From the President: final reflections

Photo- with WONCA World Executive - January 2014

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This is my final report to you as WONCA President and so I would like to share with you some reflections on the huge amount of work that is carried out by WONCA and our dedicated family doctor members and supporters all around the world.

When the current WONCA World executive met for the first time in June 2013 in Prague, we set our organization three main goals for the three years ahead.

The first was our commitment to better understand the strength of each of our member organizations in each region of the world, and to support the expansion of family medicine by supporting the development of new member organizations of family doctors, especially in more low- and middle-income nations.

Second was our recognition of the importance of supporting the next generation of family doctors. We made a commitment to supporting the establishment of young family doctor movements in all seven regions of the world, and, for the first time, to appoint a representative of young family doctors as a member of the WONCA World executive.

Third was our commitment to strengthen WONCA’s work with the World Health Organization and other key global partners to expand awareness of the role of family medicine in strengthening primary health care in all countries and supporting the global goal of universal health coverage, health care access for all people in all countries of our world.

Through our member organizations, our academic members, and our direct members, WONCA now represents over 600,000 family doctors in nearly 160 countries and territories, in all parts of the world. Each regional president has achieved a solid understanding of the status of family medicine development in their region of the world, and our regional presidents are working with individual family doctors and medical schools and governments in many countries which do not yet have a WONCA member to assist in the development of new colleges and societies and postgraduate training programs, and working with our WONCA CEO, Garth Manning, to support new organizations apply for membership of our global organization.

It has been wonderful over the past three years to see interest in WONCA membership from many new family doctor organizations, especially from nations of Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, and to welcome new direct members from those countries which have yet to form their own family doctor organizations, including, in the past 12 months along, the Maldives, Ethiopia, Bhutan, Honduras and the Cook Islands.

We have also seen a continuing rise in the number of individual family doctors supporting the work of WONCA by becoming a direct member. In addition, over 100 family doctors from around the world have made the commitment to become life direct members of WONCA, and we acknowledge the support of these generous individual colleagues.

One of the great recent achievements of the WONCA family has been the development of our young family doctor movements. Thanks to the enthusiasm of our younger members, we now have vibrant Young Doctor Movements in each of the seven regions of the world, and WONCA and global family medicine have a very active social media presence through the work of our enthusiastic young doctor membership. Our Young Doctor Movements come together through the leadership of our young doctor representative on the WONCA executive, Dr Raman Kumar from India. In a historic first for WONCA, the leaders of all seven Young Doctor Movements met in Istanbul in October 2015 to discuss shared challenges and to plan innovations to support young family doctors around the world. We are also working with our young doctor movements to ensure representation of young family doctors on all WONCA working parties and special interest groups.

We know that our member organizations value WONCA’s strong partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO). WONCA’s WHO liaison person, Dr Luisa Pettigrew, has led our organization’s work with the WHO, especially at a global level to ensure WONCA provides the voice of family medicine in supporting and influencing the development of global health policy by the WHO and the roll out of global health programs. Our greatest global advocate has been the WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, who recognizes the importance of strong family medicine to global health and universal health coverage. We have received strong support also from the WHO’s WONCA liaison person, Dr Hernan Montenegro von Muhlenbrock, who will join our World Council meeting in Rio de Janeiro in October this year. Each WONCA regional president has established a working partnership with their WHO regional director, and works to ensure family doctor representation and involvement in key WHO regional consultations and the development of regional solutions to global health programs.

Our CEO, Dr Garth Manning, and our Bangkok secretariat work hard to support our organization and have provided wonderful support to your executive and our member organizations and direct members over the past three years. Through Garth’s initiatives, WONCA’s direct membership continues to grow, our external communications have continued to be strengthened, especially through the work of WONCA News Editor Dr Karen Flegg, our social media presence has been expanded, and WONCA’s core relationships with key stakeholders and global health partners have been enhanced. Garth continues to work with executive members to explore new opportunities for consultancies and ethical sponsorship. Garth also works closely with our respected Honorary Treasurer, Dr Donald Li, to ensure the financial health and continuing viability of our organization.

Our working parties and special interest groups are the powerhouses of innovation within WONCA and I thank each chair for their leadership, and each group for the great work they do developing global policy and new resources to support family doctors around the world.

In order to celebrate the achievements of family doctors around the globe, WONCA has established World Family Doctor Day, held on May 19 each year. This initiative continued to grow over the past three year and it has been wonderful to see World Family Doctor Day activities underway all around the world celebrating the contributions family doctors make to the lives of their individual patients and to the health and wellbeing of their communities.

One of the great privileges of being WONCA president is having the opportunity to visit our member organizations, individual family doctors, medical educators and researchers, and health policy makers in countries all around the world. During my three and a half year term as WONCA president, I have made 77 visits to countries all around the world, and have had the remarkable opportunity to learn about the challenges and successes of family medicine in many different nations. I thank our many member organizations that have supported my visits.

One of many highlights was representing global family medicine at the launch of the new Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations in September 2015, and the accompanying launch of the new Primary Health Care Performance Initiative by Angela Merkel, Bill Gates, Ban Ki-Moon and Margaret Chan. WONCA has been working closely with the World Bank, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and WHO on the Primary Health Care Performance Initiative, which provides a set of indicators to allow measurement and comparison of primary health care developments in low and middle income nations around the world.

I have also had the privilege to lead WONCA’s delegations to the World Health Organization’s annual World Health Assembly. In May this year I addressed the World Health Assembly on the role of family medicine and primary health care in meeting the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

I have also had the opportunity to meet with the leaders of many other global health organizations including the World Medical Association, International Council of Nurses, International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations, World Psychiatric Association, World Heart Federation, World Federation of Public Health Associations, and International Alliance of Patients’ Organizations, to discuss our shared concerns and ways we can continue to work together to strengthen family medicine and primary care in all countries of the world. And I have contributed to the world’s media, with publications about family medicine in, among others, Huffington Post, The Lancet, and even a letter in The Times.

Among the joys of our organization’s many achievements, we have also experienced the deep sorrow of losing several loved and respected members of our WONCA family over the past three years, including Janko Kersnik (Slovenia), Atai Omoruto (Uganda) and founding member and past WONCA president, David Game (Australia). We grieve the passing of our colleagues and honour their contributions.

I thank all members of the WONCA executive for your individual support and steadfast commitment to the ideals of our organization over the past three years. I thank our CEO and secretariat staff for their great continuing work for our organization. I thank the leaders and members of our committees, working parties, special interest groups and individual representatives for their great continuing voluntary work for our global organization, and for the people of the world. And I thank you, the family doctors of the world, for your work in your communities and your dedication to delivering the highest quality care to the people who trust you for their medical care and advice.

In October this year, the member organizations of WONCA come together for the meeting of our World Council in Rio de Janeiro, ahead of our World Conference. Then, on November 4, I will hand over the responsibilities of WONCA President to our global organization’s first ever woman president, Professor Amanda Howe. I know you join me in wishing Amanda every success as she takes on the leadership of our global organization.

I thank you for your trust in allowing me to hold this position for the past three years. It has been the highlight of my professional career. I look forward to meeting with many of you at our World Council and our World Conference in Rio, and during the years ahead.

Michael Kidd