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ACCME Commendation Criteria Review: Engages Students

Whether you are an accredited provider such as i3 Health or you are an educational partner working with an accredited provider, it's still important to understand the criteria that underlie continuing medical education (CME) activities. This is part of a periodic series of posts looking at what each criterion means in general and what it might mean for you.

In the last two posts in this series, we looked at why and how to engage the healthcare team and patients and/or the public in our activities. Today we conclude this triad of criteria with a discussion of a final group that frequently gets left out of continuing education: students.

Engages Students (formerly C25) states:

Students of the health professions are engaged in the planning and delivery of CME.

Initially, it may seem obvious that students should be included in CME, but frequently they are excluded. Why? They are excluded because they are still students and CME is about people who are out in the world practicing medicine. Students already have their own education. In the world of medical education, they live in either the UME or the GME world. They're in medical school, also called undergraduate medical education or UME, or they're in a residency program, also called graduate medical education or GME. Once they finish their training, then they start learning through continuing medical education or CME. Each of these realms has a tendency towards tunnel vision, a single focus on their primary audience of students, residents, or practicing physicians. We should, however, see this as a continuum, and the majority of the time, a learner lives in the world of CME.

But in the same manner physicians can benefit from team-based education or from the inclusion of patients and their representatives in education, physicians can also benefit from the inclusion of the next generation. Students and residents play a role in patient care just as physicians who have, technically, completed their education do. This criterion is about building the bridges between the three stages of medical education to truly create a continuum.The requirements for this criterion match the rest of this grouping of criteria. There are two critical elements that must be met. 

1. The planning committee must include students of the health professions. The voices of students and/or residents should be part of the activity from the beginning. They should work with those who are at later levels of the education continuum to create an activity that is relevant to everyone.

2. The faculty must include students of the health professions. It's not enough for students to be involved in the planning. They should be engaged in the presentation of the activity as well so that the audience of learners also sees the overlaps in that education continuum.

To achieve this criterion, a minimum of 10% of activities should meet these two elements. Of the three criteria in this grouping, this one may be the hardest to achieve. It is well-suited to CME programs that are part of medical schools or independent academic medical centers, but not all CME programs have easy access to individuals in UME or GME programs. However, if you are in a program that is attached to a medical school or residency program, this is a practice you should strive for. Engage students so that they are interested in entire process of continuing education when they graduate. Engage students so that your practicing physicians can learn from those who are still in training. Engage students to help break down the barriers that exist across the world of medical education.

Other Posts in This SeriesCME Mission and Program Improvement

Educational Planning and Evaluation

Promotes Team-based Education


ACCME (2020). Accreditation Criteria. Available at:

ACCME (2021). Engages Students. Available at:

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