From the CEO’s Desk : A tale of two visits and two videos

September, 2016


The period leading up to WONCA World Council and conference tends to be quite quiet, in terms of visits, as there is a four-month moratorium on official WONCA events prior to these events. Thus it was especially welcome to get out of the office in late August and fly to Male, capital of the Maldives, to meet with key Ministry officials to discuss family medicine development in the country. I was joined by Professor Pratap Prasad, South Asia Region President, and we were accompanied by Dr Ali Shareef, the Maldives’ first family medicine trainee, who had very kindly arranged the visits.

Almost everyone will have a very romantic notion of the Maldives, picturing tree-lined beaches, white sand and clear blue waters, but of course for the resident population life is as demanding as for anywhere else in the world – and in fact Male, the capital, is one of the most densely populated capital cities in the world. The same health problems exist as elsewhere in the world, with non-communicable disease and chronic disease an ever-increasing burden on the health system. With a total population of less than 400,000, spread over 26 atolls, providing health care is a real challenge, and for all sorts of reasons a cadre of properly trained family doctors, offering primary care and emergency medicine, would seem to offer a viable solution to this health delivery challenges.

We had very useful meetings with Dr Mohammed Habib, Honourable State Minster of Health, and Dr Sheeza Ali, Director General of Health Services, and both were very supportive of the development of professional family medicine. In Nepal, Professor Prasad’s home country, family doctors undertake four years of residency training, which also includes emergency medicine, so that those qualifying as family doctors are able to undertake a number of emergency procedures such as emergency obstetrics and emergency surgery. This model would seem very appropriate for the widely dispersed populations in the Maldives, and Professor Prasad offered to assist Maldives in development of a full family medicine residency programme, including the possibility of attachments to Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu. We also met with representatives of the Maldives Medical Association and they too were very supportive of the initiative.

So, a very successful visit. Much work will be required both to develop a training programme and to persuade doctors to consider family medicine as a career, but we look forward to helping Maldives in whatever way we can, and hope that in future years a cadre of family doctors can form their own society and join the larger WONCA family.

>see region president's report on visit

United Kingdom

I was back in UK for a short break in early September and had the chance to attend an awards ceremony of RCGP in Northern Ireland, celebrating the new Members and Fellows of the College in that part of the UK, as well as highlighting awards to medical students and to the Northern Ireland Doctor of the Year. Those who read the recent “Economist” article on the UK NHS will be only too aware that it faces many challenges, not least in recruitment of GPs, so it was especially heartening to welcome new members to our speciality and to recognise the continuing interest and enthusiasm for our discipline.

Despite the many challenges, General Practice/Family Medicine continues to offer medical graduates an exciting, flexible, diverse and varied career, and it’s important that this message is conveyed to medical students who too often get seduced by the seemingly more attractive hospital specialties. Our colleagues at the Royal College of GPs in UK, in an effort to get this message out to medical students and young doctors, have developed a campaign called “Think GP” and as part of the campaign have produced a series of short videos to highlight the variety of a GP career. The link to the key central video is available here and I would encourage everyone to have a look.

Associated with the video is a document, which is also a very valuable resource for those of us trying to recruit for general practice / family medicine. This is freely available from the RCGP website.

WHO EMRO video

And news of another very interesting, informative and useful video. The WHO Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office (WHO EMRO) has produced an advocacy video on family practice. Our President, Professor Michael Kidd, was invited to provide some words from WONCA for inclusion in the video, which also includes family doctors from across the region. The video will be used as part of the advocacy for the family practice model by the WHO in the region, including at the regional council for health ministers. Here’s the link to the video.

Coming weeks

There are a busy few weeks ahead for the Secretariat, with a meeting of Executive, followed by Word Council and then World Conference. As Is usual, there will be no WONCA News in November, the month of the conference, but we will report back in December on all that has happened in Rio 2016. Best wishes until then.

Dr Garth Manning