During the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in college, I decided to spend a month doing a service project in central Belize. In theory, the team I was with would help with the construction of a new church/school. In reality, I spent five weeks in 100 degree mid-day heat pounding rocks with a sledgehammer. You see, the ground where the construction was to take place had not yet been cleared out and they could only afford a bulldozer for one day. The rest of the clearing and leveling of the rocky ground fell to me and my team. Thus: pounding rocks with sledgehammers. It was brutal. The bulk of my diet during that time was rice and beans, with the occasional meager chicken leg or thigh. I ate everything in sight. It wasn’t enough. In five weeks, I lost 25 pounds.
On our flight back to the States, we had a layover at the Orlando airport. Ravenous (as always) we spied a Burger King and wasted little time in ordering several rounds of Whoppers and fries. Those burgers will always stand out in my mind as the best freaking hamburgers I’ve ever had. We gorged and raved about how fantastic they were and then all sat around with big smiles on our faces. It was a great time.
A couple weeks ago, the ACCME held a webinar to announce their Proposal for Simplifying and Evolving the Accreditation Requirements and Process. The immediate response from those in the CME community listening to the webinar (at least those willing to be vocal about it) was fairly astounding: a massive outpouring of love for the ACCME. Even those participating in the impromptu simultaneous #ACCMEchat on Twitter – who tend to be a bit more of a cynical lot (guilty!) – were sending out tweets of approval and appreciation of the proposed changes. The CME community was hearing what the ACCME had to say and they were loving it!
I found this response to be…curious. Don’t get me wrong, I think the ACCME is on the right track with many of their proposed changes and I love how they’re really working to eliminate much of the redundancy that can be found in the current system and processes. But, I also didn’t think that anything in the proposal was earth-shatteringly awesome or something that will forever alter the course of CME. It was exactly as the title indicates: an attempt to evolve and simplify the accreditation process. So why the deafening roar of approval from the CME crowd? I was intrigued.
And then it hit me: this was the CME community’s Whopper-in-Orlando moment and the past 5-10 years have been our summer-in-Belize. Whether accurate or not, it seems as though every major event in CME over the past few years has succeeded in making life harder and more difficult for CME professionals: the new ACCME criteria, investigations by the Senate Finance Committee, the IOM’s Redesigning Continuing Education in the Health Professions report, the AMA passing CEJA Report 1-A-11, the Macy Report on Reform of Continuing Medical Education, the Physicians Payment Sunshine Act, and so on. Add to this a negative image in the press, declining funds for education, and an increase in companies and departments shutting down – and working in CME these past few years has been, well…kind of brutal.
When suddenly, out-of-the-blue, someone comes along with a proposal that, at first blush, looks like it might actually make the lives of CME professionals a wee bit easier. We’ve been living on rice and beans and the ACCME just came along and gave us a Whopper. I think that’s a big reason why the response to the ACCME proposal was so laudatory and excited. After years of seeing every announcement about CME add more items to our to-do lists, we finally had an announcement that didn’t do that. Finally, we could listen to proposed accreditation and process changes and not have to worry about how drastically it would change our daily work lives. We could sit back with big smiles on our faces.
Quick epilogue to the Belize/Whopper story. That night, after pigging out at Burger King, every single person on my team ended up puking his or her guts out. Whether it was from food poisoning or our stomachs being unprepared to take in so much rich, fatty food, I don’t know. It does show that sometimes things in life that are great in the moment, can come with a price to be paid later. Let’s hope that’s not always the case…