Job Metsemakers: From Prague 2013 to Rio 2016 to …

Prof Job FM Metsemakers, President WONCA Europe reflects on three and a half years in the role and the achievements of WONCA Europe in this time. Photo above: WONCA Europe executive joking with the WONCA Europe President in Copenhagen in June 2016.

It was not a surprise that I left Prague in 2013 as President of WONCA Europe. But I also left Prague as an Executive Board member of WONCA World, and as Chair of the WONCA Membership Committee. With Rio fast approaching it is a good opportunity to reflect on my three and a half years as a WONCA Europe President also trying to meet the KPIs set by WONCA World.


Membership in the region was the first Key Performance Indicator (KPI) for WONCA World. As most European countries were already WONCA Members, we concentrated on the Member Organizations which needed support in their country, and on the countries wanting to join WONCA, such as Albania and Bulgaria. As well, WONCA Europe turned its attention to the countries which belong to the WHO Europe region but were not yet WONCA members - Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan.

At the end of 2015, I visited Kyrgyzstan with the WONCA world president and president -elect. (see photo below). This visit, and participation in a conference of the Russian Federation in October 2016 has resulted in more contacts.

The second KPI: establishment of a Junior doctor movement, was easy for WONCA Europe, as we already had the well established Vasco da Gama Movement (VdGM) which had its 10th anniversary in 2014. They have continued to hold pre-conference meetings, where junior doctors meet colleagues from other countries in workshops and through exchange visits. VdGM has organised Forum meetings with a limited number of participants, to strengthen their collaboration. I am happy I could attend and contribute to the successful Forum meetings in Barcelona (2014), Dublin (2015), and Jerusalem (2016). And the next one, (Strasbourg 2017) is already in my calendar. The Hippocrates programme for exchanges within Europe, has become the blue print for the FM360 exchange program which facilitates exchanges worldwide.

The third KPI was that a WONCA representative should attend each regional WHO meeting. I have attended these meetings, and together with Dr Anna Stavdal, our WONCA Europe vice-president, we have also met with Dr Hans Kluge, Director of Division of Health Systems and Public Health, WHO region Europe. As a result we have been invited to comment on some policy documents, and attended a high level meeting of WHO Europe on Coordinated/Integrated Health Services Delivery(CIHSD) (Brussels, March 2016), and the WHO Final Consultation of the European Framework Action on Integrated Health Services Delivery (Copenhagen, May 2016. Dr Hans Kluge gave a key note at the WONCA Europe Copenhagen 2016 conference, and has accepted an invitation to speak at our next conference in Prague 2017.

The WONCA Europe Future Plan 2013 -2016

WONCA Europe had not set KPI’s but we did have The WONCA Europe Future Plan 2013 -2016. We wanted to lead the development of family medicine and provide support to our member organizations when needed.

The key elements of the plan were:
- Develop statements
- Increase visibility through a WONCA Europe website, a WONCA Europe newsletter, and participation in other meetings
- Collaboration with other partners
- WONCA Europe conferences
- European Journal of General Practice (EJGP)

Each of the WONCA Europe conferences in this triennium has led to a formal “statement” from WONCA Europe. In particular, the WONCA Europe 2015 Istanbul Statement, “Refugees should have access to equitable, affordable and high-quality health care services in all Europe”, has received much attention and positive responses.

One result of our current Communication Strategy is the new WONCA Europe newsletter. Its purpose is to regularly inform our Member Organizations, Networks and Special Interest Groups, and ultimately also family doctors all around Europe, about ongoing business and plans. At this moment we are striving for three editions per year.

As President, I have attended Member Organization conferences in Turkey, France, and Portugal. I also attended the Network meetings of EGPRN, Euripa, and EQuiP, as well as meetings of collaborative partners held in the Netherlands, and the VdGM Forum and WHO meetings already mentioned. The contacts made with many colleagues have been very valuable.

We have strengthened our collaboration with the European Forum of Primary Care (EFPC). Joint workshops at meetings of WONCA Europe and EFPC) have become standard practice. Collaboration with the European Union of General Practitioners (UEMO) focuses around professional qualifications, in the light of free movement of professionals in the European Union. This is a complex issue.

Photo: Job Metsemakers in Kyrgyzstan

WONCA Europe holds an annual conference. The last three conferences, Lisbon (2014), Istanbul (2015) and Copenhagen (2016), have been successful events, with around 3000 participants, of whom about 1000 being young or future family doctors. Feedback has been good in general and has resulted in a committee being set up to improve the quality of the conferences. We intend to provide a more detailed guidebook, and also to streamline the participation of Networks, Special Interest Groups and other partners (such as WHO, EFPC, UEMO).

WONCA Europe owns its own scientific journal: the European Journal of General Practice (EJGP). The Journal is one of the ways to stimulate the development of our discipline by publishing research results from European countries, although submissions are sought globally. The Impact factor of the EJGP has increased over recent years and now stands at 1.364, underpinning the important position of the Journal. We have worked hard to finalise the contract with the publisher to make the EJGP an Open Access journal by 2017, which will allow all family doctors around the world free access to its published papers. Considerable Discount Article Publishing Charge (APC) for members of a WONCA Europe Member Organisation have been negotiated.

As Chair of the WONCA Membership Committee I have seen an unprecedented number of applications for membership of colleges or associations, and also of academic departments. It was not always easy to assess the applications, but it certainly was rewarding to realise that such growth makes WONCA stronger.

Final remarks

The achievements described in this reflection are the result of collaboration with many people. I am very thankful for their support. I am honoured to have served in the roles of WONCA Europe President, WONCA Executive Board member, and Chair of the WONCA Membership Committee during the past triennium. Dr Anna Stavdal will become the next WONCA Europe President, and I am certain will continue to strengthen our WONCA Europe activities, as we have done over the past three and a half years.
I have enjoyed enormously being able to contribute to WONCA. There is still much to do, I intend to keep serving WONCA and the story of Prague to Rio can continue from Rio to Seoul.

Prof Job FM Metsemakers
President WONCA Europe