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Creation of Primary Care Continuing Medical Education (CME) Conference Designed as a Resident and Junior Faculty Development Tool

Michael Malone, MD, Abdul Waheed, MD, George Pujalte, MD, Jeffrey Baker, MD, and Neha Kaushik MD

What Problem(s) Was the Conference Created to Solve?
The idea and development of this Primary Care CME Conference at Penn State stemmed from an informal assessment of needs at faculty meetings as well as a well-coordinated effort from departmental promotion and tenure committee. The following issues were identified:

  1. Lack of opportunities for young physicians to be involved in conferences that could facilitate their growth as an educator: Many junior faculty and residents were excited to teach and practice their presentation skills but were rarely invited to present at regional or national CME conferences. There were limited opportunities for junior faculty in our family medicine department to organize, direct, or present at regional or national conferences. Lack of confidence and experience was also reported to promotion and tenure committee survey as a barrier to such activities.
  2. Topics presented at most Primary Care CME topics in academic institutions are often not relevant to everyday primary care practice in the community. For some reason, primary care conferences held at Penn State were often specialty or research focused and often had more specialists than primary care physicians presenting at them.

Our Proposed Solution
Based on the problems identified, first author on this column gathered junior faculty to create a CME conference specifically designed to give junior faculty and residents the opportunity to design, direct, and present at a Primary Care CME conference focused on practical, evidence-based medicine. While having a few junior faculty or residents present at a CME conference is not innovative or new, the concept of a CME conference specifically focused on junior faculty and resident development is. Since the conference was devised as a junior faculty development activity, we agreed that only junior faculty and residents should present at, design, or direct the conference. To assure the conference remained focused on junior faculty/resident development, we also decided that anyone promoted to associate professor would no longer direct and/or present at the conference. Over the past 3 years, it has evolved to include a committee comprised of two junior faculty, one resident, and a support staff from CME office organizes it. The committee initially allowed only senior residents to present. However, this year we opened it to interns and second years as well as junior faculty from other primary care disciplines.

Challenges and How We Addressed Them
Concern that we would lose money was addressed by (1) holding the conference on campus instead of hotel/conference center, (2) limiting it to a 1-day (9-hour) event, (3) restricting to speakers from within the department not needing honoraria, (4) seeking out sponsors from industry. Financial goals were set to break even. Although initial input from the associate dean for CME and having an experienced coordinator helped, there was no formal mentorship from senior faculty. Our institution is accredited by Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide CME for physicians. After the topics and course objectives were written, the CME office determined the activity to be eligible for 9.0 AMA PRA category 1 credit hours. The CME coordinator then applied for AAFP credits using the standard applications.
Concern about attendance was based on unknown demand for such topics and possible lack of reputation and credibility of junior faculty. A web-based search was performed about “primary care topics in demand” from other such conferences offered in the region and nationally. Faculty and residents used a grassroots approach to promote the conference via informal “word of mouth” and emails to their contacts, including peers from medical schools, prior residencies, or anyone they knew in primary care locally or remotely.
Lack of senior mentoring would negatively affect the quality of presentations and confidence of presenters: To address this, we enacted “practice runs” among the speakers where they went through their presentations to receive peer feedback and discuss their questions or concerns. This feedback was really based upon simple “what would I value as audience” rather than complex educational theories from senior faculty.
Over the past 2 years, we have been financially successful and made over $6,500 in profit, beating the initial goal of making it even. The financial success was likely related to exceeding conference attendance expectations and the ability to secure $1,500 pharmaceutical educational grants each year. All of the five resident presenters at the conference have pursued a career in academic family medicine. This is likely because they were interested in academic medicine, and this conference served as a good tool to build on skills. Junior faculty have presented at other conferences in the region as a direct result of this conference. We have continued to expand the role of the residents and have one resident per year co-direct the conference. On our post-conference surveys, the junior faculty and residents involved in the conference found it extremely useful in their development, noted improved confidence presenting in regional CME conference settings, and would highly recommend involvement in it to other early-career physicians.

The overall evaluation of the conference by attendees was above average, per the CME department. The average utility of the lectures was noted as highly to extremely useful, and many noted plans to change clinical practice based on the information presented. The overall evaluations for the presenting faculty were very good to excellent. Many attendees noted they would be returning each year for the conference.

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