When Arthur Dent is snatched from certain death as Earth is destroyed, and he ends up cruising the universe with intergalactic guidebook developer Ford Prefect in the inimitable classic book, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Ford tells him the first rule of survival is: Don't panic. It's good advice, whether you're facing the destruction of the planet or fundamental changes that are starting to occur in CME.
Yet panic we do. Remember when the Accreditation Council for CME first released its preliminary update to the Standards for Commercial Support, which required some fairly dramatic changes in handling disclosure and conflicts of interest? Talk about panic city. I actually heard, from several people, that it spelled the beginning of the end of CME as we know it. Instead, there was a lot of back and forth between commercial supporters, CME providers, and the ACCME, and providers are finding the revised version that ended up being put into place is not too onerous, and actually results in better CME. In the end, no one was scooped off the CME planet to rove the uncharted territory of a commercial-supportless universe.
The Critical Skills for the New CME Paradigm workshop I attended in Las Vegas in May covered a lot of potentially panic-inducing topics, from the shift toward maintenance of certification, to performance improvement and point-of-care initiatives, to managing conflicts of interest. The interesting thing was that, even though the session leaders were introducing the idea of some pretty profound changes to the CME system, no one panicked. Some pushed back, some didn't want to believe that these changes were coming, but when the leaders got down to brass tacks on how to make the changes work for the participants, their various organizations, and healthcare professionals, they listened with the same intensity as did poor old Arthur when his world changed — and expanded — so drastically.
One workshop participant, noting our tendency to panic, said something that has stuck with me: “In the Chinese pictograph, crisis is depicted as opportunity plus danger. We tend to focus on the dangers.” Instead, let's focus on the opportunities — and there are many — that exist in the new CME universe. And, if all else fails, remember that, according to The Guide, the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, is 42 — whatever that means. That and a towel (Ford's second piece of advice was to always bring one) should get you through just about anything.
— Sue Pelletier,
[email protected] 
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