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There’s More to CME Than Just Keeping our Clinical Skills Sharp
Nestor A. Ramirez-Lopez, MD
ISMS President
Nestor A. Ramirez, MD, MPH

As physicians renewed their license this past summer, I'm sure more than a few paused to consider the question that asks us to affirm that we completed the required 150 hours of continuing medical education (CME) credit over the past three years. It is tempting to ponder that we trained for years to become physicians, we work hard, and we know what we need to know to treat our patients, so it’s not such a big deal if we don’t get all our required hours this year, right?


The science and art of medicine are among the most rapidly changing of human endeavors, and the medical profession has long recognized that what we learn during our postgraduate training is not sufficient to carry us through what is commonly four or more decades of practice. The treatments we recommend for our patients are grounded in science, and our continuing education should be as well.

We have a responsibility to ourselves and our patients to promote and maintain a high standard of quality for the education we pursue in order to keep up-to-date in our fields. Continuing medical education can only be effective if it follows certain patterns and rules which guarantee the integrity of the process – even though those rules can sometimes be inconvenient for us.

However, there's more to CME than just keeping our clinical skills sharp. The Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) has modified its definition of CME to include "educational activities which serve to maintain, develop or increase the knowledge, skills and professional performance and relationships that a physician uses to provide services for patients, the public or the profession." The key word is relationships, because it is important to maintain the channels of communication between physicians, our patients and other members of the health care team.

Other professionals are now included as participants in the CME process, and we welcome them. Their participation furthers the development of those relationships, and helps us work together more effectively. That said, we must maintain the standard of physician leadership in the health care team. 

"The key word is relationships, because it is important to maintain the channels of communication between physicians, our patients, and other members of the health care team."

ISMS has always been committed to the principles of continuing medical education. We have supported the functions of the staff and the committee that maintain the CME program throughout the state. ISMS accredits the CME programs of several dozen local hospitals in Illinois, and has been able to guarantee the quality and content of their educational activities.

On October 6, ISMS will hold its 30th annual CME Planners' and Surveyors' Workshop. That we have been bringing together CME professionals for so long is a testament to ISMS’ efforts to uphold and support the great quality of CME in our state. I thank ISMS and its CME staff for this tremendous and lasting endeavor, and invite you to support and participate in the CME activities in your hospital. I’ll offer a brief plug here:  ISMS can help you accredit your local activities.

So three years from now, when you have to again attest that you've got your 150 hours of CME, take a moment to remember why those programs are important, and perhaps reflect on how your participation has made you a better doctor than you were before.

I look forward to hearing from you. During my term, I can be reached at DrRamirez@isms.org.

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