Vermont’s Only Medical School Makes an Ass of Itself (UPDATED)

Update: Well, that didn’t take long. The UVM medical school has reportedly withdrawn the offer of credit for the RTL symposium.

Updated Update: It’s now 4:00 pm Monday, and we have yet to hear officially from Larner College. It would seem in the institution’s best interest to put out this fire as quickly as possible. Is there some dithering going on?

You’d think that leaders of a medical school would be smart. Guess not.

The news that the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine is offering continuing education credit for medical professionals who attend a conference of Vermont Right to Life beggars credulity. On just about every level. It’s a PR nightmare, an abdication of professional oversight, and a tacit endorsement of politically-inspired junk science.

Let’s begin by defining “continuing medical education.” According to the American Medical Association, CME is meant to “maintain, develop, or increase the knowledge, skills and professional performance and relationships that a physician uses to provide services for patients, the public or the profession.”

So tell me, how does attending a presentation entitled “The Case Against Proposal 5” (the constitutional amendment protecting reproductive rights) improve a medical professional’s performance in providing services for patients?

That’s the issue, even before we get to the politics of giving credit for a Right to Life event in a strongly pro-choice state, and the dubious “science” concocted by RTL and its allies. There’s no way it’s appropriate to give medical education credit for attending a political meeting of a group that has no connection to the medical profession.

It should also be noted that UVM’s doctors are reimbursed for professional expenses, including CME courses. So presumably, some of the University’s dollars will go into the coffers of Right to Life.

I hope there are some emergency meetings around UVMMC this morning, with learned important people trying to devise a face-saving way out of this shande. Because they need to find one, pronto.

Dr. John King, the head of UVMMC’s CME office, offered some dumb rationales for the approval. “We would like all points of view to be presented, and it’s our job to support a diversity of beliefs and thoughts and philosophies,” he said, as if it improves a medical professional’s expertise to listen to a bunch of lies and junk science.

Would UVM give credit for a geologist attending a Creationist conference? Or a geographer who wants (for whatever reason) to hang with the Flat Earth Society? Or a historian who attends a gathering of the Sons of the Confederacy?

No, it wouldn’t. And UVMMC shouldn’t offer credit for a Right to Life meeting.

It makes me wonder what else King’s office has greenlighted. I’ve seen some pretty blatant abuses of CME over the years. My favorite was a week-long meeting on “underwater medicine” held on a Caribbean island in mid-winter. Each day offered a single session, followed by abundant free time for golf, surfing, scuba diving, catching some rays and drinking copious amounts of Red Stripe. Nice work if you can get it.

That was a rank abuse of deductible professional expense rules, but at least it had a basis in medical science. Underwater medicine is actually a thing. Defeating a constitutional amendment is not.

Well, it’s not a medical thing.

If this decision stands, I hope UVMMC is made to answer for it. Maybe some legislative hearings on the proper use of CME. Usually, the University gets a friendly reception around the Statehouse. This ought to be an exception.


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