejected? (2015) – Our grantor sessions are always popular, but I picked this one mostly for the title. No B.S. and right to the point.
  • Tech Tools We Can’t Live Without (2014) – Maybe the session I received the most comments about, due mostly to the lead-off presentation from Tom Zosh and his iPhone simulation (no offense to the other panelists. You guys were great, too.) A cool screenshare presentation plus some great tips, too!

Call for Questions for Our “Chatting With Graham McMahon” Session

Do you have a burning question (or even a lukewarm question) you have always wanted to ask ACCME President and CEO Graham McMahon?

Do you have a laptop, mobile phone, or tablet?

Do you have access to the internet?

Well, today is your lucky day! For the next week, we are accepting questions for our Chatting With Graham McMahon session at CMEpalooza Fall, moderated by Lawrence Sherman, FACEHP, CHCP, Senior Vice President of Educational Strategy at TOPEC Global. Just fill out the form below and submit your question by the end of the day on Wednesday, September 13.

In typical CMEpalooza fashion, our goal is to keep the conversation lively and fun for everyone, so we’re not putting any restrictions on the types of questions you can ask. However, we do have limited time, so I can’t guarantee that your question will be asked, but we will do our best to tackle as many as possible.

The introvert in me has decided to make the name and organization fields optional. You don’t have to provide them if you’re not comfortable doing so, but it’s nice to know where a question is coming from. As always, thanks to all for participating!


“The Dog Ate My Laptop?” You Can Do Better

We all have a few unique skills that don’t show up on a resume but are nonetheless vital to everyday success on a personal and professional level.

Perhaps you know someone who can whip up a gourmet 5-course meal from a package of Ramen noodles, leftover chicken pot pie, and a limp celery stick.

Perhaps you have the ability to drive with your knees going 85 mph on the highway while texting your co-worker about a vital project (I won’t tell the cops).

Derek can whistle “Jimmy Crack Corn” in the key of F minor like a pro. Next time you see him, ask for a rendition.

Me? I’m an excellent liar.

While that may be hardly something you’d think someone would be proud of, I am. It’s not a skill that I necessarily tried to develop, but rather something that evolved over time. There are some secrets to being a skilled liar that I’ll reveal in a moment, though it’s important to recognize that I use my powers only for good (don’t worry, I won’t try to swindle your elderly parents out of their retirement savings). I’m kind of like a superhero that way — a really, really lame superhero.

So why am I telling you this?

Every year, we receive emails from a few people that go something like this:

“I’m so sad that I can’t watch the live CMEpalooza broadcasts this year, but my boss just put an all-day staff training on the calendar that day. I’ll try to catch the archives for sure.”

Or this:

“Can you believe that our hospital won’t give us time for professional development the whole month of October? Hopefully when November rolls around, I’ll be able to check out the archives.”

Now look, we appreciate everyone who checks into our archives, especially after Derek recently spent hours and hours (so he claimed) sprucing them up to make them more convenient for our audience. Our rigorous team of data analytic interns tell us each year that we get approximately the same number of people watching an archived session as the live version.

But in truth, we all know how the world goes. Life gets busy, priorities move up the list, and you simply forget about that important thing you wanted to do (ie, watch our archived sessions). Plus, you can’t ask questions in real-life on the archives like you can with our live broadcasts. And really, don’t you want a day to vegetate on the couch taking in a full-day of top-notch education without a care in the world? Maybe you have one of those fancy doo-hickeys that lets you project a YouTube feed (which is essentially what our broadcasts are) onto your 65-inch wall mounted TV – if you haven’t seen Derek in HD recently, you are really missing out.

So as a public service, I’ll let you in on some of basics of being a skilled liar that will get you out of that pesky staff training on Wednesday, Oct. 18:

1. Include just enough specifics to make the lie believable — This is really the key to a good lie. Let’s say someone asks me this morning, “What are the odds that the Philadelphia 76ers win the NBA championship this year?” If I say, “Probably around 100-1” that doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. But if I say, “82-1,” that is much more believable both because it is specific and it is not a round number (ie, one that ends with a zero). It doesn’t matter if that is actually true or not, because at the end of the day, who really cares? That is what makes it an effective, superhero lie that hurts no one.On the flip side, don’t say, “At Circus Circus in Las Vegas, they are listed at 90-1, while at Westgate Jamaica, they are listed at 125-1.” That’s just weird and brands you as some sort of savant no one will want to sit next to at lunch.

Examples of how to use this to craft your CMEpalooza excuse

  • “My son came down with a 102.3 degree fever last night and I need to stay home with him today. I’ll check email though.”
  • “We finally saved enough money to buy a new king-sized bed and the delivery is coming between 9-3. They told me if I’m not here for the delivery, I’ll have to wait another month. I’ll check email though.
  • “It’s my 12-year wedding anniversary and my wife said she planned something special for the morning. She’d be really mad if I had to work that day. I’ll check email as much as I can.”

2. Don’t create a lie with long-standing repercussions — For instance, you don’t want to claim that you just received a call from your Hollywood-bound stylist that he just got a cancellation for a 10:20 a.m. appointment and you’ve been waiting for months to get that “new look” all the stars are sporting. That’s kinda going to easily fall apart the next day.

3. Don’t feel guilty — Remember, you are lying for a very, very good cause. Lies should be saved for these kinds of important things. To this day, my wife still thinks I bailed on my son’s super-duper cute preschool concert/screamfest because I was invited to speak at a “professional event.” I’ve seen the video – I missed nothing.

There are some other subtle nuances I could add in here, but this is just a starter course. Being a lying superhero takes practice and persistence, just like the development of any other important skill. Starting your training with CMEpalooza Fall is the perfect time. And that’s the truth.

BIG Archive Update

BIG update to the archive, guys. BIG BIG update. Yes, I’ve added all the sessions from CMEpalooza Spring 2017, but that’s not the BIG update. No, the BIG update is much bigger. Much much bigger.

Are you ready for it?

Maybe you should sit down first.

OK, here we go.

The BIG archive update is this: I added the presentation year after the name of each session so you would know how old it is.


Amazing, right??? No? Yeah, I know. It’s hard to make an archive sexy, if you know what I mean. We do have over 70 sessions in the archive now, so that’s pretty cool. And adding the year is helpful for people who…want…to know…the year. OK, it’s still not that great, but we have lots of free videos. Check it out sometime.



Whatever Happened to Johnny?

You guys remember Johnny? He lived deep down in Louisiana, close to New Orleans. Wa-a-ay back up in the woods, among the evergreens. Had himself a log cabin made of earth and wood. He never ever learned to read or write so well, but he could play a guitar just like a-ringing a bell. Remember that guy?

Little known fact about Johnny: He used to work on the docks. Then the union went on strike, he got down on his luck and it was tough. So tough. Last we heard, his girlfriend was dreaming of running away and Johnny was caught up in a vortex of self-defeating ennui, claiming that it didn’t make a difference if they made it or not. Things looked bleak.

So, who’s Johnny (she’s said. And smiled in her special way)?

He turned to a life in CME as an outcomes specialist, of course. We were a little late in adding a description to our Outcomes: A Study in Three Acts session, but that was only because the individuals involved in the session were busy tracking down Johnny and recording his life story. You can now read an overview of what they found on our agenda page. Be sure to join Jason Olivieri, Andrew Bowser, and Jamie Reiter at 3 p.m. ET on October 18 as they follow along with Johnny as he learns about study design, data collection, and analysis. At the end, we’ll all have some practical new tools for enhancing our outcomes practice.

Something New for Our Sponsors

You may have noticed (or not, in which case you should look now) that the CMEpalooza Sponsor page is pretty packed these days. For the first time in the history of CMEpalooza, we’re officially sold out of both our Gold and Silver level sponsorships for CMEpalooza Fall, and we’re still more than 2 months from our live broadcast date.

Before I continue along to some of the new stuff, I wanted to recognize all of those wise organizations who have currently chosen to align themselves with our event as Official CMEpalooza Sponsors:

  • Gold Sponsors — Genentech and Prova Education
  • Silver Sponsors — ASiM, Forefront Collaborative, Global Academy for Medical Education, Integrity CE, Practicing Clinicians Exchange
  • Bronze Sponsors — Academy for Continued Healthcare Learning, Clinical Care Options, CMEology, HighMarksCE, Impact Education, Kynectiv, Primary Care Network, PVI, RMEI, Thistle Editorial

In his usual meandering post that took 1,000 words to get to the point (Hey, I was on vacation. I had time. -DW), Derek wrote about the challenges of constantly needing to be creative to come up with new ideas for our Spring and Fall broadcasts. It’s the same story with our sponsorship opportunities – it’s easy to just trot out the same things every year, but we try to come up with some new ideas when and where we can.

In that vein, today we are trotting out two new sponsorship opportunities for CMEpalooza Fall, both of which are included within our updated Sponsorship Prospectus:

  • #CMEpalooza Mega-Blog — On 1 specific date prior to CMEpalooza Fall, we’ll open up our blog to members of the CME community, who will all be asked to write a short (250-300 words) essay on a specific topic related to CME. Maybe it’s “The Day I Learned That CME Makes a Difference” or “Why We Love Our CME Community” – we’re not sure and we can work with you on an interested sponsor.
  • #CMEpalooza Chat — A few years back, there used to be a periodic moderated CME chat on Twitter that was pretty popular and was a good way to get people talking about important issues in our industry. This would be a Sponsored reincarnation of that chat, where Derek and I (and/or another invited moderator) would coordinate a Twitter discussion on specific topics during 4, 30-minute blocks on a specific date prior to CMEpalooza Fall. Again, we could work with the sponsor on the specific topics for each discussion block.

There are other opportunities that remain available as well — we take an unlimited number of Bronze sponsors, for instance. The CMEpalooza Q&A Line is still available for the Fall as well. I’m not even going to mention poor CMEpalooza Spotlight anymore.

So take a look and let us know if you are interested. Things are moving fast these days so probably best not to wait too long.

On a totally unrelated note, a quick personal plug: I know how much our audience likes FREE things, so if you are at all interested in history (especially Philadelphia history), you can follow along with me as I give a FREE Twilight Tour of Independence National Historic Park this Friday (that’s Aug. 18) from 6-7 p.m. on Facebook Live. Just go to this link – the promo photo is terrible, but that’s out of my hands: www.facebook.com/FINHP. You can ask questions and everything, right along with the tourists on the actual walking tour itself.

Stranger Things, the Atari 2600, and a Quest for New Ideas

I have a confession to make: I’m a sucker for ‘80s nostalgia. I recently finished watching Netflix’s 8-episode ode to the ‘80s, Stranger Things, which quickly sucked me in with its bad fashion (garish sweaters paired with high-waisted, acid-washed jeans), synth-heavy soundtrack, and old school D&D role playing. It sort of has an ET meets The Goonies meets Stand By Me vibe to it. I dug it.

One of the most entertaining books I’ve read recently is Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, which is like manna to any child of the ‘80s. I particularly appreciated Cline intentionally going beyond the typical tropes of the time period and giving us more of an ‘80s deep dive. He didn’t just reference the Atari 2600 game console, but also ColecoVision and Intellivision. Not just Pac-Man, but Pitfall and Joust, too. I thought it was brilliant.

(Side note: lest you think I am an Atari 2600 snob, please note that when asked to consider the best Christmas gift I ever received, I continue to cite the Christmas of 1983 when my parents pulled the old Well-I-Guess-We-Have-Given-Out-All-The-Presents-Oh-Hey-What’s-This-Hidden-Behind-The-Sofa-Now-How-Did-That-Get-There trick, when what to my disbelieving eyes should appear but a brand new Atari 2600, complete with included games Combat and Action Pak, paddle controllers, and joysticks. It was an amazing moment and I still give my parents – now in their 70’s – kudos for pulling it off.)

(Second side note: Activision’s Pitfall was the greatest game ever on the Atari 2600 and if you disagree, I will fight you. The worst game? E.T. You can read about it here. Rumor has it that it was so horrible, they buried thousands of cartridges somewhere in New Mexico. It deserved an even worse fate.)

Recently, a friend of mine posted a meme on Facebook that showed a beautiful nature scene with a gurgling brook, radiant wildflowers, trees bursting with fall colors, a butterfly in mid-flight, and two towheaded little boys playing happily. The caption in white Arial font read: “They’ll never remember their best day watching TV.” I heartily disagreed as I absolutely remember my best day watching TV. I don’t remember the specific date – I’m guessing sometime in 1984 – but I do remember what I watched: Inspector Gadget, Charlie’s Angels (rerun), Magnum P.I., and Simon & Simon. This was a momentous occasion because generally I was only allowed to watch one hour of TV a day. Being allowed to watch 3 ½ hours straight blew my mind. Did it help that my mom was away and it was only me and my dad (who I’m pretty sure watched more TV after I went to bed) at home? That’s probably a safe bet.

(Now…where was I going with this…I had a point I was trying to make…hmmm…Scott and I are the modern day Rick and A.J. Simon of CME?…no, that’s not it…I should grow a mustache like Tom Selleck?…well, yes, of course, but I don’t think that was my point…oh, I remember…)

The trouble with nostalgia and reflecting too much on the past is that it keeps us stuck in a rut. We have fond memories of these periods in time, but we don’t really want to still be there. Does anyone miss leg warmers? Is anyone sad that we don’t still play Pong? Scott and I do our best to keep CMEpalooza fresh, but it can be a struggle to keep from doing the same topics, the same types of sessions, and repeating faculty. Don’t get me wrong; I think the agenda for CMEpalooza Fall is one of the best we have ever put together and I’m really excited for it. But every year, it gets a little harder to come up with new ideas.

So, I’m here to ask for your help. If you have an original idea for CMEpalooza, we would love to hear about it. It can be a topic, a new speaker, an idea for improving audience participation, a new format for a session, or a new form of poetry I should use instead of CMEpalooza Haiku (impossible!). Maybe you want to guest write a blog post. We’re interested in hearing about anything – the crazier the better (Scott probably disagrees with that part, but this is my blog post so I get to write what I want.)

No guarantees that we will use your idea, but if we do, we will let you know that we’re interested and ask if and how much you would like to be involved. Our email addresses are below for you to use to contact us. We look forward to hearing from you!

Derek – theCMEguy@gmail.com

Scott – scott@medcasewriter.com