Notes from Baltimore

Sorry for the silence here lately—I've been in Baltimore at the American Medical Association's National Task Force on CME Provider/Industry Collaboration conference all week and had some laptop issues. Some quick notes:

I registered too late to get into the Marriott Baltimore Waterfront, where the meeting was held, and the whole inner harbor area was booked solid (except for some $400+/night rooms, and hotels that required a three- to five-night minimum—anyone know what's up with that?). So I ended up staying at the Mount Vernon Hotel (it was that or an airport hotel). It was only about a half-hour walk to the Marriott ($7 to $10 cab ride, depending on traffic and the route), and actually was pretty nice for $87 per night, as opposed to the $200-something conference rate at the Marriott. Even with cab fare, I saved a bundle. The downsides were that it was pretty worn-down, with really nastily stained carpets and peeling wallpaper; no high-speed Internet; and no on-site food other than breakfast in the morning. But it was clean, comfortable, had a good bed, and very friendly staff. Plus lots of culinary school students, who I hear live on the upper floors. If they do open a restaurant, as planned, it should be pretty good.

At the meeting I saw something that I still don't understand: The badges just had people's names, city, and state—no organization. Keep in mind the whole point of this meeting was to encourage collaboration between continuing medical education providers and the pharmaceutical companies who support their activities financially. One attendee told me she had heard they left off the organizations so the providers wouldn't be bothering the pharma folks. Does that make any sense at all to you? I just shook my head and replaced mine with a business card, so at least people would know they were talking with the press.

And the organizers had the same challenge so many meeting planners have: With more than half of attendees being first-timers, how do you balance the need for basic info with the more advanced needs of the other half? They held a one-day basics pre-con for the newbies, but some of the general session speakers were repeats from previous years and, with a few notable exceptions, covered the same old ground I've heard for the past five years or so I've been attending this one. I think this one might need to be a two-tracker, because I heard a lot of grumbling from the more seasoned people about how they weren't hearing anything new. The newbies were loving it though.

A business travel note: It's amazing to me that some people still haven't heard about the ban on gels, liquids, etc. At the airport yesterday, one woman's entire carry-on bag was filled with various large containers of lotions, shampoos, and whatnot. She must have had to chuck $200 worth of stuff. She cried. TSA was not sympathetic. I checked my bag, but was allowed to carry on my Chapstick lip balm. They said that if it had a screw-off cap, I could take it on board.

We'll get back to our regularly scheduled program as soon as I dig out from under all the e-mails and work backlog that's piled up this week, I promise. But the blogging might be a bit slow for the rest of the week.

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