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CCMEP Spotlight
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CCMEP Spotlight: Sallie Weems, RN, MBA, CCMEP

Dave Clausen, CCMEP, and member of the NC-CME Marketing Committee, interviews notable Certified CME Professionals about their career paths. This week's Spotlight shines on Sallie Weems, Director of Graduate Medical Education and Training Services at the California Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles, part of the Dignity Health Network.


Dave Clausen: You’ve spent your career in CME (and GME) leadership roles at hospitals and health systems, spanning 15 years.  Looking back, what were the most notable advances in the field that changed the way you worked?  

Sallie Weems: A really notable advance was the release and subsequent implementation of the ACGME general competencies.  That impacted how we view medical education, and gave us a framework for the skills critical to the practice of medicine.  Truly a seminal event in our innovation story, and we’ve adopted it for CME as well, since these are the core competencies that we want every physician to have.  I like the continuity that’s created when we use the ACGME general competencies from residency training in GME to the practicing clinicians in CME. 

DC: Why is the CCMEP important to your role at Dignity Health? 

SW: As a CME professional, it demonstrates that my role is more than a job – it’s  an actual true profession.  It signifies a certain amount of credibility for the individual and it also elevates the value of CME both internally and externally.  Our main job is to support the ongoing education of our doctors, so I believe that I should be a role model of lifelong learning.  I also feel that gaining my CCMEP demonstrates the unique knowledge, skills and expertise specific to my job as a CME administrator.  People don’t understand necessarily what’s required for CME, but if the person representing the department takes pride in their work and can demonstrate the value of CME to the physicians, patients and the organization, others may see CME in a different light.

DC: Did you pay for the exam out of your own pocket or was there support from your institution to cover the costs?  How did you go about presenting the opportunity to your manager?

SW: I paid for the exam myself, out of pocket, and so when I was studying I was determined to pass it!  What the hospital did recognize and do, after I passed, was to make the credential a preferred skill in job listings for the department.  After I got the certification, the hospital was very supportive, and put out a press release about it.  And when we had our review of job descriptions internally, we talked about what we really want in the role, and the CCMEP naturally came up as a key qualification for candidates.

DC: How did you prepare for the CCMEP exam?  Any pointers to share?

SW: Since I paid for it myself, I wanted to make sure I passed it, so I downloaded everything possible from the NC-CME website, and went through the Alliance resources…I had piles and piles of paper…just reading everything I could.  There weren’t a lot of test prep resources out there at the time, but now I would definitely take a prep course. 

DC: As a member of the NC-CME’s Exam Development Committee, what are some of the biggest challenges the group faces in designing the questions and structure?

SW: My takeaway, first of all, was that it was the most intimidating and intense experience I’ve gone through, given this very impressive group of people on the committee.  But they actually made me feel very welcome and created an inclusive environment, where it was okay to disagree and debate and work through issues together.  It was 3 days, 8 hours a day, of intense, no breaks, type work.  Probably the most important debates were about whether the questions were clear, whether the answers made sense.  We reviewed questions over and over again, with everyone putting forward their points of view on how to interpret them.

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

SW: The main thing really, I guess it’s not so exciting, is the changes to our accreditation standards that we’ve been through in the past few years. It’s an important innovation in our field because it’s elevated our standards for CME, so our challenge is to keep that momentum going so that we’re seen as being effective at making improvements to physician practice and patient care.  The administrators at the organizations where we work don’t necessarily see how CME can fill that role.  Getting them to see that is through a combination of doing research, publishing, being our own PR agency – because we expect people in other departments to get it, but we need to communicate that more clearly.


The best way to help others understand what CME is capable of is simple: we need to get out of our silos by not hiding in our offices, by getting invited (or inviting ourselves) to committee meetings, for example the Quality and Patient Satisfaction committees.  Also, eliminating barriers that make it difficult to apply for CME.  And finally, by packaging the outcomes collected for key initiatives in a nicely presented, high level executive summary and providing them to the Medical Executive Committee and to your CEO and CMO, the potential impact is high.  It’s a simple thing to do, but it’s an important way to elevate CME within our organization. 

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

SW: Well, I have to say Judy (Ribble).  She’s sort of behind the scenes, but she’s really the consummate CME professional.  To me, she’s involved because she believes in it.  She’s our role model for people in this profession and really cares about each individual she encounters.  I worked with her as I was applying for my CCMEP exam, and eventually met her in New Orleans when I got my certificate, and soon after that she asked me if I’d like to be involved in the exam development committee.  She’s just this joyful person that you’re immediately drawn to.

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