Continuing medical education (CME) has become a major activity in hospitals, specialty societies, medical schools, and medical journals. Those who conduct CME courses do so to meet physicians' demand and to make a profit. But why do physicians engage in CME? The answer to that question is neither simple nor readily apparent. Although the number of CME offerings has increased enormously since many states have made it mandatory for relicensure, most physicians do not view such licensure regulation as the most important motivation of their pursuit of medical knowledge.
Richards and Cohen (J Med Educ 1980;55:479-485) have concluded that a commitment to improve continually one's skills and knowledge is basic to the notion of being a "professional." The power of peer pressure in medicine is great, and the desire to match the performance of one's peers is so powerful that voluntary participation in CME makes mandatory participation unnecessary.