She makes house calls, lots of them. Maureen Doyle-Scharff,MBA, FACME, calls Ohio home but logs about half her work hours in Pfizer’sManhattan offices. The other half is spent traveling. On her itinerary thismonth, a whirlwind tour of four Midwestern states: Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsinand Minnesota.
You might call it a speaking tour for Doyle-Scharff, whobrought her considerable expertise in education to Pfizer last September justas the company put in place a regional system of grant management. By fanningits five education directors out across the country to shmooze with educationproviders, goes the thinking, the company can better assess competencies, needsand clinical learning gaps, as well as communicate its funding goals.
“I don’t take lightly the fact that I’m considered a leaderin the CME industry,” Doyle-Scharff says, adding that she accepts theassignment with humility and that she considers many of those with whom shespeaks to be mentors. “I also enjoy the fact that I can have conversations witha variety of stakeholders who are interested in what my experiences have beenin terms of industry support of education and why it’s absolutely appropriatefor us to be engaged in this. Because patients can benefit from it.”
She’ll have plenty of opportunity. Her portfolio includessuch territories as Alaska, Washington and Oregon. At the moment, she and acolleague are splitting California, unless Pfizer decides to hire a sixthdirector to cover the golden state.
The face-to-face style is a welcome change from thecentralized, impersonal grant application systems that have been the bane ofproviders the last few years. “By strictly communicating with providers via ourgrants system,” Doyle-Scharff explains, “we’re losing the ability to reallyappreciate what things are going on in their own backyard that have led them towant to produce an educational activity in the first place.”
There’s plenty to talk about over the fence. Word is BigPharma’s thin pipelines and shrinking profits will translate into diminishedgrant budgets, just as a truckload of new standards are coming down the pikethat encourage sophisticated QI-oriented CME over the more common,update-oriented kind. Collaboration is the buzz word, and it must occur amongteaching hospitals, medical societies and med ed companies so that patient datacan be recorded and linked back to an educational activity to prove it reallyimpacted outcomes. Only then can CME defend itself against the slings andarrows of Congress and the media, who accuse it of such nasty things as usingeducation as a shill for off-label promotion.
Budgets aside, the profession has a very capable champion inDoyle-Scharff. She reorganized the education group at Abbott Nutrition from topto bottom (Abbott’s pharma division is now adopting her policies), while in herother role wrangled with the World Health Organization and other groups onglobal health policy issues, like raising awareness of formula among mothers incountries where such promotion is illegal. The third hat she wore with Abbottwas alliance development.
“My passion has always been the medical education piece,”she says, “I was part of a division where we were making a difference, but whatI sought was to be able to make that difference on a broader scale.” If infantnutrition could offer that, “I may not be sitting here in Manhattan!”
Pfizer launched a new grant portal Jan. 4 that is designedto be more user-friendly than an earlier version. The company is expected topost CME grants awarded—a lá Eli Lilly—online by the end of March, and furthertransparency may be in store. “We want to get to a point where we can postbudgets by clinical area,” Doyle-Scharff says, along with a “real-time track ofwhat monies are available” (date to be determined). “[CME funding] shouldn’t bea big, black box. We want to be a trusted stakeholder.”
Those words should assure providers and legislators alikethat Pfizer, which lagged peers in overhauling its medical education grantsmodel to bring it in line with 2003’s OIG guidance, is back on track.
When the Doyle-Scharff express comes to a halt, it’s usuallyat home in Ohio, where her husband and two (at this writing, soon to be three)children wait with open arms.
“I spend every spare moment I have outside ofwork with them,” she says. Then, it’s back on the road. Hello, Anchorage.