From the WONCA President: Sweet Sorrow


The past dozen years have been extraordinary for WONCA. We have nearly doubled the number of member organizations to 126. With the addition of the CIMF-Iberoamericana region, the WONCA map now covers every continent. Our reach and impact have never been greater. Leaders of national colleges around the world tell me frequently that WONCA helped them gain access to and influence with their ministries of health at the highest levels. We are involved with the World Health Organization (WHO) through numerous initiatives. We are becoming a global leader in matters of health and primary care. In short, these last dozen years have marked WONCA’s initial transformation from academic club to professional association.

Dr Alfred Loh, with Yvonne Chung (left) and Gillian Tan (right)

Three people have been instrumental in that transformation: Dr Alfred Loh, Yvonne Chung, and Gillian Tan. Their warm and friendly tone made family doctors and their organizations feel like welcomed members of the WONCA family. Their unfailing courtesy and eagerness to be of assistance reminded us that we were respected and valued. Their attention to detail gave comfort to successive Executives that felt responsible for the integrity and success of WONCA. They became trusted colleagues and good friends. All of this makes it especially difficult to say goodbye to them and to the Singapore Secretariat.
Alfred has been involved with WONCA at the highest levels for more than three decades. He has been an energetic ambassador for Family Medicine. He was ever mindful of the daily challenges of family doctors, because he continued to see his own patients. His humility and thoughtful diplomacy put WONCA in the best possible light. He was so active on behalf of WONCA that it seemed implausible that his position as CEO was supposed to be part-time.
Yvonne was the only full-time member of the staff. Her ability to multi-task, her quick response to requests, and her energy suggested that WONCA had a much larger staff than we did. Gillian was the numbers person, diligently maintaining accounts for all aspects of the organization and producing financial reports for the Executive, auditors, and regulatory authorities. The WONCA staff became more than employees, they became family. We shared family stories, celebrated triumphs, and consoled each other when tragedy struck.
A brief word about Singapore: wonderful. With one of the best international airports, advanced infra-structure, user-friendly financial institutions, and a dependable legal system, Singapore has been a wonderful place to have a Secretariat.

Prof Rich Roberts and Dr Alfred Loh in Warsaw in 2011

I take some comfort in knowing that Alfred, Yvonne, and Gillian will always be only an email or phone call away. Even better will be the chance to play a round of golf with Alfred and get updates from Yvonne and Gillian on their families.
Dr Garth Manning and the new Bangkok Secretariat will be terrific. As they build their own legacy, they will help us get closer to that elusive summit where we can see, and connect, all the family doctors of the world. I know they will be grateful for how far up the mountain Alfred, Yvonne, and Gillian helped us climb.
Professor Richard Roberts
World Organization of Family Doctors