WONCA President’s farewell address Rio 2016

December 11, 2016

In 1380, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote, “All good things must come to an end.”

And so it is with my time as president of WONCA, our World Organization of Family Doctors.

It has been an extraordinary privilege to be your president over the past three years. And I have found I have become quite a celebrity within my own family. A few months ago, my five-year-old nephew was playing with my iPad and found my YouTube account where I record video messages which I have sent to colleagues. He clicked on the first one and heard me say, “Hello. My name is Michael Kidd and I am the president of WONCA.” He looked up at me with huge eyes and said, “Uncle Mike, are you the president of WONCA.” I said, “yes”. He said, “Did you find the golden ticket?” I said, “Yeah, I guess I did.”

Being president of this organisation is a wonderful experience.

I first became a part of the WONCA family 27 years ago when I attended my first WONCA world conference in Jerusalem in 1989. I was a young family medicine trainee at the time. I was amazed at the energy and passion and diversity that I encountered among the family doctors gathered at our world conference. I am sure you are finding the same at our world conference here in Rio.

Maybe this is your first WONCA conference. And maybe in 27 years time you too will be standing here as president of WONCA. I invite you to take that first step and get involved in the work that we do. Be active in your national college and your region, join one of our working parties, join one of our special interest groups, keep coming to our conferences, share your ideas and your energy and your passion.

It’s not all serious though. Family doctors know how to work hard and we know that if we are going to stay resilient then we also need to take time to relax and recharge. I thank our hosts here in Rio for showing us all how to be busy with our work and also have a wonderful time.

There is a golden opportunity right now for family medicine as the nations of the world wake up to the need to strengthen their systems of primary care to better meet the current and future health needs of their people.

One of the great privileges of being WONCA president is having the opportunity to visit our member organisations, individual family doctors, medical educators and researchers, and health policy makers in countries all around the world. During my term as WONCA president, I have made 77 visits to countries all around the world. I have had the remarkable opportunity to learn about the challenges and successes of family medicine in many different nations. I thank our many member organisations and individual colleagues who have supported my visits.

I have served as a member of the WONCA world executive for the past 12 years. I thank all my wonderful colleagues who have served with me as a member of the WONCA executive over this time. Thank you for your individual support, your wise mentorship, your deep friendship, and your steadfast commitment to the ideals of our organization.

I thank our WONCA CEO, my dear friend, Dr Garth Manning, and our Bangkok secretariat, led by Nongluck Suwisith. Our secretariat team work so very hard to support our organization and provide superb support to your executive and our member organisations and our direct members.

One of my medical heroes is the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr Albert Schweitzer, who once said, “I don’t know what your destiny will be but one thing I do know. The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”

Through service to global family medicine I have found real happiness. It is a great joy to lead this wonderful organisation.

In a few minutes, I will hand over the responsibilities of WONCA President to our global organisation’s first ever woman president, Professor Amanda Howe. One of the great pleasures of the past three years has been the opportunity to work closely with Amanda. I know Amanda is going to be a remarkable president, and I know you join me in wishing Amanda every success as she takes on the leadership of our global organisation.

I thank my biological and global families, may of you here today, and especially my wonderful partner Alastair, here in the front row, and the other members of my family in Australia, and my friends, watching this ceremony here in Rio or live on skype, and my many colleagues at Flinders University for their steadfast support over the past three years. While I have been travelling the world representing WONCA and global family medicine, my family and friends and colleagues have ensured things ran smoothly at home.

If I may, I have a private message for Alastair. (Thank you my love, you are my rock. I love you very much).

I thank my many mentors and colleagues who have provided me with support and guidance and advice over the years, and continue to do so. Some of you are in this room today, some are no longer with us but your wise words remain with me. As a teacher, I especially thank my students and my family medicine trainees who test my viewpoints and help to keep me focused on the challenges of contemporary health care. And no thank you would be complete without thanking my patients, who have taught me over the past 30 years how to be a better doctor and a better person.

I thank you all for your trust in allowing me to hold this position for the past three years. It has been an extraordinary privilege and the highlight of my professional career. I look forward to continuing to work with you, during the years ahead, on strengthening family medicine and the important role we play in providing health care for all the people of the world.