From the President: December 2021

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As we were unable to meet in person, the WONCA World Council and Conference had to take place virtually.

A big thank you goes out to all of you who contributed to make it happen!

The WONCA Council is our parliament. Organising the General Meeting in accordance with our bylaws is a prerequisite to make decisions on governance and business in a transparent and democratic way.

The World Conference is a highly needed meeting place, where we can exchange ideas, research and reflections, - and not least provide support to each other, throughout our entire global community.

To be inaugurated as President of WONCA for the next biennium makes me proud, happy, and humble. The transition of the presidency provides the opportunity for us to ask where we, as WONCA, find ourselves now, and how the current global situation will influence the plans for our work.

The ongoing pandemic affords us a golden moment to make a case for Primary Care and Family Medicine. Health for all is our vision, and here is how I see our mission: 

Now, more than ever, what the world needs is high-quality Primary Care, a close-to-home healthcare hub that functions in seamless collaboration with Social Care and Public Health services, as well as with hospitals. This requires a strong, multi-professional team with a qualified Family Medicine doctor onboard.

In preparation for the transition of the presidency, I revisited the three essential goals I emphasised when I stood for election in 2018:

• Build identity. 
• Increase visibility. 
• Exert influence.

I have found that they stand their ground as headlines for the actions needed in the near future. The challenge is to put these slogans into actionable initiatives, and that is the first task for me and the new WONCA Executive Committee to work out. And we have already started.

The Executive Committee held its first meeting at the start of this month, and by mid-January, a plan of work will be in place.

At this point in time, at the start of this tenure, I have two messages for you:

The first one is a request for feedback and input. 

To make sense and be useful for our members, the work of the Executive Committee needs to resonate with their needs. Feedback loops are necessary to ensure that we`re on the right track. 

The infrastructure of WONCA points to two main highways for members to provide input. The first highway is through the Regional Councils and the Regional Presidents, of whom all sit on the WONCA Executive Board. They are your spokespersons. They have ears to the ground and can voice needs and views from your home turf.

Whereas the structure of the elected bodies is somewhat hierarchical - from member organisations to regional level up to the global level, the second highway is the Working Parties and Special Interest Groups (WPs/SIGs), established on the basis of professional interest, not geography. The Chairs are the spokespersons and can convey input and feedback. It is high on our agenda to further improve the collaboration between WPs/SIGs and the Executive Committee; and the communication among WPs and SIGs themselves. We are all working for the same cause, from different perspectives and with multiple points of departure. There should be a huge potential to identify possible synergies between the diverse groups.

Together, these highways provide an infrastructure that allows all members to come forward with views and input. I invite you to help us utilise the unused potential of our organisational infrastructure.

The second message is that we need to refine our professional voice in advocacy for our cause. Far too often, people accuse medical doctors of exploiting the professional advice we give as a shield to hide behind while we’re grabbing at higher status, more privileged working conditions and, of course, more money. Through WONCA, meanwhile, it becomes clear that what we aim for is professional development, providing evidence based on experience, and advice based on best practice, committed to achieving the best outcomes for our patients. The better we recognise and develop that way of understanding our role, the more we can refine our professional voice. That’s how we gain trust. That’s how we safeguard the legitimacy of our advice. The prices charged for our services are negotiable. The values – personal, continuous, comprehensive care – are not.

We are living through difficult times in this pandemic. But we shall never forget that, wherever we are, family doctors are educated, privileged and trusted people in our communities. We have an obligation to speak up on behalf of those less privileged. The pandemic is not over, and we will continue our work as professionals in the first line of health care.

In a few weeks, we will celebrate New Year. It is time to take stock and prepare for efforts in 2022.

I am looking forward to working with and for you all. I wish one and each of you the very best. Take care of yourself and each other. Together, let us build a bright future!

Dr Anna Stavdal, 
WONCA President