Your Weekend Homework: CMEpalooza Pursuit

In these trying times, anything that changes up the same old boring routine is a welcome diversion.

“Hey kids, wanna go for a hike? (again)”

“Nah.”

“How about throwing a frisbee around in the park?”

“Not interested?”

“Maybe you can invite a friend over, both wear masks, face shields, body armor, and chain mail helmets?”

“Sounds boring.”

We get it, there just isn’t much left these days. Lucky for you, at least for this weekend, we’ve got fun for the whole family!

CMEpalooza Pursuit

Your kids will love learning about the many fine sponsors of CMEpalooza Fall (“Boy mom, I didn’t know that your work was so interesting. I want to learn more!”). You can perhaps even bribe them by saying, “Look, fill out the entry form, and we split the prize 50/50 if we win.” Then you tell them the prize is $50 (it’s really $100), and pocket the majority of the money. Everybody wins!

If you have forgotten how to play CMEpalooza Pursuit, all of the details are in this post. Entries are due by the end of day on Monday, so that gives you the entire weekend to cuddle up with your loved ones and dig in. You’re welcome.

CMEpalooza Pursuit: The Chase is On

I come from a big board game family. Growing up, we had pretty much all of them. Yes, there were the usual standards such as Monopoly, Clue, and Sorry! but we also had some more obscure gems such as Careers, Parcheesi, and Rummy Cube. I spent a lot of time lying on the rug in the den beating up my sister at all of these games. Good times.

That’s why it’s always fun when it comes time for our CMEpalooza Sponsor event. While I haven’t quite figured out how to replicate some of these board games for our format (yet), it does allow me to harken back to those days of yore.

With a record 28 sponsors for CMEpalooza Fall — not too late for your company to join in! — developing this fall’s event was quite a lot of work. Some of our previous game designs such as CMEpalooza Bingo!! would not work (only 25 spaces). But fortunately, others were just fine. And so, thanks to some help from our intrepid Fall intern TJ, we’re bringing back CMEpalooza Pursuit this fall for another go round. There are some brand new categories such as The 80s (natch) and Food and Drink to join the more traditional ones.

Here is how CMEpalooza Pursuit works:

  1. Click here to download the list of forms you will need, both the questions and the answer form
  2. 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.
  3. Complete the entry form by coming up with a correct response to one question in each category. That’s nine questions/answers in all.
  4. Added bonus this year — you can enter up to three times, as long as you select different sponsors in each category for each entry.
  5. Send your completed entry form to me via email at scott@medcasewriter.com by 5 p.m. ET on Monday, September 28.
  6. Take that 4-leaf clover and clutch it tightly to your chest

We’ll be giving away $500 in Amazon gift cards to our winners – there will be 5 winners of $100 each randomly selected from all of our correct entries. We’ve been doing these events for so long now that many of our most loyal players have won thousands of dollars thanks to our generosity. They hope you will be too overwhelmed by work and family that you won’t have time to play CMEpalooza Pursuit. Don’t let them quiet your voice! Find 15 minutes, complete your gameboard, and give yourself a shot at the big prizes.

And… go.

Setting Expectations

On March 12, the beginning of the pandemic lockdown in Philadelphia, I posted the following on Facebook:

Three weeks later:

Six months later (note from Scott: technically, five and a half, but whatever) and these same people are still in our houses, which is why I am hear to talk to you about setting appropriate expectations for the day of CMEpalooza, now less than a month away (Wednesday, October 14, if you forgot).

Let’s all be honest and admit that there is a nonzero chance that one of the following things will happen during any virtual conference:

  • A panelist’s video or audio feed glitches because they have multiple kids at home sucking up all the bandwidth with virtual school or watching episodes of Cobra Kai or both at the same time (both of my kids will be home for virtual school during CMEpalooza. Say a little prayer for me and Verizon FIOS on October 14.)
  • A viewer watching the livestream at home has their video start buffering or pausing. We sometimes get complaints about this in the eval comments, so it’s time for a little come-to-Jesus moment: It’s not us, it’s you. If the video you are watching starts buffering, it’s because of an issue with your internet…probably because you have multiple kids at home sucking up all the bandwidth with virtual school or watching episodes of Cobra Kai or both at the same time.
  • Someone’s kid/spouse/pet appears on screen because they didn’t realize or didn’t care that there was a video call going on. Frankly, at this point I’m disappointed when it doesn’t happen. Seriously, when was the last time someone’s cute kid or pet showed up on screen and it didn’t make you smile? We should start making it a requirement.
  • Power outage. It happens. Fortunately we can usually just have people use their phone and everything is fine. It’s not yet happened to Scott or me, but we have had some close calls (my power went out for 15 minutes one year.) My neighbors are currently having an addition put on to the back of their house and the idiots gentlemen working there have already cut our power once.

One of the unexpected pleasantries that has evolved from the bloom of pandemic-initiated virtual programming is that it has made me feel much better about the production value of CMEpalooza. Watching media monoliths like ESPN and CNN experience the exact same technical issues that we sometimes have during CMEpalooza has definitely been a boost to my self-esteem.

There will be glitches. There will be interruptions. There will be mistakes. The show will go on and it will be fine.

Because I know it will annoy Scott, I wrote a haiku to summarize the moral of this post. I call it Pandemic Haiku.

it’s fine it’s fine it’s
fine it’s fine it’s fine it’s fine
everything’s fine

(note from Scott: Don’t tell Derek, but once again he failed to count syllables properly — check line 3, doofus — so this is not technically a haiku and I am OK with it)

(note from Derek: You come at the king, you best not miss https://www.howmanysyllables.com/words/everything’s)

Feeding CMEpalooza

[3 months ago]

Derek and Scott return to their secret lair somewhere in northwest Philadelphia, last visited in March, to discuss Derek’s latest idea for CMEpalooza.

Scott: “OK, I’m here. What?”

Derek: “Now here me out on this, but what if we have a meal for everyone?”

Scott: [stares directly at Derek, a look of profound incredulity on his face]

Derek: “Pretty good idea, right?? I knew you would love it.”

Scott: [opens mouth to talk but says nothing as it continues to hang open]

Derek: “Go ahead — you can tell me how much you love it.”

Scott: “Um, don’t we run a virtual conference?”

Derek: “Correct!”

Scott: “There are no people physically here.”

Derek: “Yes.”

Scott: “There are no meals.”

Derek: “Right.”

Scott: [stands up to leave]

Derek: “No no no no no no….wait! Wait! Grubhub! Grubhub!”

Scott: [glaring] “What?’

Derek: [talking fast] “We can give everyone Grubhub vouchers. They’re only good for the day of the conference and people can use them to buy food to eat while watching a session.”

Scott: [slowly sits back down]: “That is…not a terrible idea. We can’t afford to send every participant who watches a voucher, though.”

Derek: “Maybe we can add it to the Sponsorship Prospectus and ask some of our amazing sponsors (who will definitely not read this in a blog post 3 months in the future) if they would like to support it.”

Scott: [folding his arms] “This is actually a pretty good idea. I like it.”

Derek: “Thank you.”

Scott: [eyeing Derek suspiciously] “What else?”

Derek: “Nothing.”

Scott: [still looking doubtful] “Really?”

Derek:“…so about that Sixers post I suggested back in Mar-”

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

We are still looking for sponsors for CMEpalooza Feeds the People, which you can read about it the Sponsorship Prospectus. If you are interested in supporting it or finding out more details, please email Scott at scott@medcasewriter.com.

 

CMEpalooza Virtual School Bingo!!

I know that many of my fellow parents have already begun the “school year like no other,” but for many of us in the Northeast, school begins the day after Labor Day (I checked my calendar and that’s today).

Seems like every work call now begins with “So what is your child/children doing this fall?” so that we can all commiserate about how much this all really, really sucks. There is always that little tinge of anger/jealousy when I hear another parent tell me that their child’s school is open even for 1 day a month. But hey, “We’re all in this together,” right? God how I hate that phrase right now.

Anyway, since CMEpalooza is a full-service event, I thought it might be helpful to provide you a Bingo card so that you can see how your day is going. Unfortunately, there is no prize for winning, but perhaps you can keep track of how quickly you can complete a row (horizontal, vertical, or diagonal) and see if you can set a personal record each week. I’m 10 minutes into the virtual school year and I’ve already checked off three boxes. This should be easy.

CLICK HERE FOR YOUR VERY OWN CMEPALOOZA VIRTUAL SCHOOL BINGO CARD

Educator, Teach Thyself

Why do we have CMEpalooza? Why do we have the Alliance conference? Why do we have the ACCME Newcomers’ meeting or CME Live or the Informa Connect–CBI’s Grants summit?

We have them to teach. We have them to learn. We have them to stay informed.

As CME professionals, it is resources such as these that we utilize to stay at the top of our game as we educate healthcare providers around the globe. We want and expect the most current and accurate information available. Never has this been more vital than in the middle of a pandemic where we are faced with the dual challenges of providing rapid education on a poorly understood disease and doing so via digital platforms that are unfamiliar to many.

[This is the part of the blog post where I channel my inner Grandpa Simpson and shake my fist at political clouds. If that sort of thing bothers you, now would be a good time to stop reading. I recommend clicking over to this article in Vulture that ranks every single Radiohead song.]

It has become even more important now, during a period of time where information that doesn’t align with a given individual’s world view is labeled “fake news” and ignored with no accountability. Facts, data, and research are brushed aside in favor of amplified opinions. Career politicians scoff at the advice of career infectious disease specialists. A governor denounces the notion of listening to experts for guidance in front of a nationally televised audience and is met with a collective shoulder shrug.

But we, the CME community, cannot afford to be this cavalier in our views towards data and expertise. These elements are the lifeblood of the work we do and provide the validity necessary to gain the trust of healthcare workers that rely on the education we provide. If we don’t believe in science, then science will not believe in us.

And so, I write this blog post to implore all of you – implore all of us – to educate yourself. Educate yourself so you are equipped to respond when someone questions you. Educate yourself so you have an evidence-based reason behind why you are doing what you are doing and not because, well, that’s just the way we have always done it. Educate yourself because no one else is going to do it for you.

The tagline for Dr. Jen Gunter’s blog is “Wielding the lasso of truth.” I thought this was pretty clever when I first read it 6 years ago, but it has taken on a new sense of urgency and rebellion these past few years. It is OK to be smart and it is OK to seek out those smarter than you for their advice.

CMEpalooza Fall is coming up on Wednesday, October 14 and there are going to be a lot of really smart people talking (much smarter than Scott or I. I can’t even remember my Netflix password) who can help you spin your lasso of truth. There are plenty of other resources currently available or coming soon. Here are just a few of them:

Live, In-Person Education? Now? Well, Yes

As some of you may be aware, I started my professional career as a journalist, more specifically a sportswriter for several small to mid-sized newspapers across the United States. I had a reputation for asking hard-hitting, no-holds-barred questions. Like these:

“Coach, why did you decide to call for a quarterback draw on 4th-and-20 down by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter?”

“Player X, seeing as how your team lost tonight’s game to your biggest rival by 30 points, do you regret staying out at the bars drinking until 2 am last night?”

How the Pulitzer committee overlooked my journalistic contributions continue to baffle me (if you have any sway over the voters, feel free to put in a good word for me).

I’m often asked by people if I miss daily journalism. My truthful answer is, “No, not really.” And it’s true. There are lots of things I don’t miss – the hours, the pay, the people (some of them). But I do miss the interviewing – being curious about something and getting the answers that satisfied my curiosity, and hopefully the curiosity of people who read the newspaper as well. These days, I get to do interviewing in some capacity every so often as part of my regular job when I have to talk to course faculty about something related to the goings on in their area of specialty, but it’s rare that I’m really super interested in the topic.

So when I saw recently that Primary Care Network (PCN) was planning on having a true, in-person live event next month in Hilton Head, SC, I figured it was time to dig out my “Scoop Kober” fedora (note from Derek: [rolls eyes]) and get some answers to the numerous questions I had on my mind. Jill Hays, Executive Director of PCN (yes, they are one of the many CMEpalooza sponsors this fall) was gracious enough to agree to an interview.

Here is the edited transcript of our conversation:

OK, so, um ,why? (I told you I ask the best questions!)

Our last live program was in March in Las Vegas right before everything kind of exploded with COVID. Even with that program, we got lots of phone calls where people were concerned, their employers weren’t allowing travel, but we still went ahead and did that program.

Not long after that is when things really hit hard, and we rescheduled all of our planned summer programs for next year. So that left Hilton Head, which was in September. At the time, we said, “Well, let’s see what happens,” and we held off on making any decisions for a few months. We were in close contact with the hotel, and they were very flexible with us, which unfortunately hasn’t been the case with all of the venues we had contracted with.

So we made the decision to move ahead with Hilton Head maybe a month and a half ago. We had quite a few people who had registered for the meeting, so I sent them all a survey to see how they are feeling about the event. The last thing I wanted to do was plan to move forward, and then 2 weeks before the program, everyone cancels and I don’t have a program. The survey asked about concerns regarding travel, if they had any travel restrictions from their employer, were they concerned about their safety being at this meeting, and then if we had to cancel the meeting, would they be willing to do a live webinar?

Our responses generally showed that yes, there were concerns, but that people still wanted to attend the live meeting. Based on those responses, we decided that there were enough people interested that we decided to move forward.

Our hotel was great in that they tore up our original contract and worked with us on the number of attendees we were now anticipating. Our sleeping room and food and beverage minimums came way down, which eased our burden and stress. The hotel obviously wanted to host the meeting for their own financial reasons, but they didn’t want to force us into something that wasn’t going to benefit us as well.

We didn’t do any recruitment for the meeting from March until later in the summer. And even then, we did have some people respond to us by saying, “Are you crazy? We’re in the middle of a pandemic!” and I completely understand where they are coming from. But I think there are lots of people with a different viewpoint, so if you don’t want to travel or you can’t travel, then you can do the live stream.

How many physicians have currently registered for the live, in-person meeting?

We currently have 45 registrants

Are most of the registered attendees local?

Typically, we recruit to physicians all over the United States, but for this program, almost everyone who has registered is from the East Coast.

What about the faculty? Are they going to be there on site?

We have two faculty presenters, both of whom will be at the conference. One of our original faculty had to pull out so we had to find a replacement for him. But one of our faculty is coming in from the West Coast, and both of these gentlemen are flying in.

What are the safety precautions being put in place? How is this going to look different than a typical PCN event?

First of all, we have a huge room. The venue was able to give us a big enough space to allow for adequate social distancing. We’re literally sitting one person per 6-foot table. Of course, if they are coming with someone, they can sit together.

We also worked with the venue to figure out how to serve the food. We usually serve a hot breakfast in the morning and have beverage service throughout the 3-day meeting. This year, there will be a server, but there will also be a buffet with plexiglass separating the attendees from the staff and food. Anything that can be prewrapped like muffins and bagels will be wrapped individually.

Then there are things like ARS. We usually have attendees use keypads that we distribute to them. But for this meeting, we’re using a different approach where they can log onto a website using their phone or their computer so that they don’t have to mess with keypads.

For registration, we’ll have packets ready in advance so that they can just grab them when they arrive.

Of course, we’ll also be following the hotel safety guidelines as well.

How many members of your team will be at the event?

We’ll have 3 staff and 2 faculty onsite. We usually send a few more people, but since this is a smaller meeting, we don’t need a big team to be there.

How nervous are they and how nervous are you about this?

I’m actually bringing my husband and son with me, only because they were supposed to come last year (note: that event was cancelled due to Hurricane Dorian). Honestly, I’m not excited about traveling by plane. That was a consideration. We spoke to our faculty and staff to make sure they were comfortable traveling to this program. We definitely don’t want to put anybody at risk or make anyone feel uncomfortable.

With things opening up a little bit and there being a shift where people are taking safety precautions a little bit more seriously with wearing masks and adhering to social distancing guidelines, I’m excited about it. I know one of our faculty considered driving to avoid the airlines, but it was a 10-12 hour drive, so he decided to fly.

Is there a real financial benefit to holding this event or are you doing it more to show that live, in-person education is possible in this environment?

We wouldn’t be moving forward with the program if it wasn’t to our financial benefit. I really didn’t want to cancel the program when we had so many people registered and interested. Obviously, we want to do this in the safest way we can, but yes, there is a financial benefit for us to hold this meeting.

 

 

Our Intern’s Rules of Survival

(Note from Scott: Intern TJ is back with her report on how things are going in her life. I challenged her to include three items in her next blog post – Silver Spoons, backgammon, and Kamala the Ugandan Giant – so let’s see how she did)

The setting…. a cozy living room turned hybrid classroom and office by day.

The characters…. one bright-eyed 5-year-old kindergartner, one brilliant and eager 16-year-old high school junior, and one mama/CME professional/eLearning homeschool facilitator.

The props… One HP laptop, one Google Chromebook, one MacBook pro, two iPhones, one color coordinated family wall calendar that incorporates everyone’s class and business meeting times, one kids’ folding table full of papers, books, an assortment of crayons, one very small desk, and one large desk (slightly organized).

As my fiancé walks through the living room to leave for work, he notes, “Our living room sounds like a busy call center.” An excellent analogy.

Like many families across the country, we weren’t blessed with “Silver Spoons(that’s one)  in our mouths, and this scene may sound familiar to many of you. Trying to get acclimated to a “new normal” that involves parents working from home while facilitating their children’s eLearning schedules can be a daunting and exhausting task. Not only are you expected to juggle your regular schedules (not easy for those of us who are preparing for our first virtual annual meeting), you also have to juggle the schedule for your children.

Maybe you are already used to working from home. Maybe you already are as organized as Marie Kondo. Nevertheless, I’d like to offer four rules that I swear by to help you survive another week:

  1. Those who fail to plan, plan to fail
    My weeks begin on Sunday. I generally start by making a meal plan that includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas for the week. For my kindergartner, that meal plan usually includes snacks. This is so important because it takes a task off my plate for the rest of the week.
  2. The early bird catches the worm
    I start every day at least 1 hour before my house is up. I take this quiet time to access emails, follow up on requests, and complete any task that was left undone the day before. I also make a list of what needs to be done for the day and refer to it throughout the day. By the time my family wakes up, I’m caffeinated and pretty ahead of the game.
  3. Take your lunches and break
    It’s not easy to separate work and home life when your home life is intertwined with work. But if you take a 15-minute break from your day and 30-60-minute lunch, it will help to rejuvenate you. What does that look like when working from home? Well, don’t use your break time and lunch to catch up on household chores. Treat your day as if you are away from home in the office. If you had to go to work every day, would you really fold clothes or do laundry on your lunch break?
  4. You are not in this alone
    We all have different techniques that work best for our households. Whatever you do, remember that you are not in this alone. There are more and more resources and tips available that you can access to help you get a jump on your progress.

Now… I’ll end this post with an ode to Kamala the Ugandan Giant (that’s two), who wrestled barefoot while wearing African War Paint for a mask; much like my kindergartner after hours, who wrestles with his dad barefoot in the living room. Enjoy!

(special aside from Scott: I worked at my college newspaper with a guy whose high school gym teacher was the very same George “The Animal” Steele shown in this video. True story.) 

(Not bad TJ. Got two of three, and probably the two hardest ones!)

The Many Faces of CMEpalooza

First things first. If you were hiding under a rock last week (side note: who came up with this expression? Hiding under a rock. No one hides under a rock. If you tried to hide under a rock, you would be dead. Dumb.) or not paying attention because you were too busy binging HBO’s Perry Mason (fantastic), you may have missed our release of the 2020 CMEpalooza Fall agenda. I think we have a number of really great sessions, but then I always think that, so you should check it out yourself.

And speaking of really great sessions, the CMEpalooza archive has been updated to include all of the sessions from CMEpalooza Spring (note from Scott: Never let it be said that Derek doesn’t work quickly. It’s only been, oh, 4 months since the Spring event). It is crazy how many sessions are in the archive now. I could count them all up and tell you exactly how many there are, but…I don’t feel like it. Let’s just go with an official designation of “a lot.”

For a visual representation of the amount of sessions Scott and I have produced, here is a collage of pictures of Scott or me from every session.

Because it is hilarious, each of these pictures is a screenshot of when Scott or I first appears on screen. A few things I noticed:

  • Scott has his eyes closed at least five times. I have no idea why, but it made me LOL each time.
  • I have my mouth hanging open in multiple pics. Not sure if I started talking too early or if I’m just staring dumbly into the camera like Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
  • Scott changes shirts in between sessions way more often than I realized. He is the the Lady Gaga of CMEpalooza.
  • I wore the same shirt for four different paloozas. I was mortified as I went through the pictures and realized it (“Oh no, not the same shirt again!”)

So, be sure to join us for CMEpalooza Fall on Wednesday, October 14 and find out if I break out the same shirt for a fifth palooza and count Scott’s wardrobe changes. It’s fun for the whole family.

It’s Catchy, It’s Addictive, It’s Fun – It’s the CMEpalooza Fall Agenda!

I spent a few minutes this weekend on YouTube with my son watching some of the great ’80s chewing gum commercials.

Big Red

Doublemint

Juicy Fruit

And the best one of all, Big League Chew

Perhaps it’s just because I was reliving childhood nostalgia, but man, they just don’t write product jingles like they used to. I have tried for years to convince Derek to create a CMEpalooza jingle, but apparently, if it’s not a haiku, his brain simply can’t compute.

In the ’80s, it was these product jingles that set brands apart. You’d walk into the neighborhood drug store (Thrift Drug for me [Drug Fair for me -Derek]), scan the rows of gum choices, immediately set aside Trident and Dentyne (“Yuck”), take one step toward Bubble Yum Bananaberry Split before being rapped on the head by mom or dad (“It’s all sugar!”), and then head straight to the gum that represented your favorite jingle. They had the catchiest tune, so surely their gum must be good, right? We were such idiots.

It’s in that spirit of creativity that we present to you today the CMEpalooza Fall agenda. Back when we were the only virtual live event for the CME industry, we knew that we could trot out any old slop and people would watch (we didn’t, of course, but we could have [note from Derek: good save.]). Now, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to up our game. Everyone wants a piece of what used to exclusively be our domain, so we’ve been extra thoughtful in putting together a creative agenda for CMEpalooza Fall (Wednesday, Oct. 14 – mark your calendars).

We have our first-ever whodunit. Another winner-take-something (or nothing?) trivia contest. Project managers get put into the spotlight for the first time. And then, of course, we tackle some of the big issues of the day (social justice, COVID-19), but in an interesting, unique way that will hopefully keep your attention.

We’ll have much more information on each of these sessions soon (and hopefully will fill in the few remaining “TBA” slots) but for now, take a gander at the Fall agenda while you hum your favorite product jingle. If you are feeling really inspired, maybe you can save Derek some time and come up with the official CMEpalooza jingle. We promise to give you partial credit.