From the CEO's desk: conferences - Pattaya 17, Seoul 18

May, 2017

Greetings again from Bangkok. It has been a hectic few weeks with much conference planning activity, so I want to concentrate this month on two of WONCA’s forthcoming events.

WONCA Asia Pacific Conference – November 2017

This year’s WONCA Asia Pacific conference will be held in Pattaya, Thailand, from 1st to 4th November. A young doctor (The Rajakumar Movement – TRM) pre-conference will take place on Tuesday 31st October, as will a full meeting of the WONCA Asia Pacific Region (APR) Council. The WONCA World Executive will be meeting in Bangkok on 29th and 30th October, and several members of Executive will be staying on to attend the Pattaya conference.

As part of the planning process for this event, Professor Meng Chih Lee and Dr Gene Tsoi (President and Vice President of WONCA APR) joined me for a trip to Pattaya on Saturday 6th May to view the facilities and to meet with the Thai Host Organizing Committee, led by Dr Somjit Prueksaritanond, President of the Royal College of Family Physicians of Thailand.

The venue for the conference is the Royal Cliff Resort in Pattaya, situated on a hill and headland between Pattaya and Jomtien beaches, and with fantastic views over the sea. The facilities are excellent, and will be most welcoming for accompanying partners – and for any delegates who want to stay on for a few extra days of holiday. A number of interesting sessions have been planned, looking especially at issues which we would consider as mainstream family medicine, but which sometimes don’t always get fully addressed at conferences – issues such as environmental pollution; addiction medicine; alternative therapies and traditional medicine; and health care for vulnerable communities.

A number of keynote speakers have already been confirmed for the conference, including Professor Amanda Howe, Dr Donald Li, Professor Michael Kidd and Dr Ivan Ivanov from the Department of Occupational Health at WHO Headquarters in Geneva. A fuller article on the conference, including details of the website and the facilities, can be found elsewhere in this WONCA News; further details can also be found at the official conference website.

WONCA World Conference – Seoul, Korea, October 2018

The second conference planning meeting for the 2018 world conference was in Seoul, Korea on 15th and 16th May. I was joined by Dr Bohumil Seifert as we assessed a series of venues for the WONCA Executive and Council meetings, as shortlisted by the Host Organizing Committee (HOC) and Professional Conference Organizers (PCO). At the time of writing we are still considering the various options, taking into account price, value, location, logistics – and a whole lot of other factors besides – but hope to make a final decision soon, based on a more detailed cost analysis.

We also visited and toured the conference venue. COEX (COnvention and EXhibition Centre) is a huge convention complex in the Gangnam area of Seoul. It has four floors above ground, with a large number of meeting rooms of various sizes and capacities, and below the complex is what I believe is the world’s largest underground shopping mall. It’s huge, and very easy to get lost in (as I can attest!!). There are many hotels in the area, from more basic to ultra-luxury, and there is even an air terminal connected to the complex where you can check luggage in for many flights and catch an express bus to the airport, about 1 hour away. Seoul’s public transport system is excellent, with a large network of buses and metro. A pre-loaded T-money card is accepted on all public transport, including taxis, and every metro journey costs less than $1 (US).

We also had a very productive meeting with key members of the Seoul HOC, who provided a very full briefing on their plans to date. They are trying VERY hard indeed – strongly supported by the Secretariat – to get Dr Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank, as the Chief Guest for the opening ceremony. We have been advised by his staff that it is much too early for him to commit so far in advance, but given his Korean origins, and given the many areas of overlap between WONCA and the World Bank in terms of Universal Health Coverage (UHC), Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and development of the Primary Health Care Performance Initiative (PHCPI) we live in hope that he can be persuaded to attend.

Other plenary speakers were considered, and a fuller list will appear in due course, but one already confirmed is Dr John Beard, who is Director of the Ageing and Life Course Department at WHO in Geneva, and someone who WONCA has been working closely with for some time. The Scientific Committee is also very keen to get suggestions for workshops from WONCA’s Working Parties (WPs) and Special Interest Groups (SIGs), and I will be writing to them shortly to canvas their thoughts. Call for abstracts will be made at the beginning of September 2017, with deadline for submission now 28th February (and not 31st January as website currently states). Early Bird registration is available through to 31st March 2018.

The provisional timetable for October 2018 is:

Thursday 11th and Friday 12th : Meeting of WONCA Executive
Saturday 13th : Meetings of WONCA Regional Councils; & Evening welcome reception for Council delegates
Sunday 14th to lunchtime Tuesday 16th : WONCA World Council
Wednesday 17th : WP and SIG meetings (COEX Centre); & Young Doctors’ Movements pre-conference
Thursday 18th :  Opening cermony at 9am; & Full day of workshops /presentations; & Evening welcome reception
Friday 19th : Full day of plenaries, workshops /presentations, including WONCA Awards and handover of Presidency.
Saturday 20th : Full day of plenaries, workshops /presentations; & Evening – Gala Dinner
Sunday 21st : Morning session, followed by closing ceremony; Lunchtime finish.

I recommend that everyone has a look at the conference website and especially at the promotional video of Seoul, which really shows a great city off to its full potential. We will highlight further developments of the program as and when it happens, and would also encourage delegates to add a few days onto their trip to Korea to explore more of its great history and culture.

World Health Assembly 2017

Along with President Amanda Howe, President-elect Donald Li and WHO Liaison Viviana Martinez Bianchi, I will be representing WONCA at this year’s World Health Assembly in Geneva, starting on 22nd May. Copy deadline has meant that a full report will have to wait until July’s edition of the news, but we will report then on the various meetings that we participated in during our time in Geneva.

Until next month.
Garth Manning. CEO