From the President: May 2022

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‘Family Doctors–Always There to Care’

Family Doctor Day provides all of us a golden opportunity to shine a spotlight on the central role our discipline plays in achieving the goals of Universal Health Coverage and Health for All. 

We plan to stress that globally, and I’m sure the seven WONCA presidents will do so regionally. Each and every one of us can also seize the moment, individually, to advocate on behalf of our field in the communities where we work and live. Check out the toolkit our Communications Officer, Maria Zavala, has assembled for us, complete with graphics,  hashtags, useful visual materials, and more. 

In preparation for the campaign, the title I’ve chosen for this newsletter is the slogan that the Executive Board arrived at after a brainstorming process. At first glance it might seem simplistic. It’s not. It’s basic, evoking the fundamentals. Let me ‘unpack’ that apparently simple slogan to reveal some of its complexity.  


We know who we are, but not everybody else does. We can use this opportunity to make it clear that we represent a medical specialty, with its own curriculum and research base.

How, they may wonder, is our specialty different from the others? We are...‘Always There to Care’.


That’s the hallmark of Family Medicine – continuity. People know what that’s worth because we’ve shown them: 

“I’ve been with you during the pandemic. I was there when you expected your first child, and to support you when postpartum challenges kicked in. I tend to your children when they come down with ordinary infections. I can advise you about their vaccinations, about stages of their development that worry you. I recognize when you’ve reached your limit and need time off from work. I can help you sort symptoms of disease from normal physiological responses. And, I plan to be there with you as you age, until, that is, I’m too old to keep on working. I’m hoping to put that day off by also taking good care of myself.” 

Family Medicine is indeed a clinical discipline, with diagnosing and treating disease being among our primary tasks. But we have a much broader repertoire, including, in the slogan’s words: 


We are profoundly aware that social care is a prerequisite for health. Thus, when treatment plans are designed, Family Doctors take all relationships into consideration. 

“When disease strikes, I will care, not only for you, but also for your family. I know that your well-being and potential for healing are tied to, maybe even dependent on, their well-being. For them to be able to support you, they need to be supported.” 

During the pandemic, the social determinants of health became even more clear. I presume you recognize these examples from your own practice: 

Treating the wounds of a battered woman is of little use if there is no shelter available to her, and if her batterer’s abusive behavior is not addressed. 

No matter how good the dietary advice and blood glucose monitoring people with diabetes receive, their condition is not likely to improve if they lack the money to feed themselves well, and to support their family. 

The health of women and newborns, always vulnerable during a crisis, was placed in even greater jeopardy during the pandemic when social services were shut down. Even mothers of infants felt duty-bound to fill the gaps the closures left by taking care of the sick and the elderly themselves, prioritizing other people’s needs above their own. Few cultures expect men to do the same, and they received little support to help them lighten the women’s load.

In short, because we genuinely seek ‘Health for All’, we need to broaden our definition of ’Health Care’ to reflect our awareness that health and social care are fundamentally inseparable. We can then put that into practice, locally, by interweaving our communities’ health and social service systems. On Family Doctor Day, I’d like us to deliver this message to our politicians and policymakers: Please help us bridge the gaps between health and social care. 

Finally, intrinsic to the concept of CARE are the roles we family doctors play during difficult times: we serve as both witness and companion. We can`t always heal people. Sometimes, the best we can do is to be there, to provide a safe space for our patients’ pain, to offer them support and comfort. Being a professional partner in the lives of our patients and their families, we CARE for them.

I wish all of you a successful Family Doctor Day. Let`s team up to highlight the important medical services we provide. Let’s also not just tell but also show our communities how much we enjoy what we do. We have the most rewarding job in the world. We FAMILY DOCTORS are ALWAYS THERE TO CARE. 

Dra Anna Stavdal,
WONCA President