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Continuing Education: Continuing Ed Grows Exponentially, Breaking New Ground

April 29, 2015 Print

Under the leadership of Christopher M. Palmer, MD, Continuing Education at McLean has grown exponentially and broken new ground with its innovative multidisciplinary curriculum.

Christopher M. Palmer, MD
Christopher M. Palmer, MD, director of Postgraduate and Continuing Education

Palmer took the reins of the Department of Postgraduate and Continuing Education in 2000, the year after completing his residency at McLean. At the time, Continuing Education focused on training internal faculty and staff through Grand Rounds, and hosted small conferences that attracted 10 to 125 participants in McLean’s intimate Pierce Hall.

Today, the department educates nearly 9,000 practicing mental health professionals annually from around the world, including physicians, psychologists, nurses, social workers, and licensed counselors through a variety of formats. They include large, offsite multiday conferences; weekly Grand Rounds for McLean faculty and staff; and partnerships with outside organizations, such as the Massachusetts General Hospital Psychiatry Academy, to accredit their own Continuing Education offerings. Since 2007, overall participation in the Continuing Education program has soared by 487 percent and revenues have jumped from $200,000 to $1.2 million.

“Education is a vital component of the hospital’s mission,” said Palmer. “Our goal is to keep all types of mental health professionals up to date on new research, medications, and evidence-based treatments to raise the bar on clinician competence, performance, and patient outcomes.”

Technology has been instrumental in the growth of the program. The hospital’s newly redesigned website provides continuously updated, easily accessible information about Continuing Education opportunities. Grand Rounds are live-streamed throughout the Partners HealthCare network, and affiliates can access archived Grand Rounds videos. Plans are under way to make online Grand Rounds available for continuing education credit as well.

“There are tremendous opportunities to grow Continuing Education by utilizing technology to spread the hospital’s expertise across the United States and throughout the world,” said Palmer.

Forward-thinking multidisciplinary training—that is, professional development for the entire health care team—is a cornerstone of the Continuing Education program. The rapid growth of the offsite conferences attests to the value of that approach. From just two conferences—Psychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry—attended by 371 participants in 2007, the conferences have grown to attract more than 1,500 national and international participants in five subject areas: Psychiatry; Coaching in Leadership and Healthcare; Addictions; Attachment; and Depression, Anxiety, and Stress. Future plans include collaboration with the National Rehabilitation Center in Abu Dhabi, a substance-abuse treatment hospital that McLean helped develop to improve care for patients in the Middle East.

That ability to evolve with changing times and therapeutic advances helped earn the program an “Accreditation with Commendation” designation from the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education in 2012. “Many years ago, the choice of topic was based primarily on what people might be interested in,” added Palmer. “But now it is more about assessing what they actually need: What are the new studies and treatments that will enable practitioners to be more effective? What are the complex modalities that need to be broken down to enhance outcomes even for patients with treatment-refractory illnesses? We can greatly expand our influence in these and other areas by delivering the highest-quality Continuing Education to all mental health professionals.”