From the President: November 2023

Sydney celebrations, but where to now?

I thank you for the honour of being your new WONCA World president.

Photo: Karen Flegg receiving chain of office from Anna Stavdal

I received my chain of office from Dr Anna Stavdal on October 28. What an unusual privilege to become the WONCA president in the city in which I was born and raised.

My first job was to thank Dr Anna Stavdal on behalf of all WONCA members, for the way in which she has conducted her presidency of WONCA. She has served with courage and dedication, has taken on tough jobs. She has supported our Secretariat through an ongoing transition and uncertain times. I am grateful that she has worked on two things that are dear to my heart and which I will progress further – strategic planning and strengthening governance.

Photo: Anna Stavdal receives the WONCA Honorary Life Direct Membership from new President Karen Flegg

Retiring presidents are presented with WONCA Honorary Life Direct Membership for service to WONCA and family medicine around the world. In addition, this year our wonderful secretariat team created a photographic memory book for Anna.

It was great fun to be able to surprise Anna with an additional surprise gift.

There was a tradition in WONCA many years ago, thanks to HRH Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh. He misunderstood the name of WONCA and thought it was “wombat”- an Australian marsupial. Reference interview with Past president Dr David Game.

Since then, outgoing presidents of WONCA have been presented with some sort of WONCA souvenir that resembled a wombat. Eminent Australian cartoonist, Dr Craig Hilton also known as “Jenner”, created a very Australian wombat cartoon, for presentation to Anna Stavdal. Thanks to Karen Price for facilitating this and we hope this may be a memorable token for Anna on completion of her presidency.

Governance Greening Growth

These three words sum up what I would like to achieve in the coming two years.

Governance. To have strong internal governance and processes is a must to be accountable to members. Governance includes processes for regions and Working Parties and Special Interest groups. Governance includes moving forward with our new strategic plan.

I want to always remember equity and inclusivity; regardless of gender language, region; and to continue to develop our Young Doctors’ Movement – giving us our leaders of the future.

Greening. I want WONCA to be recognised as a “green” leader.

We have a very strong Working Party on Planetary Health. They are outward looking, developing statements and for example, leading our current initiative to secure a just and equitable transition to sustainable energy and safeguard health from the climate emergency. To date we have 40 organisations’ signatures representing three million people. I encourage you all to go to this link and sign the petition as individuals.

Also, the Working Party On Planetary Health responded to my call for internal strategies by developing sustainable conference guidelines, which we will now be able to use at all WONCA conferences.

I intend to look at the carbon footprint of the internal workings of WONCA. Our Secretariat office in Brussels is already a Green leader. Our next WONCA executive needs to follow greener processes – we need to consider who should attend when we are invited to conferences and meetings and in considering pay attention to the carbon footprint. It is particularly important that I consider the carbon footprint which is always large from Australia.
The time is right for WONCA to lead on the environment.

Photo: new President Karen Flegg and members of the Working Party on Planetary Health dressed in green and facing the press in Sydney

Growth. In our external world, I would love WONCA to be the ‘go to’ organization for the WHO and other International medico-political organizations to seek input on Primary Care policy. To do this we must work on a political level to change health systems and to support our member organizations to locally enhance the role and recognition of Family Medicine and Family Doctors.

We must maintain and build on our relationships with the WHO and other collaborative PHC organisations to expand our global influence.

It is important to support research in Primary Care to promote our value to health systems. And Work to achieve high quality postgraduate training in family medicine and Continuing Professional Development in all countries

In the words of our first WONCA president, another Australian, Dr Monty Kent Hughes, speaking to the first WONCA meeting in 1972: “the future of our professional discipline will depend on our ability to work together in the service of humanity.”

Photo: Monty Kent-Hughes

Over the next two years, I look forward to working together constructively with new friends and old, those in who were able to be in Sydney and those who were there in their thoughts.

Coming on the WONCA Executive journey with me for the next two years are your new leaders.

Anna Stavdal - Past President
Vivana Martinez Bianchi - President Elect
Steve Mowle - Member at Large and Honorary Treasurer
María Pilar Astier Peña - Member at Large
Karen Price - Member at Large
Jane Namatovu - Regional President, WONCA Africa
Brian Chang - Regional President, WONCA Asia Pacific
Abdelaziz Al-Mahrezi - Regional President, WONCA East Mediterranean
Shlomo Vinker - Regional President, WONCA Europe
Dora Bernal
- Regional President, WONCA Iberoamericana - CIMF
Victor Ng - Regional President, WONCA North America
Kanapathipillai Sri Ranjan - Regional President, WONCA South Asia
Chan Yuen Ching (Cheryl) - YDM Representative
Harris Lygidakis – CEO

Karen Flegg
WONCA President

See full inauguration speech ENG ESP

Until next month

More about Executive and Chairs of Standing Committees 2023 -2025

Also Read

A/ Prof Karen Flegg, New WONCA at President 2023 - 2025

WONCA World Conference 2023: A Grateful Farewell to Sydney

WONCA Awards Ceremony 2023