Apparently the Larner College Insists On Doing This Dumb, Politically Damaging Thing

Well, after quite a bit of back-and-forth and a false alarm along the way, it now seems that UVM’s Larner College of Medicine will stand by its baffling decision to grant continuing education credits to medical professionals who attend a conference organized by the Vermont Right to Life Committee.

No, seriously. Stop laughing. Medical education credits for a political organization with no expertise in medicine, and that peddles junk science to support its agenda. That’s hunky-dory according to Vermont’s one and only medical school.

I wrote about this landmark of stupidiousness last Friday. Shortly after my post went live, Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale tweeted that Larner was reversing the decision. I amended my post to reflect the news. But Friday came and went, as did the weekend and Monday, and there was still no official word from Larner.

It’s now apparent that news of Larner’s reversal was, well, fake news.

Here’s what we know so far.

Ram Hinsdale heard of the alleged reversal from what she thought was a reliable source. She and several other state lawmakers (Mari Cordes, Selene Colburn, Tanya Vyhovsky and Kate Donnally) reached out to UVM to express dismay over the original decision and seek more information. They asked five questions:

1. Can you confirm that this symposium will no longer be eligible for CME credits? Is there a statement forthcoming?

2. Are there standards and criteria for CMEs that you can send us, especially when questions about the appropriateness of policy advocacy arise? Did the flyers [describing the offer of academic credit] violate any standards?

3. Have Right to Life or other organizational proposals been rejected in the past? Can you share examples?

4. Was legal counsel sought on this decision? Is that standard or only as requested? Who has the ultimate discretion over this decision?

5. Is there any logical extension by which gay converstion therapy or race-based sedation practices could be considered for CME? What might stop those from advancing for credit but allow this proposal? What is permissible due to free speech considerations and where is the bright line when illegitimate or debunked science is presented for credit?

Good questions, one and all. The response, via Wendy Koenig, UVM Director of Federal and State Relations (read: lobbyist and glad-hander), was a marvel of bureaucratic doublespeak and institutional arrogance. Also, it answered none of the questions. Here it is in all its glory.

I know of no further announcement on the Life Symposium. 

The Larner College of Medicine (LCOM) Office of Continuing Medical and Interprofessional Education (CMIE) is able to issue CME credits to outside organizations in Vermont only after following a rigorous review of a proposed program that follows guidance provided by a national accreditation body. We realize that scrutiny on the CME approval process is spotlighted now, both internally and externally. While we have every reason to believe the approval process was properly followed—including neutrality on the matter of content—we are launching an independent review of our CME approval process. The review may identify recommendations for improvement in or modification of our processes. We will certainly modify our processes if we receive recommendations following the review. 

UVM is committed to following best practices always. LCOM is the only entity in the state that can approve CME credits, which further highlights the importance of utilizing best practices. We will work with our accreditor to ensure that our CME review process is sound and that our staff is fully trained as to their responsibilities. 

I don’t blame Koenig for that atrocity. She’s only following orders. But c’mon, she has to know, in her capacity as UVM’s point person at the Statehouse, that the decision was a political disaster and that non-response could only make the situation worse.

She defends the “rigorous” process that led to accrediting Right to Life… but then she offers “an independent review.” Which seems destined to be a whitewash, considering Koenig’s defense of the process. I’d hope that the appropriate committees in the House and Senate will hold Larner’s feet to the fire on this. They certainly shouldn’t count on a UVM-commissioned “independent review” to produce honest results.

That’s the main point, but there are other little prickly bits. Like that thing about “neutrality on the matter of content.” That’s bullshit. RTL has no medical expertise to offer. It would be equally inappropriate to offer medical education credit for a political strategy confab organized by Planned Parenthood. Or to offer credit for attending a meeting of the Society for Trepanation or a conference of the Germ Theory Is Bullshit Association. There is no useful “medical education” to be had at the RTL confab. “Neutrality” doesn’t mean brainlessness. Or at least it shouldn’t.

There’s also the insistence that UVM always follows “best practices,” when this decision is just about the opposite of “best practices.”

And just for the record, I’d like to know which “national accreditation body” approves of CME credit for a political event that peddles junk science. If there really is such a body, methinks the entire CME system could use a colonoscopy. Without anesthetic.

The good lawmakers continue to seek answers. I doubt they’ll get any that satisfy their concerns. Koenig’s insulting non-response indicates that UVM has decided to circle the wagons on this one. Why, I have no idea.

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