From the CEO's desk: Dubai, Ghana, the WHA, and vale.

May, 2015

Hello again

As predicted, May 2015 was an incredibly busy month for WONCA, and for the President and me. Regional conferences in Eastern Mediterranean and Africa Regions, together with World Health Assembly in Geneva and World Family Doctor Day, combined to ensure the month passed in a blur!

WONCA East Mediterranean Region conference

The WONCA EMR conference took place in Dubai from 30th April to 2nd May, and was attended by the President, Professor Michael Kidd, the President-elect, Professor Amanda Howe, and me, as well as the WONCA EMR team, led by Dr Mohammed Tarawneh. This was only the second regional conference in EMR and it was a very successful event, with some great presentations and sessions, and our congratulations go to the entire Host Organizing Committee who did a wonderful job.

Whilst we were in Dubai, Michael, Amanda, Mohammed and I met with representatives from both Algeria and Morocco, who are keen to join the WONCA family, so we hope very much that they will submit their applications and that we can welcome them soon.

WONCA Africa Region conference

Michael and I then flew on to Ghana, to take part in the PRIMAFAMED pre-conference, followed almost immediately by the WONCA Africa conference itself. The conference had had to be postponed from February, due to the Ebola crisis in West Africa. Ghana had not been affected in any way, but there were several travel restrictions in the region, which had prompted a postponement. There was some anxiety about attendance, but in the event over 250 very enthusiastic participants came from most parts of Africa to enjoy a really excellent conference.

Warm congratulations to Dr Henry Lawson and the rest of the HOC for organising such a fantastic conference after so many challenges, and thanks also to Dr Matie Obazee and the rest of the WONCA Africa Executive who supported them in every way possible.

Whilst at the conference Michael Kidd and I met with 11 countries in Africa which are keen to join WONCA, and we hope very much that applications will start to arrive from some of them in the near future.

World Health Assembly

Each year WONCA sends a delegation to the World Health Assembly in Geneva to make sure that WONCA – and the voice of family medicine generally – is heard loud and clear. This year the delegation consisted of our President (Professor Michael Kidd) our WONCA North America President (Professor Ruth Wilson), and me (pictured left). Professor Amanda Howe was on standby for the delivery of her first grandchild, and so was unable to attend, whilst Luisa Pettigrew, our WONCA WHO Liaison, was unable to travel as she is at an advanced stage of pregnancy, but she had still coordinated a busy programme of meetings with our key WHO counterpoints, including Dr Hernan Montenegro.

Our Member Organizations constantly tell us that they regard our liaison with WHO as one of the most important roles of WONCA, and so we place great emphasis on our annual attendances at this meeting, which has over 3,000 delegates from all the member countries affiliated to WHO, as well as many organizations who, like ourselves, are in an official collaborative relationship with WHO. This year we had meetings with WHO personnel on topics as diverse as: mental health; ageing; development of IDC-11; global health workforce; NCDs; strengthening health systems; quality and safety; and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)s.

We also took part in a side event on SDGs, where the President posed a question to the illustrious panel: “While condition-specific health outcome indicators are important, we appear to be missing specific indicators on health system strengthening and especially the need to strengthen primary care in support of universal health coverage. Surely we need clear and explicit indicators on strengthening primary care to ensure integrated person-centred universal health coverage, rather than just promoting vertically-oriented approaches to health care?” Sadly no constructive answer was forthcoming!

Finally WONCA also co-sponsored a side event on paediatric imaging – “Imaging for saving kids – the inside story about patient safety in paediatric radiology”. Other sponsors included the Governments of Kenya, Malaysia, Spain and Uganda and organizations including the International Society of Radiology and the International Organization for Medical Physics.

World Family Doctor Day

And of course we also celebrated World Family Doctor Day (WFDD) on 19th May. This has become a day to highlight the role and contribution of family doctors in health care systems around the world. The event has gained momentum globally each year and it is a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge the central role of our specialty in the delivery of personal, comprehensive and continuing health care for all of our patients. It’s also a chance to celebrate the progress being made in family medicine and the special contributions of family doctors all around the world.

As ever, you have been sending Karen Flegg details of the events you held to celebrate WFDD and over the coming weeks Karen will be featuring some of these both in WONCA News and on the website.


Finally for this month, in May WONCA bade a very sad farewell to two of its stalwarts.

Dr David Game of Australia, who died at the age of 89, was WONCA’s first Hon Secretary/Treasurer from its formation in 1972, its Editor from 1972 to 2001 and its President from 1983-86.

Professor Janko Kersnik of Slovenia was only 55. He was Honorary Secretary of WONCA Europe and President of EURACT – The European Academy of Teachers – since 2010. Professor Job Metsemakers, WONCA Europe President, paid a very moving tribute to Janko at his funeral.

You can read more of these two great family doctors here.

We shall miss them both.

Dr Garth Manning