Recommend A Program Manager (Please?)

The planning for CMEpalooza Fall on Wednesday, October 14 is well underway, and to the amazement of the entire CMEpalooza staff, I manged to finalize the moderators for all of the sessions I am running before Scott finalized his. This is truly a momentous occasion as it is perhaps the first time it has happened since the very first palooza Scott and I did back in the fall of 2014.  For those of you wondering if we really make this a competition, I tell you the same thing I tell my wife whenever she asks me the same question: Everything is a competition. Sometimes I just don’t tell you.

(note from Scott: I actually have had my moderators in place for 6 weeks. I just didn’t say anything to Derek. The guy needed a win. I am tired of hearing the same story over and over about how his 7th-grade basketball team won the state CYO championship).

One of the sessions I am particularly excited about is one that comes directly from a suggestion we received on our most recent post-CMEpalooza survey: Program Managers: We Get the Job Done! As you can probably infer from the title, the session will be focused on providing participants with a number of program management tips, best practices, workflows, etc., that program managers (heretofore abbreviated to “PMs” for convenience. Also because I’m never sure if it should be “program” or “project” manager, and this covers both bases) of all levels can utilize.

Christina Hosmer-Gallo, Senior Vice President of Educational Development at Med Learning Group, will be moderating the session, and we are hoping to have a panel of experienced program managers joining in on the conversation. Here is our current conundrum: PMs are often the behind-the-scenes kinds of folks who don’t get a lot of exposure to the broader CME community. So we don’t really know a lot of the ones who are really, really good at what they do (and preferably aren’t camera shy).

So what’s the solution? Well, you are, my good friend. As part of the process for putting the panel together, Christina and I would love to get some recommendations from the CME community for PMs you have worked with who would potentially be a good fit for this session. It can be someone you have worked with in a partnership, someone who works for your organization, or someone you talked to at a conference and thought was really smart. Or you can recommend yourself — we don’t mind!

You can use the form below to submit your recommendation. We will leave it up for a week and make the deadline the end of the day on Monday, July 27. We will take another week to review the recommendations and then reach out to the individuals we think will make the best panel (our goal is to have a panel of 3 or 4). Make sense?

If for any reason you prefer to email me rather than fill out the form below, you can send your recommendation to

Picking My Brain on Live Virtual Education

Earlier this week, Derek and I were interviewed for a MeetingsNet article focused on (what else?) how the world of CME has changed in these last few months as the shift to virtual live education has gained steam. Apparently, since we’ve been doing this CMEpalooza thing way before virtual live education became cool, we’re supposed to have some sort of useful insight to share. Sadly, we spent most of the conversation debating which was the coolest of the Keebler Elves (did you know they all have names? Yes, yes, they do. Buckets is my guy).

That’ll teach anyone in the future to expect anything of significance to come out of our mouths.

But I guess since you’re here and everything, I might as well make myself useful and offer some personal observations based on what I’ve witnessed over the course of the last few months related to live virtual education:

  1. If you build it, they will come
    I suspect there was some initial consternation over whether there was going to be an audience for virtual live education. But with so many people in so many industries (and yes, even healthcare) working from home or working unusual hours, the attendance for many live broadcasts has been somewhat of a shocker. The viewership for CMEpalooza Spring far surpassed any previous year’s event, and I know that a few of the larger specialty societies had their servers crash due to extraordinary levels of traffic.
  2. The days of bad connections and shoddy audio/video are over (almost)
    In the early days of CMEpalooza, there would inevitably be a session where we couldn’t get someone’s video to work or the audio would trail way behind the video images. That’s been pretty rare in the last year, and it’s not only because Derek and I are really, really good at what we do (note from Derek: we’re not.) Online A/V technology has gotten much better and even the default camera on your laptop or phone will typically provide a pretty crisp image. It’s the rare live online session I’ve watched over the course of the last few weeks where I said, “Ew, that looks/sounds pretty terrible.” And with 5G right around the corner, things will only get better.
  3. The bells and whistles surrounding online platforms have gotten fancier (and probably more expensive) but they still can’t cover up bad ideas and bad content.
    There are still too many people who are falling prey to unproven gimmicks that turn out to be either very confusing for attendees or simply don’t work. I attended one online event where they took a room of 100 people and divided us up into breakout groups of 8 people. We were told, “Here are the 5 things we want you to talk about in the next 15 minutes. And… breakout!” In my breakout room, we ended up staring at each other for 2 minutes in total silence, one person disconnected due to the awkwardness, and then we wasted the next 10 minutes mostly talking about nonsense. One of those ideas that may have sounded promising, but just didn’t work. At all.
  4. There is a lack of creativity on session design
    Pretty much every session I have attended has been the same – one or more presenters, a handful of slides (usually), maybe a polling question or two, and then some Q&A from the audience. There hasn’t been a single time I’m walked away from a session and said, “Hey, that was pretty cool.” Maybe it’s because a lot of us are still getting used to the functionality of online platforms, but think bigger people!
  5. Don’t make me look at other people
    Derek sent me a screenshot last week from a session he attended where one of the people watching spent the better part of the hour eating his lunch. Derek said it was a “big salad.” Presumably, not the famous “big salad” from Seinfeld, but it looked pretty hearty. One of my least favorite things about some of the current online platforms is having to watch people who aren’t among the presenters. It’s quite distracting. And I certainly don’t want people looking at me, although I know how to turn off my camera (I guess some people don’t). Figure out a way to disable this (note from Derek: Agreed. Massive Zoom calls with 400 people on camera are dumb. Thus ends my contributions to this blog post.)
  6. The financial puzzle remains the big conundrum
    Then there is the big question, “Do live virtual events have staying power?” We’re not talking about CMEpalooza – we’re not going anywhere. It’s more about that 5,000 person multi-day conference or that 300-person satellite symposium or even that 25-person grand rounds. Remember that many of these surround hugely profitable events that drive the budget for lots of organizations. A 1-year blip is painful but likely not devastating. But can some organizations survive if this is a long-term shift? I honestly doubt it. Maybe the hybrid solution will become more popular – please God, don’t make that mean a simulcast of a 3-hour symposium with nothing more than a video feed – though I guess we’ll have to see what the market will bear.



Welcome to Our CMEpalooza Fall Intern

It should surprise no one that Derek is a natural pessimist. Virtually any time I ask him a question where he has to guess a number that speaks to the popularity of CMEpalooza (ie, “How many people do you think will watch our live sessions?” or “How many sponsors do you think we’ll get this year?”), he usually predicts some ridiculously low number that causes me to roll my eyes. Fortunately, he’s been wrong far more often than he’s been right (note from Derek: this is accurate.)

And so when we set on a search for our CMEpalooza Fall intern – mind you, even after a successful kickoff of our Spring internship program —  his prediction on the number of applicants we’d get was roughly equivalent to the number of Pulitzer Prizes this blog is bound to win in the future (that would be “Zero.” OK, maybe he predicted “1.”).

Fortunately, Mr. Pessimism was wrong once again and the applications came in waves, despite the challenge we posed to our prospective interns to write us a haiku (for those who botched it, it’s 5-7-5. Probably good to remember for the future).

Of the many worthy applicants, we both picked the same person, meaning that there would be no virtual arm wrestling match to figure out who would be chosen. And so with that, let’s all welcome our Fall intern to the mix.

Hello CMEpalooza Family!

My name is Tejuana Moore, but everyone calls me TJ. I’m beyond thrilled to be the Fall intern for CMEpalooza! I’m working on having my business cards printed right away.

Tejuana (TJ) Moore
CMEpalooza Fall Intern

I think it has a nice ring to it! I’ll admit that when I received an email from Scott and Derek on Monday, I was reading it thinking that I had not been selected. I read the email at least three times before it sunk in that I had in fact been chosen for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

So a little about myself. When I was younger, I used to pretend that I was a CME professional for all types of medical specialties. I imagined reading through disclosures to make sure that faculty members were in fact eligible to present or plan the content. I pretended to write out designation and accreditation statements on activities that had CME credit attached to them. I especially loved pretending to calculate how many hours of CME an activity received. And now, I’m living my dream.

…Just kidding of course.

Like all of you, I literally stumbled into the CME world. I started my career as an annual meeting coordinator for a nonprofit organization. Although the work was daunting and repetitive, I soon realized that this work was the stem to the core of the organization’s success. The core of the annual meeting was the education sessions. This intrigued me, so I moved on to governance and education, since 98% of the sessions at the annual meeting were selected by committees. Once I realized the important role of the education created by specialty societies in the careers of their members, I understood why CME was such an intricate piece of the puzzle. And, so here I am, having served in my current role as CME Manager at the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology for a little over a year.

My ultimate professional goal, at least for now, is to become a CME guru, which is why I applied to be the CMEpalooza Fall intern. I hope to learn as much as I possibly can during my internship and glean valuable experience from these two talented and witty gentlemen (Scott, of course, is the more talented and wittier of the two) (note from Scott: I don’t write this stuff. Honest. I just confirm its accuracy) (note from Derek: This is an outrage! Scott is brainwashing the interns before I get a chance to brainwash the interns!)

I have followed the CMEpalooza blog for some time now and have had the opportunity to tune into four live CMEpalooza events. I can say with confidence that working with this team is a “CME Dream come true.”


We Need to Have a Chat About CMEpalooza — Part III

Hey gang! Derek here. I wanted to have a little chat with all of you about CMEpalooza (Yes, again. I originally posted this in 2017, then again in 2018, but some people never learn.) Not the actual Fall event, mind you. Until we have the agenda totally set (we’re working on it), we don’t have much more to tell you about it, though Scott will undoubtedly have an update on our intern search soon (note from Scott: He’s right. I will).

No, what I wanted to chat about today is the continuation of a disturbing trend, and one that I want to try and bring to an end. I’m here to talk to you about the word “CMEpalooza.”

Here’s the thing — it’s”CMEpalooza.” It’s not “CMEPalooza” or “CMEPALOOZA” or “CMEpallooza” or…(ugh)…”CME palooza.” It’s one word with the first three letters capitalized. It’s a mash up of “CME” and “palooza.” It’s a palooza of CME. It’s CMEpalooza.

In one of the first emails Scott sent me when we first started working on CMEpalooza together, he referred to it as “CMEPalooza.” I responded to him with a threat of fisticuffs if ever he spelled it that way again. It’s one of the few arguments I’ve ever won with him. To be fair, most of our arguments rarely extend beyond this exchange:

Me: Hey, should we try this?
Scott: No.
Me: Why not?
Scott: Because it’s dumb.
Me: Fair point.

Nonetheless, winning this argument was no great feat. Still, I even had “CMEpalooza” t-shirts made. See?


As someone who has his name misspelled more often than it is spelled correctly (Derek, Derik, Derrick, Dereck, Derick, Darek, Darik, Deric, Derk), I am perhaps a little oversensitive to the incorrect spellings. Still, CMEpalooza is my baby and a little piece of me dies inside every time I get an email asking me a question about “CME palooza.”

The moral of the story is this: it’s “CMEpalooza.” All one word, no capital “P.” The next person to write it wrong gets banned. From something. Not quite sure what, but I’ll figure it out.

Me, an Intern? But Why?

Last week, we announced the opening of the application process for our CMEpalooza Fall intern. You may have seen the news on the ticker of one of your favorite cable news stations (alas, we were not deemed important enough for those hard-hitting news anchors to actually discuss and debate. Their loss).

I suspect, however, that many of you dismissed the news without giving it a second thought. “Why would I want to be an intern? I have 15 years of experience in CME, I work full time, and I am just barely surviving being cooped up at home for the foreseeable future with my spouse, our two bratty kids, and a cat with bladder issues. An internship? No thanks.”

Look, I get it. You think of an intern and you see a 20-something year old right out of Hollywood casting ready to take on the corporate world and get a leg up on the rat race.

But that’s not what a CMEpalooza internship is. For starters, there is only one intern for each of our meetings so you are special right from the start. Secondly, you aren’t getting us coffee (no matter how many times Derek may ask you to), you won’t be making hundreds of copies of our Fall agenda (there is no copier), and you won’t even need to tweet to your friends and colleagues how great CMEpalooza is (though that would be nice). There is no mindless busywork because “we don’t have time to spend with you.” This is actually something that will be fun.

As the CMEpalooza Fall intern, you’ll get to do basically whatever you want to do. You get to tap into your creative side that has been beaten down these last few months. Your name gets out to the CME community as someone who cares about our industry and has something important to say. And hey, you get to work with Derek and I (OK, let’s ignore that one as a perk).

There are many more details about the nuts and bolts of this internship on last week’s post that I’m not going to rehash here. If you are interested in applying, you have until the stroke of midnight ET on Friday, July 3 to submit your application. There isn’t much to it, but you should probably be familiar with the structure of a haiku (it’s 5-7-5 people).



When They Zig, We Zag

Back in ancient times, a wise man once said: “Why do we pay lots of money to go to conferences when we could stay at home in our comfy clothes and do the same thing much cheaper?”

That wise man was me (and by “wise” I mean “lazy and bored”) and the year was 2014 (Ahh, 2014. Back in the days when we did crazy things like leave the house and give random strangers high-fives. Such an innocent time.) CMEpalooza was born, and maybe there were other virtual conferences around then, but I certainly wasn’t aware of them. I don’t say that to brag – it seemed like sort of a silly idea at the time.

Fast forward six years and virtual conferences are now everywhere. Was CMEpalooza a trendsetter that made everyone jealous so they decided to copy our idea? As much as I’d like to claim imitation as the sincerest form of flattery, clearly the coronavirus deserves all due credit for the surge in online meetings. We were just lucky enough to stumble onto the idea a few years ahead of time.

As Scott mentioned earlier in the week, we have started the planning process for CMEpalooza Fall (happening on Wednesday, October 14), and I wanted to share with you a few updates we are making to help keep us on the cutting edge. Like a wide receiver sprinting downfield, we at CMEpalooza have looked over our shoulder, seen the cornerback closing in, and made our move. We are going old school.

That’s right, the original virtual conference is going audio-only! Instead of video conferencing, we are switching to the old teleconference format you grew to love in the early aughts. It’s going to be great! Approximately 300 people on a teleconference with beeping and booping every time someone calls in or hangs-up. During the Q&A time, we will open the line for anyone to talk so that there will be a long period of silence and then a cacophony to rival the Tower of Babel as everyone asks a question at the same time. Just think of the fond memories it will dredge up.

Also, we will be shutting down the blog and transferring everything over to Google+ and MySpace. Despite going old school, Scott and I still believe that social media is a vital cog in our outreach to the CE community. TikTok is the hot social network of 2020, but the TikTok Teens aren’t really our key demographic, you know? We think these two platforms will really help us reach our target audience.

I know these changes might seem a bit drastic, but I really think that nostalgia-conferencing is the next big thing, and we are ready to jump on it. If anyone has any questions or ideas you want to discuss with me, just hit me up on my beeper. The number is 267-99-…hold on.



OK, I have just been informed that MySpace is now myspace and barely functional and Google+ is…well…extinct. Shoot, that really puts a crimp in our promotional strategy. Ugh, this is going to take more planning than I expected. Sigh…I guess we will just have to go back to the old video conference format for the time being.

Sorry to disappoint you all. It looks like nostalgia-conferencing will have to wait for another time…

(Note from Scott: Please, someone save me from Derek’s flashbacks to the “good old past” and fill out an application to be our Fall intern. It’ll be fun. Maybe.)

Bring Some Joy to Your Life: Our CMEpalooza Fall Intern Application is Open

Hello again people. We’ve missed you. Heck, we’ve missed anyone. How do I know? Even Derek said to me last week, “Man, I really miss socializing with people besides my wife and kids.” You know when the world’s self-proclaimed No. 1 Introvert starts to break down that things are seriously ca-ca.

Anyway, after the usual dragging of our feet following a successful Spring meeting (record attendance once again BTW), Derek and I reconvened last week to start talking about CMEpalooza Fall (set your calendar for Wednesday, October 14). We have the usual basket of good/bad ideas for sessions that we’ll be picking over a bit more this week, but one thing we know we’ll be repeating is the selection of an official CMEpalooza Fall intern.

Admittedly, our Fall intern will have some pretty big shoes to fill. Not only will they be following in the footsteps of our most talented intern ever (the illustrious Spring intern Katie), but they’ll also have to up their game to even approach the varied skills of Derek and I. OK, maybe that second component won’t be so tough.

Not convinced this is the perfect opportunity for you? Maybe you’ll be swayed by what Spring intern Katie had to say about her experience.

“It was OK, I guess.”

A rousing endorsement if I’ve ever heard one.

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

  1. You’ll have the opportunity to contribute to the CMEpalooza blog at your leisure. Maybe once a month or so. You can write about just about anything. Hopefully nothing that will offend others. That’s typically my territory.
  2. We’ll have you shadow one of us virtually as we plan a CMEpalooza session. You’ll learn how the proverbial sausage is made. Maybe you’ll even pick up a thing or two that you can incorporate into your real job. You’ll even have the chance to show up on camera during a Fall session so you can show your doubting friends and family that, yes, you are officially part of the CMEpalooza team.
  3. You will spend every other Saturday spending 2 hours sewing masks to send to every CMEpalooza panelist for our Fall meeting (optional duty)
  4. You can let us know if there is another way you want to contribute. Maybe you are web-savvy and have some suggestions on how to spruce up the website. Maybe you have an idea on how we can market CMEpalooza better. Maybe you just want to frequently tell Derek and I how great we are. These all work.

So what qualifications are we looking for?

  1. You should be working in CME in some capacity
  2. You should have a thick skin – it’s pretty certain that we will make fun of you at some point
  3. You should not consider Mork and Mindy to be the “greatest TV show ever about an alien being” (that would be ALF). Sorry, but we have to draw the line somewhere.

Beyond that, we’re open to anyone. Maybe you have only worked in CME for 1 year and want to learn more about our industry? Great. Maybe you’ve worked in CME for 25 years and want to do something fun? Also great. Maybe it’s been your lifelong dream to get a personal email from Derek and you think that this is your chance? Er, um, OK.

Please also note that if you applied for our Spring intern position and were not selected, you can send in an application once again for this fall. The questionnaire is slightly different, but still very simple to complete.

While this is an unpaid position, Derek has promised to send our CMEpalooza Fall 2020 Intern an unopened pack of Garbage Pail Kids trading cards (he’s a fan of Schizo Fran).

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

You Had Questions, We’ve Got Answers

Picture this: Packed live in-person/virtual meeting, lots of questions from the audience, limited time to get to them.

A voice says: “We’re sorry, but we’re out of time. If we didn’t get to your questions, please feel free to write it out, give it to one of our staff, and our faculty will address them after the session. We’ll make their responses available, um, somehow.”

But do they? Not in my experience.

Well, CMEpalooza is not like those other meetings, so when our faculty promises to “get back to everyone” with their thoughts on questions we could not address during our live sessions, they mean it! And so, today, we’re offering you additional thoughts from two of our most popular sessions last week where the questions came flooding in from the live audience:

In addition, we also had requests for slides from two other sessions. You can find those below:

Our CMEpalooza Spring Intern Says Her Farewell

It is with a heavy heart that Derek and I wished our inaugural CMEpalooza intern Katie a bon voyage this week. Alas, we couldn’t wave from the shore as she boarded a cruise to Puerto Vallarta…

Here are Katie’s parting words for everyone.

Well, folks, all good things must come to an end!

It has been a pleasure sharing my thoughts with you all, and I hope you enjoyed CMEpalooza Spring 2020! I’ve learned a few things on this journey. For instance, Scott is awesome and Derek is, um, Derek (I kid, they are both wonderful, but Scott made me say it!)

I had CMEpalooza pulled up on my TV earlier this week, and it was great to hear what everyone had to say. I’ve been limited to my laptop and its speakers for so many weeks, which just doesn’t have the same effect, so actually being able to watch a bigger screen was a nice treat. If you missed or want to replay any of the CMEpalooza Spring 2020 sessions, they are all available online here (just click “View archive” under each session title).

While creating my farewell post, it’s impossible to not address the elephant in the room, COVID-19. It has tremendously impacted our industry. All of us are in this same boat of uncertainty, thinking about how we can help the front-line staff fighting for survival every day while also continuing the “normal business” of educating the full swath of healthcare providers. I love the quote, “Change is the only constant in life.” COVID-19 has brought a lot of change, but it has also brought opportunity. A few sessions during CMEpalooza Spring addressed ways in which their organization is adapting to our new world. With each session, there was something all of us can take away from the conversation and change about our current processes to better our programs.

The 9 a.m. session, entitled “How Should the CE Industry Respond to a Novel Healthcare Crisis,” brought the interesting perspective of a frontline provider that I hadn’t heard yet.

The 10 a.m. session talked about the proposed changes to the ACCME Standards for Commercial Support. After this session, the proposed changes don’t seem like such a shock anymore. Perhaps that’s because we’re in a shocking state in general, but if the changes are approved, we’ll have time to adjust, and in the end, it will be fine. We can do it!

The 11 a.m. session was all about OUTCOMES! They nicely tied together best practices for National Board of Medical Examiners guidelines, how to create questions, and tips on ways review your data (measurements and costs).

The noon session panelists shared their perspectives on ways to focus on behavioral change to meet outcomes and how to help physicians adopt tools to meet their educational goals and improve patient care.

The 1 p.m. session was a nice discussion where panelists shared opportunities and their expertise on how to build momentum to move forward with educational redesign.

The 2 p.m. session was a great one to listen to. Even though we don’t submit grant requests at my institution, it was interesting to hear how things go down on the grant supporter side. I also learned a new term – change of scope – and that there is an expectation to have a contingency plan in place when submitting grants.

The 3 p.m. session was Jake Powers. They did it again! I love this session. It’s a great blend of creativity and knowledge. I thought it was funny that I hadn’t heard of “change of scope” before the previous session, and then Jake Powers solved the mystery for me by providing the definition and applying it. So much better than what Google would have provided. Thank you, Jack, I mean Jake!

The 4 p.m. session is one of my favorite formats. It is nice to see real-life cases that affect our community and hear how a variety of panelists would approach each challenge. The session was split so you got to hear how the MEEC group and hospital-based group would handle different scenarios presented. (Tiger King was a hot topic… just kidding it was COVID-19)

As always, every session was great, and I really enjoyed learning from my peers. It is so important during this time to reach out to your fellow colleagues, participate in these online meetings, read online articles, and/or listen to podcasts. As it relates to the CME industry, not the news (as I’m steering clear for a bit), it makes me feel more at ease to be in the know and hear about how others are adapting to the changes.

I remind you all to take deep breaths through the moments of uncertainty, stress, and anxiety that will arise in the coming weeks and months. You are not alone.

It has been a great experience working with Scott and Derek, and I thank them for the opportunity to be part of this extraordinary community. I’m sure I’ll see you all around!

Be Well and Be Safe,

Katie O’Connell – First-Ever CMEpalooza Intern 😊