Continuous medical education and continuous professional development are cornerstones of the professionalism of doctors. The Nordic Psychiatrist was therefore keen to hear from the pivotal institutions upholding and coordinating these important elements of our work, within Europe. I was fortunate enough to have an interview with Dr. Joao Grenho, a surgeon and Secretary General of UEMS, as well as Head of EACCME. The interview was taken via TEAMS, while Dr. Grenho was driving from his busy hospital clinic one early afternoon in October.
What is your background?
I´m a medical doctor. I went to medical school in Lisbon. I then went into post-graduate training also in Lisbon. I decided to become a general surgeon and I finished my training in 2011 and worked in public hospitals until 2021 and am now the head of the general surgery department of a private hospital on the outskirts of Lisbon. So I´m mainly a general surgeon.
UEMS: The European Union of Medical Specialists (UEMS) is the oldest medical organisation in Europe, founded in 1958. With a current membership from 41 countries, it is the representative organisation of the National Associations of Medical Specialists in the European Union and its associated countries. Its structure consists of a Council responsible for and working through 43 Specialist Sections and their European Boards, addressing training in their respective Specialty and incorporating representatives from academia (Societies, Colleges and Universities). An Executive comprising the President, the Secretary-General, the Liaison Officer, and the Treasurer, is responsible for the routine functioning of the organisation.
UEMS represents over 1.6 million medical specialists in all the different specialties. It also has strong links and relations with European Institutions (Commission and Parliament), the other independent European Medical Organisations and the European Medical / Scientific Societies. By its agreed documents, UEMS sets standards for high quality healthcare practice that are transmitted to the Authorities and Institutions of the EU and the National Medical Associations stimulating and encouraging them to implement its recommendations.
More information: https://www.uems.eu/about-us/presentation
EACCME: In January 2000 the UEMS established the European Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (EACCME®) with the aim of encouraging the highest standards in the development, delivery and harmonisation of continuing medical education (CME) and, later, of continuing professional development (CPD).
The purpose of the EACCME® was to provide accreditation of international CME in Europe and to facilitate the recognition of credits between the various countries in Europe. In order to reach this goal, the UEMS-EACCME® signed agreements of cooperation with countries in Europe, and also outside of Europe.
More information: https://eaccme.uems.eu/ourhistory
You are the secretary general of the UEMS but also the head of the EACCME. Is that the general set-up, does it reflect the value the UEMS puts into continuous medical education or is this your own particular field of interest?
I would say it´s a little bit of both. The fact is that by statue the secretary general of the UEMS is the head of EACCME. So that is the way that UEMS was able to value and really show the importance EACCME has for the UEMS. As for my first love, I was initally elected to vice-president of the UEMS and then in the last elections, I decided to run for secretary general, not only to be more engaged with the UEMS but also because I really appreciated the job that´s done by EACCME. I had been a reviewer for EACCME for almost five years at the time and as such I knew that being secretary general of the UEMS would allow me to be more connected and more in charge of the EACCME, which was something that I really wanted to do and I really value.
It´s easy to see, because we have been looking as psychiatrists, at the 7 competencies of psychiatrists, as decribed by the UEMS section of psychiatry. It´s easy to see how continuous medical education touches on a number of the competencies that doctors should have. As a medical expert, as a scholar and as a professional. What it your view on the role EACCME plays for doctors?
I think it is an extremely important one. I think CME is integral to the medical profession and should be central to it. It is our duty as doctors, our responsibility as care providers to our patients to make sure we are always up to date. It is our responsibility as caregivers to our patients to make sure that the knowledge that we have and are using, also combined with the ability and the skill, are all up to date and as actual as possible. So answering your question, I would say that the requirement of continuous medical education and development is a cornerstone for the medical profession and hopefully it should be maintained that way. It also should be in the hands of the medical profession and not left to bureocracy to define what we need and what we should know.
On the EACCME website there is a mention of both continuous medical education and continuous medical development, is there a difference in your mind and what is the agency´s role in fostering the development of doctors?
The fact is that we both know and everybody knows that the two terms have been used interchangably. They are never the less as we see it in EACCME different. Which means that, in my view, CME is a smaller part, an important one, but smaller in the whole professional development of the medical profession, which is CPD. So it is not only a question of your medical aptitude and medical education but it is also the skills, the knowledge, the interpersonal capacities, communication capacities, all which is CPD and CME is a part of it, not the same thing, as I see it.
Do you know where the systems that use your accreditation are based mainly? My feeling is that it is not necessarily in the Nordic countries.
It is very disperse across Europe. I would have to check the numbers, we have them, but I would say, without checking that my first instinct would be to agree with you that the majority of events are not taking place in the Nordic countries. But I´m not sure also that the number of events taking place in the Nordic countries would be the lowest. I think it´s well distributed across Europe. Of course there is a predominance in central Europe because it is the most convenient to everyone around Europe but it is evenly distributed. And pan-European conferences are more likely to be registered.
And with this I conclude my interview with a very busy but friendly and helpful Dr. Grenho. □