Address by WONCA president to the Board of the College of Family Physicians of Canada, on the occasion of the 60 anniversary of the foundation of the College

November 11, 2014


Thank you for the opportunity to join you today, and to take part in this week's celebration of the 60th anniversary of the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC).

The origins of WONCA, our World Organization of Family Doctors, can be traced back to 1964, fifty years ago, when the very first World Conference on General Practice was held in Montreal, hosted by the CFPC

WONCA was established eight years later in 1972 in Melbourne, Australia, and the CFPC was there as one of WONCA’s 18 founding member organisations, joining other national colleges of family doctors that shared a commitment to working together to ensure that the people of all countries would have access to well trained and well supported family doctors.  

At the first official WONCA meeting in 1972, Dr Donald Rice, one of the leading figures of this college who became the second world president of WONCA, said, “We are witnessing a rebirth of the family doctor as the central figure in new patterns of health care delivery. A family doctor trained in modern medicine but with the same compassion, understanding and empathy, so characteristic of the much honoured and revered family doctor of bygone days.  A family doctor trained to work with other health professionals in providing total health care for a rapidly changing society.”  Words from 42 years ago which continue to be true today as family medicine develops as the core of strengthened health care systems in many parts of the world.

Today WONCA represents over 500,000 family doctors in 131 countries in all parts of the world.  And the 500,000 family doctors, including all members of this College, each year have over 2 billion consultations with their patients.  That is the scope of the important work we all do.

WONCA continues to support the development of new colleges and societies of family medicine in many developing countries around the world and I pay tribute to the work this College and your members are doing in the international sphere.  You are making a difference to the lives of people in urban and rural communities in many lands, ensuring access to strong primary care.

WONCA represents family medicine at the World Health Organization (WHO) and we have many opportunities to support and influence the policies and the programs of the WHO, at a global level, and at a regional level, including through the Pan American Health Organization, PAHO.

WONCA is also supporting the next generation of family doctors through the young doctor movements that have now been established in each of the seven regions of the world, including the new Polaris movement of North American young family doctors.

Many members of this College have held leadership roles of WONCA, among them WONCA presidents Don Rice and Donald Rae, CFPC Chief Executives Reg Perkins, Cal Gutkin and Francine Lemire, and College members Cheryl Levitt, Walt Rosser, Jim Rourke, Alan Abelsohn, and our current WONCA Regional President for North America, Ruth Wilson.  

My own links to this college go back 25 years ago when I met Reg Perkins at the WONCA world conference in Jerusalem in 1989.  I was a young family medicine trainee at the time, working at Monash University in Australia, and I had been sent to the WONCA world conference to present my research on the use of computers to improve the quality and safety of family medicine.  Back in those days computers were still new and we were discovering ways they could be used to support our clinical practice and provide innovative approaches to medical education.  Reg asked if I would organise a display of computer-based innovations for family medicine from around the world at the next WONCA world conference, being hosted in Vancouver in 1992, which I did.

I wish to particularly highlight the recent work of CFPC member Allyn Walsh, who is the current chair of WONCA's working party on education.  Allyn leads an enthusiastic group of family medicine educators from across the world and together they have developed WONCA's new global standards for postgraduate family doctor education.  Recently Allyn and I were part of small team that conducted the first accreditation of a family medicine training program against the new WONCA standards at the Shanghai Medical College of Fudan University in China, and in July, in the presence of WHO Director-General, and Canadian medical graduate, Dr Margaret Chan, we awarded WONCA accreditation to that training program, the first in China and the first in the world.  The WHO regards this accreditation process as critically important to the development of family medicine in China and other parts of the world and towards ensuring universal health coverage.  Through the work of Allyn and others, the College of Family Physicians of Canada continues your strong tradition of influencing the development of family medicine in many parts of the world.

I thank you for your unwavering support for the work of WONCA.  I thank you for your commitment to global family medicine.  And I thank you for working with all the members of WONCA towards ensuring that every family in the world has access to a well trained family doctor.  

Happy 60th birthday.


Michael Kidd


World Organization of Family Doctors (WONCA)

November 10, 2014