From the President: December 2017

Photo: the Young Doctors’ Meeting in Thailand

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As the Western calendar year draws to a close, I hope this finds you well and that family medicine is thriving in your country. On behalf of all of us in the WONCA World Executive and Secretariat, I want to wish you and your families a peaceful and successful year ahead for 2018. I know that your efforts to develop and sustain general practice / family medicine (FM) are much needed and appreciated by your patients, so, very well done to you and your colleagues on all that you do and also for your advocacy for family doctors, which is vital.

Key successes this year include: our membership continues to grow; and we have also seen increased engagement by members through our Young Doctors’ Movements, conferences and Working Parties and Special Interest Groups. We have had increasing numbers of invitations and contribution to consultations from the World Health Organization, and have had formal representation at five out of seven regional meetings – thus ensuring that the voice of family medicine is able to be heard, as countries debate how to meet the health needs of their populations. We have also been actively bidding for additional opportunities to fund new projects that would allow more evidence and ‘outputs’ from WONCA.

We are grateful to our academic members and their organisations for the great work they contribute - the Robert Graham Center in the USA, which is a policy unit linked to our member the American Academy of Family Physicians, has facilitated a series of ‘Starfield Summits’ to build new evidence about how to measure and develop primary health care. Our Working Party on Research is also very active in coordinating and publishing case studies of family medicine at a country level, and we have several new WONCA books due out in 2018. Other impressive work includes the activities of our Working Party on Mental Health who have published several new guidelines for clinical practice – please take time to read these, they are written for you.

> Depression an evidence based first consultation
>Guidance on caring for the physical health of patients with Severe Mental Illness (SMI)

Recruiting and retaining the GP/FM workforce remains a key priority, and we have discussed a possible campaign on this, including the need to target medical schools. I urge you to engage with medical schools in your country to ensure our discipline is promoted as a career choice and an important source of care for the people. We need 50% of young doctors to choose family medicine! And to achieve this we all need to help with their early learning, so they can meet family doctors and their teams, and be inspired by what we do. Please feel free to send us examples of where you feel you are succeeding in this so we can share your expertise with others- and contact us if we can help.

We also had strong representation at the WHO Global Human Resources for Health meeting in Dublin, and a separate article will follow on this meeting.

I have just completed three regional visits – to our WONCA Asia Pacific Region conference in Thailand; Canada for both their College and the North America Primary Care Research Group meeting; and then to WONCA South Asia Region conference, in Nepal. I was privileged to give a number of talks and meet many colleagues who are achieving great work, both in clinical and academic domains.

Photo: President’s visit to the Queens University Department of Family Medicine Clinic in Kingston, Canada, where Ruth Wilson our North America region president does her clinical work. Pictured with Diane Cross their Practice Manager.

Thinking ahead to 2018, we have World Family Doctor Day on May 19, and shall be inviting material for that early in the year; we have our WONCA World conference in Seoul, in October - get your poster and abstract submissions in soon!; three more WONCA region conferences – East Mediterranean in Kuwait and IberoAmericana in Columbia, both in March, and Europe, in Poland in June. Then there are the WHO celebrations of the Alma Ata Declaration 40th anniversary in November, where WONCA is already having input to the preparations, and which will bring a key focus back onto “primary health care".

Photo: with the new President of the Canadian College of Family Physicians, Dr Guillaume Charbonneau

A few members have contacted us about whether the political issues in the Asia Pacific region will impact on our Seoul world conference - our position is one of ‘pragmatic optimism’. Our colleagues in the region are putting great plans in place, and we are seeing new abstracts submitted and registration starting well. The CEO has visited in November and all is going fine. In the event of cancellation on government advice, all registration costs will be refunded, so there is no financial risk. And there are many beautiful places in and around South Korea to visit. So let’s stand with our colleagues, and plan our CPD and holidays around Seoul in 17-21 October 2018!

I have personally been privileged to be to all our regions during 2017, and seen very contrasting but wonderful work – as well as the many challenges that family medicine still meets worldwide.

As President, and with your Executive, we want to support you as best we can - so please do contact us if you have any views and suggestions. We wish you, your families, your colleagues and friends, a happy and peaceful New Year. And as citizens and doctors, let us work for good in this period.

Professor Amanda Howe,
President of WONCA.