I have a confession to make.
It’s not one I’m terribly proud of.
Here it is…
I cringe when people ask me, “so, what do you do?”
It’s not that I’m embarrassed by my job as a CME Director; far from it, actually. Considering where I began, I’m quite happy with what I’ve achieved professionally (more on that in a bit).
No, the reason I find the “what do you do” question to be so cringe inducing is because, a) I’m terrible at benign small-talk, like the kind the hairdresser tries to engage in while giving you a trim (er…I meant barber, not hairdresser); and b) the look of confusion, then disinterest, then boredom, then fear of further explanation, when I answer the question with my standard “I’m the Continuing Medical Education Director for a medical education company near Philadelphia.” Knowing that 99% of the people I tell this to have no idea what I’m talking about, I immediately launch into an explanation of what CME is and what my role as CME Director involves. 5 seconds into this explanation, a look of glassy-eyed numbness creeps across their face and by the time I get to “accreditation standards”, a small strand of drool can be seen dripping from the corner of their mouths.
Every so often, depending on who’s asking me, I’ll deflect the question to my wife, just to see what she says. She’s gotten remarkably good at explaining it, but that took many years of coaching and even with that, she’ll still occasionally go with, “He works in medical education.” Fair enough.
Sometimes I think it would be nice to be able to simply say “I’m a doctor” or “I’m a policeman” or “I’m the third baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies”.
But I’m not.
I am a CME Professional, and despite the complexity involved in explaining it, I am proud of it.
One aspect of the profession that I find fascinating is discovering how others came to be involved in CME – their “CME story”, if you will. Let’s face it, no college undergrad matriculates with visions of Murray Kopelow dancing in their heads. Yet, as the attendance at the Alliance conference and others of that ilk indicate, there are many of us involved in CME. So how did we get there?
My “CME story” goes like this: I graduated from Thomas Jefferson University in 1999 with a Masters of Science in Physical Therapy. Fresh out of school, and a bit disillusioned with my chosen career, I started hunting for a job. And hunted. And hunted. 80 resumes sent out; 3 interviews; no job. After a few months of fruitless searching, I reached the point where I had to make some money, so I started to take temp jobs in order to have a paycheck during my job hunt. One of those temp jobs, the last one, put me in the CME office at Thomas Jefferson University, my alma mater.
I worked there for a month or so and then approached the Director of CME, Jeanne Cole, about permanently filling the position they had open at the time (I can still vividly remember the title)…Secretary B. Hey, it was a salaried position with pretty good benefits. I took it.
Fortunately, I did not stay in the Secretary B position long and quickly progressed to more advanced positions. The intensity of my hunt for a job in physical therapy started to dissipate and eventually petered out altogether. I found myself enjoying the work I was doing in CME. I liked the process of working with physicians to develop a program and the satisfaction of successfully putting one together. As someone who appreciates routine and structure in my work environment, I had no trouble grasping on to the ACCME’s Essential Areas, Elements, and Standards for Commercial Support. I was encouraged to pursue my interest in innovative learning tools and took on the tasks of overhauling the Office of CME website and implementing the brand new Audience Response System.
A few years into my CME career, I heard from some of my old classmates that the physical therapy job market had really opened up, but I had no interest. I was fully invested in being a CME professional and there’s been no turning back ever since. I admit there have been plenty of times when I have thought “Why am I doing this?”, but overall it has been a satisfying and rewarding endeavor.
Now, if I could just figure out a more exciting way to describe what I do.
Or maybe I’ll just start telling people I test prototype fighter jets for a living.