From the CEO's desk: Executive meeting and EMR conference

Greetings again. As I write this month’s column I’m actually sitting in my hotel room in San Jose, Costa Rica, where I’m attending the 6th Cumbre (or Summit) of the Iberoamericana-CIMF Region, which will be followed by the fist-ever Mesoamerican (Central American) WONCA conference, also in Costa Rica. However all of that is for next month, as is my feedback from my visit to Rio de Janeiro last week, for the final Conference Planning Committee before the WONCA World Conference in Rio from 2nd to 6th November.

This month I want to tell you a little of the recent WONCA Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR) conference in Dubai and also provide some feedback on the latest WONCA Executive meeting in Abu Dhabi on 20th and 21st March (photo above).

WONCA EMR Conference

WONCA EMR is the newest region of WONCA, and this was just their third regional conference, held in Dubai from 17th to 19th March. The Chair of the HOC, Dr Wedad Al Haj Al Maidoor, and the Chair of the Scientific Committee, Dr Mohammed Farghaly, together with their enthusiastic committee members, had put on a really great scientific event, overseen by Conference President (and Regional President) Dr Mohammed Tarawneh.

There were many interesting clinical and non-clinical sessions and topics covered during the three days, but of especial interest was a session on Day 1 led by colleagues from WHO EMRO (Eastern Mediterranean Region Office). WHO EMRO is extraordinarily active in developing and promoting the establishment of professional family medicine in the region, and has been working ever more closely with WONCA to achieve this ambition. The session was facilitated by Dr Sameen Siddiqi, Director of Health Systems Development at WHO EMRO, and participants discussed challenges, lessons learned and priorities to enhance family medicine programmes in the region, together with regional strategies to scale up the production of family doctors in the region in the sort, medium and longer term. WHO also presented an advocacy video on the role of family medicine in the provision of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). This is a really great video, which can be accessed at https://youtu.be/42WiE7VkNvc

During the WHO sessions three presentations were shared: scaling up family practice in the region; on line training courses to improve knowledge and skills among general practitioners; and development of “training of trainers” programmes. The session concluded with a panel discussion, including representatives from WHO, WONCA, Ministries of Health and Academia.

It really was a great three days. We were especially pleased to see inputs from Al Razi, the Young Doctor Movement for the EMR Region, led by Dr Nagwa Nashat, and also the involvement of local medical students through the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA). WONCA has a long standing MOU with IFMSA and is constantly promoting ever closer collaboration, so it was wonderful to have IFMSA attend this conference – and even better that they won an award for best presentation.

Next year’s EMR conference will be in Qatar, with 2018 scheduled for Kuwait, and we look forward to even bigger and better events years on year.

WONCA Executive Meeting

WONCA Executive face-to-face meetings always start with a session on strategy, and this one was no different. At the start of his Presidency Michael Kidd set the major Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as :
• Greater connection with Member Organizations regionally, and boosting regional membership
• Ever closer collaboration globally and regionally with WHO
• Enhanced support to the Young Doctor Movements (YDM).

Each Regional President thus reported back to Executive on activities in each region, including countries which had joined, or had applied to join, or were contemplating joining, WONCA. They also reported back on work and collaboration with WHO in their individual regions, whilst Luisa Pettigrew, WONCA’s WHO Liaison, updated Executive on activities with WHO at HQ level since the last meeting. Raman Kumar, as the YDM representative on Executive, then provided an update on all that the YDMs had been doing since the last Executive meeting, and highlighted the YDM plans for their pre-conference in Rio on 1st and 2nd November.

Executive succession planning was also discussed. This was the last full meeting of the 2013-16 Executive prior to their pre-Council meeting in October, and it was useful to envisage how the 2016-18 Executive might look. Only two members carried over from 2010-13 to the current Executive, and there was thus a very steep learning curve for all, but it appears that the 2016-18 Executive will have a better balance of new and experienced members.

WONCA’s finances always take up some discussion time, but on this occasion there wasn’t too much to discuss. At the time of the meeting we were only 2½ months into the 2016 budget, so there were no grounds for budget revision. In addition the finances have been more stable in recent times, and Hon Treasurer was able to report a small budget surplus for 2015, against a projected balanced budget. Executive also considered several bids from Working Parties and Regions for additional funds from the Discretionary Budget. Inevitably there were more bids than funds could support, but the Finance Committee had carried out a preliminary assessment of bids, against agreed criteria, and Executive agreed some additional funding for WONCA’s Working Parties on Environment, Rural Practice, Women and Family Medicine and International Classification Committee, having already previously agreed additional funding for WONCA Iberoamericana and the WONCA Young Doctor Movements.

Membership applications
were also discussed and Job Metsemakers, as Chair of Membership Committee presented the applications already considered by the Membership Committee, for consideration by Executive.

Executive endorsed the recommendations for
Academic Membership to –
• The Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Gezira, Sudan

Full Membership to:
• Slovak Society of General Practice (upgrade from Associate Member)
• Bulgarian General Practice Society for Research and Education

Bylaws and Regulations is always a major topic for discussion, especially since any proposals for change had to be notified to Member Organizations before the end of April, and this was thus the last chance for Executive to discuss in details. By the time you read this the proposed amendments will have gone out but, in brief, Karen Flegg, as Chair of Bylaws and Regulations Committee, presented and spoke to three tabled papers. Her committee has been attempting to simplify the various rules and regulations which have evolved over time. The proposal to Council will be to separate the bylaws from the regulations, and for changes to a number of the Regulations to update their relevance. Full details have now gone to MOs, and will also be included in the papers for October’s Council, but President and President-elect also hope to brief all Regional Councils in Rio in October, just prior to World Council.

WONCA Honours and Awards were discussed and Executive considered, and endorsed, a number of WONCA awards to several individuals who have provided great service to WONCA over the years. The individuals themselves have now been informed, so that they can make arrangements to come to Rio if they wish to collect their awards in person, but the names will remain embargoed until the WONCA Council meeting in October. Meantime WONCA’s Nominating and Awards Committee has also considered nominations from Member Organizations, as well as nominations for the WONCA Five Star Doctor award, and Executive will soon be considering the Committee’s recommendations.

Executive also considered the various Working Party and Special Interest Group reports, and any actions which had been requested. Executive was pleased to endorse the following recommendations:
• Endorsement in principle of the Organizational Equity Committee’s draft Conference Equity Statement, subject to some minor editorial amendments.
• Endorsement (with minor editorial amendments) of WP on Education’s paper on WONCA Standards for Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
• Recommendation from WP on Environment that WONCA signs up to the Doha Declaration on climate change.
• Draft WONCA policy statement on eHealth, as produced by the WP on eHealth was endorsed, subject to some caveats and amendments.

Finally Executive discussed the current WONCA Mission Statement and agreed to look at revising and updating it during the next biennium. It also received a report from Professor Michael Kidd on the latest WONCA publication – “Classical Papers”. In this new WONCA publication, edited by Michael Kidd, Iona Heath and Amanda Howe, the editors have endeavoured to collect in one place the classic papers from family medicine from around the world. This book aims to serve as a showcase of some of the most important ideas and research carried out in, or about, family medicine, demonstrate the board scope of primary health care delivered by family doctors around the world, and serve as an inspiration to current family doctors as well as to doctors in training and medical students.

Of course many other topics were discussed and debated during a very busy two days, but I hope that this gives you a flavour of at least some of the issues which Executive considers on your behalf.

Until next month.
Garth Manning