Meharry Medical College Continuing Medical Education Program Office of Lifelong Learning:  A Long and Successful History

By Allison Fleming, EdD and Billy Ballard, MD

Meharry Medical College (MMC) is located in Nashville, Tennessee and was founded in 1876 for the purpose of training physicians to provide healthcare for the freed slaves who received little or no medical attention. The poor health status of this segment of the population was of great concern and accounted for the disproportionate rates of death and disease in the African American community at that time. Today, Meharry continues to be one of the leading producers of African American physicians, dentists, and biomedical scientists and plays a significant role in the provision of health-care services to the poor and underserved. The overall mission of the school is to provide an excellent education in the health sciences with a focus on providing opportunities to talented African American and other underrepresented ethnic minority students. Further, Meharry is committed to the practice and delivery of community-oriented health care services; health promotion and disease prevention; quality primary-care training and the conduct of basic, clinical and applied research with a special emphasis on diseases and health conditions that disproportionately affect ethnic minority populations.

Historically, providing continuing education for faculty and alumni was one of several programs under the institutional umbrella of college relations. In 1982, the Continuing Medical Education Program was formally organized and became a major function of the Office of College Relations. In 2002 the office was later renamed the Office of Lifelong Learning to reflect the college’s focus on fostering lifelong learning among faculty, alumni, community physicians, and students.

It is our goal to identify the educational needs of our physicians in order to deliver the best possible medical care. Educational planning and programming have changed in accordance with current evidence-based medicine and in response to emerging technology, information, and new standards of patient management and care. The content of our CME program is planned to address educational needs that underlie performance practice gaps of our physicians. Thus, educational activities are designed to improve physician knowledge, competence and performance that can be applied to the practice setting. The target audience for our activities is primarily the physicians involved in the activity. Other health professionals including nurses, biomedical scientists, residents, Physician Assistants, and medical students are also target audiences. However, CME credits are only awarded to physicians. Others are given certificates of attendance. Sponsored activities include invited lectures, regularly scheduled series, conferences, symposia, workshops, panel discussions, hands on demonstrations, etc.

Expected results of the program include improved physician knowledge, competence and performance that will result in improved patient outcomes. Data regarding expected results are collected and analyzed on a regular basis and shared with all concerned, to be used for subsequent program planning and improvement.

In summer 2018, Meharry Medical College experienced a major organizational restructuring. This restructuring resulted in the establishment of the Office of Lifelong Learning which houses the Continuing Medical Education Department and the Continuing Dental Education Department. Key personnel in these offices were eliminated.  This unexpected downsizing of our office required immediate adjustments and modifications to our program operations to ensure continued success.

However, since 2020 during the unexpected pandemic, our office has been able to provide CME activities to a number of external organizations that used virtual formats to provide workshops and seminars that awarded CME credit. This has resulted in the increased workload and exposure of the Office of Lifelong Learning at Meharry Medical College and our CPD program.

In spite of the major changes, currently the Office of Lifelong Learning continues to function and maintain under the leadership of our Associate Dean and the Director of CME who have worked effortlessly and intensely withholding our CME department at the highest level of precision and proficiency.

Billy R. Ballard, MD, DDS is Associate Dean of CME and Allyson F. Fleming, EdD is Director Office of Lifelong Learning, Continuing Medical Education/Continuing Dental Education Meharry Medical College, Nashville, TN.


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