From the President: October 2020

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Life as President of WONCA usually involves juggling regional visits with ongoing work commitments; trying to fit in as many conferences and meetings as possible, to share experience and give encouragement to all our members in every region of the world. Travelling to conferences and regional meetings is a key feature of the Presidential role. Travelling has to be planned with a degree of precision, to ensure that all regions are covered, as well as the global meetings where we ensure the voice of family medicine is heard. It is time consuming and challenging, given that we continue to have our daily work commitments, looking after patients. But that inter-personal connection is so important, the human face to face meetings, the reunions with old colleagues and friends, the meeting of new, usually young and enthusiastic, family doctors. Listening to their stories is one of the joys of being President. It offers a real-life picture of what it is like to be a family doctor in a wide range of circumstances and situations.

Those face to face discussions are often where we realise the need to establish a topic-specific Special Interest Group (SIG), or where we can direct someone to an already existing SIG or Working Party (WP) which addresses their particular interests or challenges. The range of topics covered by our SIGs and WPs is extensive and there is always room for people who are ready to offer their time and energy and expertise. As I have urged previously, please do not hesitate to join any one (or more) of the Working Parties and Special Interest Groups: it’s a really good way to get to know people with similar interests from across the globe, as we try to ensure that all of them have representation from each region.

More about all WPs and SIGs
Not meeting face to face has its own challenges and limitations. But I am delighted that so much interaction continues, albeit virtually. I have been really pleased to be invited to speak at numerous conferences, sessions and meetings since the COVID pandemic started – and I will continue to accept such invitations as and when I can.

In the short space of a month or so I had the opportunity to deliver talks to the Royal Australian College of GPs; to a semFYC conference in Spain; much closer to home, but still virtually, at the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine; and across the world to the Masters in Family Medicine programme at Edinburgh University. I delivered opening addresses, virtually, to three AGMs in China – the Chinese Medical Doctors Association, The Chinese Medical Association and the Cross-Straits Medical Exchange Association. I also ‘attended’ meetings which would have been impossible to attend in person due to time and distance constraints. I was happy to send a talk to the recent meeting of the Research Committee of the Rajakumar Movement; and I was honoured to participate in the high- profile webinars organised by WHO’s WIPRO. There are plenty more opportunities coming up to participate in meetings during the rest of this year and I look forward to those.

Presenting virtually does not have the same immediate response and reaction as when presenting to a live audience face to face (or stage to auditorium). There isn’t the laughter or the smattering of applause at a particular point being made, or a groan of recognition when relating a recent experience. But because of the technology more questions can be asked and comments made by the audience, following a virtual talk, than can ever happen in a conference auditorium. And it is in listening to people’s comments and questions that we really understand the issues that are important to our members.

The second tranche of our WONCA webinars started on Sunday 20th September and will continue weekly for nine weeks. Our CEO, Garth Manning, has provided details in his column. Log in, participate, and meet friends and colleagues who have similar interests.

As a final comment in this month’s column, may I gather together the voices of all our members to thank Karen Flegg for her editing of, now, 101 editions of WONCA News! Through her involvement in WONCA at regional level, as a Member at Large on WONCA Executive and as Editor of WONCA News, Karen probably knows more about our WONCA family than anyone else. And she has photographs to prove it! Thank you, Karen, for your commitment to WONCA and for all your efforts on our behalf!

Donald Li