by By Jennifer Nicole Dienst | January 01, 2009

stethoscope2It takes a special breed of meeting planner to navigate through the dense jungle of codes and procedures involved in the development of continuing medical education. Two new certification programs aim to help and recognize those who aspire to the challenge.

The Durham, N.C.-based Professional Meeting Planners Network wrapped up its second pilot program last spring, designating 22 planners as Certified Medical Meeting Managers (CMMM), while the National Commission for Certification of CME Professionals (NC-CME), based in Sandia Park, N.M., saw 103 individuals become the first Certified CME Professionals (CCMEP) in October 2008, after taking first exams earlier in the year. What follows are details about both of these new credentials.

PMPN will open up its certification program to all 1,500 members next year and require each to earn the CMMM by 2010.

"A lot of people see this as a big need," says James Montague, president and CEO of PMPN. "It surprised me that there were certifications for government and other types of planners, but not medical meeting planners. There's so much they need to do and understand, and the area is fraught with danger."

For example, planners can incur fines for their companies if they don't follow various mandatory regulations regarding possible conflicts of interest with pharmaceutical makers, Montague notes. And while the widely adopted Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America's code of guidelines is voluntary, ignoring it could result in more federal oversight, like the recently proposed Physician Payments Sunshine Act (see "Pharma Rules Unwrapped"). "The real repercussions are that the government will police us," Montague says.

The 2009 CMMM test has been amended to include new PhRMA and other industry code revisions put into place since the two pilot programs were conducted last year.

Jackie Trimble, a Chicago-based independent planner who has worked in the medical industry for nearly 15 years, took the second pilot test in January 2008. "It was challenging and very specific," she says. Topics included adult- and physician-learning issues, medical meeting regulations, compliance and professional/ethical standards, and medical meeting management.

It costs nothing to get the certification, Trimble notes, and she felt well prepared from studying the binder of materials PMPN sent her, as well as updates posted in an online community also set up by the association.

As reported in "The Specialists" (M&C, January 2008), the future of the program is somewhat unsure. There had been talk of the ACCME or the Convention Industry Council adopting and accrediting the program, but Montague now says it's more likely that a university will take over. ACCME has its own accreditations, and the CIC favors keeping its own program more general, he says.

For more information on testing dates and the certification, visit

The CCMEP certification is for any professional who develops continuing education programs for physicians and health-care providers, including meeting planners. Developed by Schroeder Measurement Technologies, the test covers a broad area of industry knowledge and is broken down into five areas: knowledge of the CME environment, adult-learning principles, educational interventions, relationships with stakeholders, and leadership/administration and management.

"It's what people in the CME field should know to be able to do their jobs," says Judith Ribble, Ph.D., CCMEP, founding president and current executive director of NC-CME. She finds that employers are particularly interested in having CME planners on staff who can understand and interpret the various codes of conduct of oversight organizations with which they might come into contact. "A passing score on the exam means a person has been judged competent to interpret guidelines from national groups such as the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services," says Ribble.

A total of 103 CME professionals earned the CCMEP within six months of the pilot launching. "We had projected 100 within a year," Ribble says. "The response has exceeded all expectations."

Candidates can register at to take the exam at one of approximately 200 testing centers throughout the United States during one of four testing periods in 2009.