An amazing global learning experience

Dr Omneya Ezzat Elsherif is the Egypt MRCGP [INT] FM Accreditation Team Coordinator and a board member of the Egyptian Family Medicine Association. She writes of her experiences at the recent Wonca World conference in Prague as the only Egyptian delegate.

Following a strong and challenging competition based on individual accomplishments, and from among 69 applicants to the WONCA Working Party for Women in Family Medicine (WWPWFM) bursaries, I was awarded a bursary to attend the WWPWFM Preconference “Gender Equity” workshop and the WONCA world conference, in Prague. It was my first face to face participation with the WWPWFM, a hard working group and strong advocates of women’s health.

In 2011, I presented at the WONCA East Mediterranean region conference in Dubai, UAE. However, the WONCA Prague experience was a fantastic and different one. The preconference preparations carried out by the WWPWFM executive committee and the conference host organising committee showed mindedness by every single detail to make the 3600 participants at comfort .. and the event was intellectually stimulating.

Before travelling, I was anxious, but Professor Amanda Barnard’s support to the bursary winners paved an excellent path for a comfortable trip. She had kept the WWPWFM updated on the events happening before and during the conference and exerted efforts to solve any obstacles. (Note at the time Amanda Barnard was chair of WWPWFM)

Photo: Omneya and Val Wass of the UK, with WONCA CEO Garth Manning in background

Once I entered the preconference workshop, where I met Professor Amanda as well as incoming chair of the WWPWFM, Professor Zorayda ‘Dada’ Leopando and the rest of the WWPWFM; I got comfortable and self confident due to their friendly attitude. The warm atmosphere reflected a long history of enormous efforts, commitment, and dedication to gender health issues, irrespective of the long distances and cultural diversities. This encouraged me to take the lead in coordinating the first group discussions at the preconference, following the presentations. When we broke into small groups to discuss the future triennial action plan domains, each in her area of interest, it was clear that we all face the same challenges, but to varied degrees. We reflected on our commonalities and differences and it was impressive how these women exert efforts to overcome immovable organisational change.

The scientific program of the world conference, was so rich and necessitated planning ahead. I learnt about non addressed topics in my home country. The combined family violence workshops were special and professional. Building teams to collate efforts and establish a new special interest group added to my learning experiences. Through workshops, contributing to the discussions was beneficial as it addressed inquiries and clarified aims. Interactivity and feedback invited ideas for cooperative work plans in addition to its high educational impact.

Omneya with WONCA leaders (l to r)  'Dada' Leonpando, Amanda Howe, Michael Kidd, Amanda Barnard.
I had the opportunity to network internationally with colleagues. I felt empowered to plan for and convey this experience to my national and regional colleagues.

There were touching and teaching moments. We, as family doctors, all over the world share the same human feelings; our diversities and new experiences make life enjoyable. It drives us to strive for more development towards positively directed ambition. It reflects highly on our attitude towards a better way of life for us and others.

I returned back as an elected education group representative and lead representative for the East Mediterranean Region at the WWPWFM. The conference indirectly delivered a message of capacity building, enthusiasm, involvement, power and ambition to its delegates.

During my visit, I felt so grateful to my late father, may his soul rest in peace, for educating me to be a successful person. Thanks Dad, I really miss all your wisdom and before all your smiling face.

Special tribute to WWPWFM and all the donors for such fascinating learning experience

Dr Omneya Ezzat Elsherif MRCGP [Int], MD FM, DTQM, IBCLC