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NAMEC History 101
Our Founding Fathers . . . and Mothers

Updated 12/19/2019

A Meeting of the Minds in Karen's Kitchen

Richard Tischler, Karen Overstreet, Jacqueline Parochka, and Mark Schaffer

In the United States, July is the month known for celebrating our country’s independence and recognizing those leaders responsible for framing the Constitution of the United States . . .our Founding Fathers.

What some may not know is that, almost 20 years ago, another group of individuals collaborated to frame a new organization in the CME world. In June 2001, the North American Association of Medical Education and Communication Companies, Inc. (NAAMECC) was founded. In 2005, the name was changed to the National Association of Medical Education Companies (NAMEC). The four individuals responsible were leaders in their field and had a vision to create an independent organization that would represent, advocate for, and educate its members - medical education and communication companies (MECCs). Again, this changed in 2005 to acknowledge the separation of medical education from medical communications companies.

The key goals included:

  • Serving as a forum for discussion of issues, problems, and opportunities relevant to MECs
  • Strengthening relationships among MECs, other types of CME providers, and commercial supporters
  • Hosting educational activities dedicated specifically to the needs of NAMEC members
  • Publishing papers and statements that support the continuing professional activities produced by MECs
  • Representing MECs to the media and other outside organizations
  • Examining ways to elevate the best practices of MECs
  • Creating a mechanism for dialogue among representatives of various accredited and non-accredited MECs

We asked the NAMEC Founders, Karen Overstreet, Rich Tischler, Jacqueline Parochka, and Mark Schaffer, to reflect on this journey and why it was important to create this organization. Here are a few of their thoughts. . .

Karen remembers why it was important to form this new organization . . .

"The CME environment was changing, and MECs needed a voice. The 4 of us had been talking about creating an organization for a while, and it came together over drinks at an Alliance conference in San Francisco. The time was right for us to work together to promote our value to CME and encourage best practices. We had numerous planning discussions and met at my home to refine our goals for the organization and begin preparations for an inaugural organizational meeting during the annual Industry/Provider conference in October 2001."

For Rich, "NAMEC was born from a need for justice and fairness. A group of dedicated educators was being unfairly characterized and had no collective voice to represent them. In fact, the organization we assumed would speak for us actually prohibited us from advocating. Karen, Jackie, Mark, and I came to the realization that we had to do it ourselves if we wanted the truth to get out there. So we combined our efforts to build a coalition that would have standing in the industry, would be sought out for comment on the issues, and would be a force for balance and truth among the rhetoric that continues to this day."

Jacqueline recalls, "When reflecting on the other Alliance member sections [in 2001], the medical schools were represented by the Society for Academic Continuing Medical Education, the medical specialty societies were represented by the Council of Medical Specialty Societies (CME Directors), the hospitals had the Association for Hospital Medical Education; and MECs were left without representation. It wasn’t a quantum leap to determine that an incorporated non-profit organization needed to be created to advocate for MECs. Of the accomplishments in my life, one I remember with greatest pride is my role in starting NAMEC and serving as its 1st President."

The bottom line, according to Mark, is that 'The time was right! Medical education companies had no "voice" at the table. Although MECA was continuing to grow nicely within the Alliance, the Alliance could not advocate for a single one of its many constituencies. And MECA, as a part of the Alliance, could not act on its own.  However, the growth of MECA did demonstrate that while we were all competitors, and were concerned about "proprietary" issues, there was a clear realization that we had enough issues in common that would allow a stand-alone organization to be formed and flourish." 

As the years have passed since that day in Karen’s kitchen, NAMEC has grown to be a strong voice in the CME Community for its members. It is the current NAMEC board’s sincere wish and desired intent that the  organizational values will continue to serve as inspiration to advance the ethical disposition not only of its members, but of all CME professionals and their institutions. We believe that this can best be achieved by publicly acknowledging our principles, having frank discussion of the challenges we face, and making a firm commitment to the integrity of our endeavors. Without the dedication and vision of the Founding Four, this would not be our reality today. So, to follow in the tradition of this July celebration, we would like to recognize OUR Founding Fathers . . . and Mothers of NAMEC.  The next time your see one of the Founding Four, throw them some verbal confetti and fireworks by saying thanks!

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