The right infrastructure to support professional education programs

An interview with Joyce Donnellan, DVP of Education at the American College of Cardiology

Maverick is building on our experience and that of associations that are leaders in the field to help our clients leverage their book, journal, and meeting content to create educational programs that provide revenue and member benefits as well as contribute to the field. The American College of Cardiology (ACC) has been a leader in this area, and Maverick CEO, Rebecca Rinehart, shares the insights of Joyce Donnellan, DVP of Education at ACC, about the infrastructure required to support educational program development.

Can your infrastructure support Education?

Infrastructure to develop educational programs requires resources, systems, technology, and people working together. As with most associations, silos exist whereby various groups work independently, so this is the perspective of ACC’s education division.

What is the primary source of content and who is responsible for identifying it?

There are several sources of educational content, however, a great deal of the content is from the annual meeting, which features thousands of faculty members across hundreds of sessions. Committees oversee content and are organized by pathways that represent subject matter experts from academic, clinical, and community-based settings. A call for proposals solicits suggestions that are reviewed by the pathway committees. Final selections are made by chairs of the annual meeting. A new product, ACC Anywhere, is the digital portion of the annual meeting and also includes other content. ACC Anywhere is the “Netflix” of cardiology learning. You can look up information by key concepts and source, pathways, session, and topics at the annual meeting.

The annual meeting content undergoes thorough, robust assessment and review. In addition to the education delivered in person, over 7,000 poster abstracts are submitted, with an acceptance rate of 60-75%. The abstracts are published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) after the annual meeting. Content is delivered almost entirely in live sessions, although there are some virtual sessions as well as oral abstracts and poster sessions. The virtual content has decreased with the publication of ACC Anywhere.

Other products, such as the Self-Assessment and CME programs and (ACC’s website) have editorial boards based on clinical practice topics aligned with the ACCs Lifelong Learning Competencies The editorial board members commission content creation, including hundreds of test questions, one of the most popular formats with members. Questions are tagged to allow quick links to support education to help them quickly close their gap. The process is resource-intensive from both human and financial standpoints:

  • The annual meeting planning group comprises over 120 people.
  • Self-Assessment programs in five subspecialties include content and questions written by hundreds of SME with editors over each product and program
  • An Editor-in-Chief sits over all the self-assessment programs who oversees quality, accuracy, and appropriateness.
  • org also has an Editorial Board that commissions and oversees a variety of content including trial summaries, meeting coverage, journal scans as well as general disease state education including JACC CME

How do your systems support updates, revisions, and periodic reviews?

All programs are developed under the same protocol with the same standards. JACC CME is the most widely used of all CME.  The editors identify articles that would be good candidates for CME and then questions are developed related to articles.  This can be challenging as the skillsets don’t always align.  Question writing is not as easy as one would think, it requires a specialized skill.

Each year a subset of the educational products are reviewed by the Education Standards and Outcomes Committee (ESOC) to assess the validity of programs: Is it working? Are people using it? Is it following standards? Is it helping move the ACC and the specialty of cardiology forward? The rubric used by the ESOC is evaluated and modified as needed each year. Most recently categories have been added to ensure DEI and Health Equity are addressed if applicable.

What types of skillsets beyond basic publishing skills are required to develop educational products?

There are several skills needed to develop and deliver education. At the ACC we utilize a variety of positions, including instructional design, needs assessment, measurement and outcome, project management, and product management. For our products that support or provide certifications, we utilize psychometricians to ensure the reliability and validity of our questions. Partnership between staff and volunteers with different skill sets who need to work together is emphasized. Staff needs to support volunteers with the awareness that most are busy practitioners. The technology group ensures systems are integrated, and a business team is assigned to each product line. Emphasis is placed on the need to work in a team approach and take advantage of the highest level of skill set to develop new products, techniques, and insights from the field.

For live meetings, content and logistics teams work with a planning committee and faculty who ensure content is aligned with education goals and outcomes as well as ensuring a good experience for the learners.

The ACC utilizes cross-divisional teams to ensure alignment with our other products.  Education is developed throughout the ACC but the goal is to develop it using the same standards. In some cases, ACC is awarded cross-divisional grants that may include patient as well as professional education.

What type of tools do you use for content identification and management?

Most of the systems used to support publishing are also applicable to developing educational products:

  • Submission systems
  • Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS)
  • Survey Software
  • Peer review systems
  • Research integrity guidelines
  • Oversight by the EIC and editorial board members
  • Disclosure database

Most Associations and Societies, medical and otherwise, do not have the resources available to develop such an extensive program. What would you advise?

Most societies have a need to offer professional development, and the publishing units have the content and expertise that can be deployed in creating educational programs. Systems that work for your journal publication can also work with education. Silos need to come down.

Learn More

Maverick offers a global network of professionals with the depth and breadth of experience to match the exact needs of any project. Our Professional Education program helps you take advantage of opportunities by providing a simple, practical process to repurpose the investment in your content into new offerings. Reach out to your Maverick representative or email us at to learn more.


By Rebecca Rinehart
Maverick CEO and Head of US Operations

Rebecca Rinehart is a publishing professional with over 40 years’ experience in all aspects of scientific, technical, and medical publishing in all formats, including books, journals, periodicals, and digital. She is the former publisher of American Psychiatric Publishing, a division of the American Psychiatric Association, and the world’s leading publisher on psychiatry, mental health, and behavioral science. Her other prior experience includes senior level positions overseeing publications at The Endocrine Society, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and Harper & Row Publishers.

Further Reading

New product development and the potential for AI in Professional Education

Maximize your content with Maverick’s Professional Education program

Developing content for professional education products

Maverick’s Professional Education Service Sheet