From the President :
I love family medicine


“I love family medicine.” These are the words of Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), speaking at the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine in December. Dr Chan went on to describe how family medicine contributes to the health and well being of individuals, families and communities in many parts of the world. I echo Dr Chan’s sentiment.

WONCA, our World Organization of Family Doctors, exists to improve the quality of life of the peoples of the world through fostering high standards of care in family medicine.

There are many ways that WONCA can work with our member colleges and societies, our working parties and our individual members to make this happen.

WONCA is a strong global organisation and now represents over 500,000 family doctors through our member organisations based in 130 countries.

Your elected WONCA executive, with representation of each of the seven regions of the world, has been focusing over the past six months on three main areas.

First, increasing support for family medicine development and training of family doctors in each country of the world.

Second, continuing to strengthen our work with the WHO and other global organisations to ensure that the role of family doctors is recognized, respected and supported in tackling major health issues through strong primary care.

And third, supporting the next generation of family doctors, the medical students, recent graduates and junior doctors who will be the future leaders of family medicine in each of our nations.

Photo: WONCA executive January 2014
(Back row from l to r) Donald Li (Member at large); Richard Roberts (Immediate Past President); Raman Kumar (young doctor); Matie Obazee (Africa); Garth Manning (CEO); JK Lee (Asia Pacific); Job Metsemakers (Europe); Karen Flegg (Member at large);
(Front row from l to r): Nongluck Suwisith (WONCA manager); Mohammed Tarawneh (East Mediterranean); Amanda Howe (President Elect); Michael Kidd (President); Ruth Wilson (North America); Pratap Prasad (South Asia); Luisa Pettigrew (Member at large); Inez Padula (Iberoamericana)

Your WONCA executive meets by teleconference each month and held its annual face-to-face meeting in January in London.

At this meeting, each Regional President outlined the status of family medicine development in each of the nations of their region and the plans underway to support the development of family medicine and the training of family doctors in those countries where this is not yet happening. Your executive is committed to supporting the establishment of at least one new national member organisation from each region during this coming year and to actively support family medicine development in those countries that are not yet members of WONCA.

WONCA is a global organisation in official collaboration with the WHO. Our member organisations greatly value this recognition by the WHO of the important work of WONCA, and your executive is committed to strengthening our engagement with the WHO both at a global level and at a regional level. It is critical that the voice of family medicine is heard in the development of global health policy in areas such as mental health, prevention and management of noncommunicable diseases and infectious diseases, maternal and child health, medical workforce, environmental health, medical education, safety and quality in primary care, healthy ageing, rural health, indigenous health, primary health care research, palliative care, disease classification, e-health, medical ethics, health equity, human rights, and many more. While a lot of WHO policy is driven from its main headquarters in Geneva, much of the program delivery is through its offices in each region of the world.

WONCA also seeks to work in partnership with other global health organisations to further strengthen our advocacy work to improve the quality of life of the peoples of the world. WONCA has also recently completed a survey with the WHO, led by Dr Luisa Pettigrew, of family doctors around the world responding to questions about ways family medicine is contributing in their countries to the strengthening of their health system.

Our Regional Presidents also shared recent developments in the support provided to young family doctor movements around the world. It has been wonderful to watch the formation and development over the past six months of AfriWON, the African Organization for young and future family doctors, and Al Razi, the young family doctor group of the Eastern Mediterranean region. Your executive is committed to supporting the establishment of a young family doctor movement in each region of the world by the end of this year.

At our January meeting, we were pleased to welcome Junior Doctor Representative, Dr Raman Kumar from India, as the newest member of WONCA executive. This is the first time WONCA has had a junior doctor position on executive and we are fortunate that Raman has agreed to meet this challenge. Your executive will be working with Raman over the coming year to also ensure that each WONCA working party includes junior doctor representation.

In order to achieve our goals WONCA must remain financially viable. One important source of support is through our direct members – those family doctors from all parts of the world who choose to support the important global work of WONCA through a small annual contribution. If you are not already a direct member of WONCA, I encourage you to join us. Details are available on our WONCA website.

Photo: Professor Michael Kidd (second from left) in Singapore with A/Prof Lee Kheng Hock (Singapore College president), Prof Goh Lee Gan, Dr Alfred Loh, Yvonne Chung and Gillian Tan

As your president, WONCA will also continue to celebrate the many achievements of family doctors and the members of our teams all around the world. In December, I attended a special meeting of the College of Family Physicians Singapore to recognise the contributions of our former WONCA CEO, Dr Alfred Loh, and our former secretariat staff, Yvonne Chung and Gillian Tan. On behalf of WONCA World Council, I presented the award of Honorary Fellow of WONCA to Alfred (photo), and Honorary Life Direct Member of WONCA to Yvonne and Gillian, in recognition of their many years of service to family medicine and the important work of our global organisation.

In December, we also celebrated the life of past WONCA president, Dr Peter C Y Lee, who passed away at the end of last year. Peter was one of the founders of the Hong Kong College of Family Physicians and, in the words of Wes and Marian Fabb, “an inspirational leader” who brought the concept of family medicine to people of China. Our thoughts are with Peter’s family and his many friends and colleagues in Hong Kong and around the world.

Michael Kidd