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CCMEP Spotlight

Spotlight on Melinda Steele, M.Ed., CCMEP, FACEHP

Dave Clausen, CCMEP, and member of the NC-CME Marketing Committee, interviews prominent Certified CME Professionals about their career paths. This week's Spotlight shines on Melinda Steele, incoming Executive Director of NC-CME and President of Confluence Educational Consulting, Inc.

Dave Clausen: As an independent business owner and speaker, you’re no doubt very busy these days. What was it about the Executive Director role that inspired you to take on the extra responsibility?

Melinda Steele: First of all, I believe in the mission and vision. I’ve been involved with NC-CME before there was an NC-CME, working on the development process before anyone had heard of us or knew who we were, so this role was a natural progression for me when Judy decided to move on.  It was around 2005, when a group of us sat down to decide what the appropriate buckets were to assess the right competency, what key elements should be involved. However, when it came to identifying Judy’s successor, I wasn’t involved in selecting who the candidates might be.  I can’t say that I was actually looking for this, though. It came out of the blue: I was approached about it during one week in October (2012), and within two weeks we had done all the interviews and discussions. Staying involved in this kind of organization, at this level, really gives you the opportunity to touch all the different areas of the CME community, which is so rewarding.

DC: You’ve spent most of your career in CME leadership roles at an academic medical center (Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center).  Focusing in on your experience there, what were the most interesting changes that occurred with CME in that institution, and do you think they were reflected in the broader AMC community?  Any predictions of change for the next 5-10 years?

MS: When I joined Texas Tech in the 1980s, I was hired as an educator at a time when personal computers were just coming on the market.  The role was to run a training program for faculty, staff and students on how to use personal computers and integrate them into their various roles.  We went from how to insert a floppy disk, to how to use advanced data systems, to building spreadsheets.  When my CME career started in 1992, the biggest technology presence was typewriters and telephones, and now, who would think of doing CME without using digital technology? For instance, when you look at Learning Management System technology, it’s greatly improved how we develop and manage CME in health systems.  Beyond LMS, there are more exciting advances.  The area where I live in West Texas is very sparsely populated, where they don’t have a doctor around for 3 counties in some places, so Texas Tech introduced telemedicine technology to make it easier for providers to access critical data remotely and consult with other providers in real time.  In one case, physicians at a Texas Tech location in Lubbock used a closed circuit television system to help guide a rural physician through an amputation process.  This was back in 1994 and look how far we’ve come since. 


DC: What are the biggest obstacles that you see to the sustainable growth of NC-CME?

MS: Judy was absolutely right in the last interview, regarding revenue.  But it’s not just the NC-CME, the entire CME enterprise is struggling with financial stability right now.  There’s decreased industry funding across the board and we’re going to have to find some subsidies and other financial support sources. Right now, we have a financial development committee that is really pondering and reaching out to various foundations and other alternative revenue sources.  The committee is really going to need to shake it up and come up with some new ideas.  Additionally, NC-CME can’t operate in a vacuum anymore.  We have to develop partnerships with other organizations, such the Alliance and SACME, to explore new ideas for exam prep and study materials with options for revenue sharing, etc. between the organizations. We’re very early along in the conversations, but it is progressing.

DC: What goals are the highest priorities for your first 12 months at the helm of NC-CME?

MS: The global goal is to expand the organization’s reach across different levels of professionals in the CME community.  The new trajectory committee met in 2012 to explore ideas to expand and have an entry level portal where very new, just beginning professionals will be able to get a Certificate – not a certification, but a “junior CCMEP”, if you will – that helps to get people started before going on to do the full exam and attain the Credential.  There will also be another step beyond the CCMEP, a Masters-level type of attainment that goes beyond just a certification of minimum competency.  This could coincide and be complimentary to the ACEHP Fellows program.  All told, this modular approach could also be a significant revenue driver for the organization.


DC: What’s the most exciting innovation (modality or otherwise) on the horizon that you see emerging for CME and CME professionals?

MS: My prediction is the use of simulation.  I’ve been involved with a group within Texas Tech using simulation in residency training as well as CME, but one type I’ve had most experience with involves an anesthesiology and surgery group, running workshops where faculty can remotely manipulate a mannequin to throw a wrench into a situation while it’s being operated on.  As the CME professional, my role is to assist healthcare professionals to script the experience for those educators to see how the scenario should progress.  The interdisciplinary aspect of simulations is the most compelling for me, since it truly allows you to integrate inter-professional education.  The workshops with which I was involved had interdisciplinary collaboration as central in the development process, and simulation seems to be the natural place for this integration.



DC: Which CME professional (living or dead) do you most admire for their contributions to the field?

MS: When I thought about this, I had a hard time narrowing to one, so I’ll give you a list of people who have something in common: Dave Davis, Paul Mazmanian, Bob Fox, Van Harrison, and Jocelyn Lockyer.  The commonality that these people have is research, but not just theoretical: they do applied and translational research.  All of these people were mentors to me, particularly while I was in leadership roles in SAMCE and every one of these people taught me one thing: you don’t have to be a researcher to be involved in the research field.  We all need to be paying attention to what’s happening in the research, but also how to apply it to the practice of CME.  That to me has been the biggest influence.  Dave Davis certainly stands out to me for his versatility: from being a clinician, a Dean (University of Toronto), a researcher, and one of the most published CME people there is.  He’s also transitioned to yet another place, at AAMC, championing the QI/PI movement.  Importantly, he’s been a leader in the field for application, not just a theoretician.


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