From The President: WONCA Conferences – Looking forward, looking back.

March, 2024

WONCA Conferences – Looking forward, looking back.

It's time to start thinking of WONCA conferences again.
With some early bird registrations and abstract submissions closing soon, it's important to start thinking about attending a WONCA conference in 2024.

First coming up is the WONCA South Asian region conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It celebrates the golden 50th anniversary of the College of General Practitioners of Sri Lanka who are hosting their third WONCA region conference. So why not join them in their celebrations?

Why go to a WONCA conference?


We had a fabulous time celebrating another Golden anniversary celebration, then of the Philippines Academy of Family Physicians in conjunction with the WONCA Asia Pacific conference held in Cebu, The Philippines.

Photo: A Golden Anniversary celebrated in 2012 in Cebu, when not only women but the men (here their past presidents) wore gold.

Learning about others

As a rural doctor I'll be going to our WONCA World Rural conference in Cape Town, South Africa, to hear about the working lives of my colleagues in other countries and the problems we share with our rurality. Called “Ubuntu”, it is a joint conference with the Network for Unity for Health (TUFH) and our Working Party on Rural Practice. It comes to one of the world's great tourist venues – Cape Town.
There's also a great four-day post conference tour visiting clinics, academic institutions and enjoying some great scenery. This will bring back memories of another WONCA Rural post conference tour in Tacloban, The Philippines. Our South African colleague and past chair of the WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice, Prof Ian Couper was caught on camera, in great spirits.

Photo: Dr Ian Couper, then chair of ‘WONCA Rural’ enjoying the post conference tour in Tacloban, the Philippines in 2011.


In 1998, I went to my first WONCA conference in Dublin, Ireland so this year’s WONCA Europe conference returning to Dublin, will bring back memories. That last conference was held in an unfinished conference centre (or was it a tent?), but I didn't notice the difficulties – for me it was such a fantastic experience.

WONCA for me has been about meeting colleagues, making connections and enjoying friendships. At that 1998 conference, I made friends with colleagues at who I still know today. Sharifa Sorayya Mahmoud Jamalullail, from Malaysia was one of them. In 1998 she was brave enough to stand next to a giant leprechaun for a photo! In Sydney 25 years later, she came to celebrate with me as I became WONCA President.

Photo: Sorayya Mahmoud with leprechaun in 1998 and with the President in Sydney 2023

Cultural experiences

Learning about culture is another part of WONCA conference so we do wonder what our WONCA Arica conference in Nairobi, Kenya, will bring in June. The theme is tantalising: “Drumming for change in Africa: Building Resilient Primary Healthcare Systems, A Focus on Innovations and Sustainability”. An image of our Rural leaders in Africa is not at WONCA Africa conference but it's such an iconic image I have to include it.

Photo: Rural WONCA leaders invested as honorary chiefs in Calabar, Nigeria 2008: Roger Strasser (then from Canada), Ndifreke Udonwa (host), Ian Couper (South Africa), Victor Inem (Nigeria), Bruce Chater (Australia).

Networking in our home regions

Being from the Asia Pacific region, I have of course been to many of my own regional conferences, and it's certainly great seeing all my friends from our region again.

WONCA Asia Pacific conference is in Singapore, in August. Last year, back in June I had the pleasure of sharing a meal when I passed through Singapore, with my friends leading the College of Family Physicians Singapore (CFPS) conference – they’ve done a fantastic WONCA World conference before, and this will be fantastic as well!

Photo: Dinner with CFPS VIP group (front right around table to front left) LOW Lien Teng, HOC chair; Suraj KUMAR, Vice President CFPS; WONG Tien Hua, CFPS President ; myself; Scientific Committee co-chairs Darren SEAH and Grace CHAN; and Jennifer Lau CFPS manager.

This year has a WONCA region events for everyone, why not try one out! Here is the full list of this year’s conferences.

WONCA South Asia region conference - Colombo, Sri Lanka 3-5 May
WONCA Africa region conference – Nairobi, Kenya 5 – 8 June
WONCA Asia Pacific region conference-Singapore 24-28 August
WONCA World Rural conference “Ubuntu” - Cape Town, South Africa 10-13 September
WONCA Europe region conference- Dublin, Ireland 25-28 September
WONCA East Mediterranean region conference- Amman, Jordan 17-19 October (more information coming)
WONCA Ibero Americana CIMF region conference- Panama City, Panama 24 -26 October (more information coming)

And if you really want to plan ahead, don’t forget our next world conference coming in September 2025 in Lisbon, Portugal.

Assoc Prof Karen Flegg
WONCA President