An interview with Dr David Game, Past President of WONCA

November, 2012

Dr David Game

President of WONCA 1983-86. Fellow of WONCA.

Dr David Game, MBBS, AO, KCSJ, FRACGP, FRCGP, MCFPC, FHKCGP(Hon), a past President, a past Secretary and a past editor of WONCA was interviewed by the current WONCA editor, Dr Karen Flegg, in October 2012. It was a priviledge and a joy to spend some time with an elder of WONCA, whose memory of days past seems unfaded by the years.

About Dr David Game

Dr David Game's full biography can be accessed on the website of the Royal Australian College of General Pracitioners

The following brief note was written in 2001 by Prof Wes Fabb in his Twenty Year Perspective on WONCA

Next followed David Game (as President), an Australian and a personal friend for well over 30 years. It was a great pleasure working with David, whose attention to detail was always meticulous. He was a first-class chairman of meetings. We always knew what was being debated, and the outcome was always clearly defined. David has been one of the most committed and long-standing workers for WONCA.

Beginning with WONCA before its inauguration as Chairman of the Host Organizing Committee of the Fifth World Conference, he was first Honorary Secretary/Treasurer for eight years, then President, and after he retired from Executive Committee after 17 years of service, he continued as Editor of WONCA News up until this Council meeting, when he will retire from this post.

For many years he has been the Chairman of the Bylaws and Regulations Committee, a busy job as WONCA became a more regionalized organization. He also authored WONCA's history. WONCA - The First Twenty Years 1972 - 1992. David was one of the early recipients of WONCA's highest award, 'Fellow of WONCA'.

The Interview

WONCA Editor: Tell me about your involvement in WONCA?

My introduction to world general practice/family medicine was my attendance in 1968 as a representative of the Australian College, at the Third World Conference in New Delhi. In the same capacity, I attended the Fourth World Meeting, in Chicago, in 1970. At this meeting it was formally agreed to establish a World Organization of National Colleges, Academies and Academic Associations of General Practitioners/Family Physicians (WONCA), which was then inaugurated at the 5th World Conference, in Melbourne, Australia, in 1972.

Dr David Game (left) in 1972 with Donald Rice MD, of Canada, who would become the second president of WONCA

Dr Monty Kent-Hughes (another Australian), became President, and I was WONCA’s first honorary secretary/treasurer. The WONCA Secretariat was literally my desk in my dressing room and eventually, I moved it into the nursery, when there was no further use for such a room in our house. I stayed in this role until I was made President Elect (1981) when Wes Fabb took over as Secretary.

I had the honour of being President of WONCA from 1983-86.

During most of this time, I was also editing the newsletter. I was always very interested in WONCA News, which I started as a very modest publication in 1973, as part of my secretarial roles. I was in and out of the role as WONCA News Editor until finally, I resumed the position again from 1989 to 2001.

WONCA Editor: What were some of the memorable events for you in those days?

The two world meetings had a big influence. I was installed in Singapore at the world conference and retired at the world meeting, in London, in 1986. That meeting had a lot of prominence and was held in the Barbican Centre. We had a reception and the Queen and Duke (Elizabeth ll, Queen of England and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh) were in attendance. I had to host them and one is not meant to initiate conversations with the Queen, but I asked her “how do you sleep on the train ma’am” as we were aware that after the reception she was leaving straight away to go by train to Scotland.

Probably the most memorable moment of that event was being in a lift with the Queen. It was a very large lift and it seemed to be empty but I am sure there were some bodyguards hidden in darkness at the back. As the door of the lift shut she said to me “Oh Dr Game, this great big lift just for you and me”.

Actually, I had met the Duke before the London meeting. I had sat next to him on the stage at an Academic Session for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), in Canberra, Australia. On that occasion, he was awarded Honorary Fellowship of RACGP. As an aside, when thanking the College for the award, he said “Don’t worry, I do not intend setting up a practice in opposition to you in Australia.” At the same event, he mistook name of ‘WONCA’ for ‘wombat’. (Editor's note: a wombat is a largish, furry, short legged marsupial, native to Australia). This led to the custom of WONCA giving out wombats to its Past Presidents. (It is unclear when this custom ceased.)

WONCA Editor: How did the business of WONCA get done with no computers or internet?

Communication was all by typed letters. We weren’t using telex. Funding came from world conference. There was always a host country for meetings. WONCA council had a representative on the organising committee of the Host. We paid for ourselves to go to the meetings, but eventually a small refund based on distance travelled was given. The host college of the world conference would provide secretarial services.

At the world conference we held Council. Executive met once a year - often built in planning for conferences. In those days we had a Council and a larger assembly. Four people from each country came to the assembly and eventually this became too cumbersome with Council as well, so we scrapped the assembly and kept Council with two from each country.

WONCA Editor: What were the issues you were working on in your time as WONCA President?

We worked on strengthening of regions - Europeans were keen on regionalisation.

We did start negotiations with the World Health Organization (WHO). Henk Lamberts went to WHO as he was a European person.

We developed working parties in the term of Don Rice, the second president. These working parties became stronger in my presidency – some continue such as classification, education, research.

WONCA Editor: Can you tell me about Monty Kent-Hughes – first President of WONCA and a legend in Australia?

We were planning the fifth world conference with Monty as president of conference and myself as chairman of conference. The Monty was elected at that meeting as the first President of WONCA. He was a man who spoke and thought quickly, and when he thought something was right he stuck to

it. A determined man of great initiative. He documented the 5th World Conference in a book - The Proceedings of the 5th World conference.

As an aside, the acronym WONCA was suggested by Monty during one of the many interminable planning meetings for the Fifth World Conference which were always held at night in Melbourne and all attended by me (at my own expense).

WONCA Editor: What are your thoughts about the WONCA you see today?

It’s fantastic that it is worldwide; that WONCA has such a strong relationship with WHO and is recognised as a reputable body to be advising WHO. The spread round the world makes it truly a world organisation. Regionalisation is a good thing to enable stronger development, but there is a problem of fitting in regional meetings and competing with world meetings. The newsletter is terribly important.

WONCA Editor: Final words?

In WONCA, I made a lot of great international friends with whom I stay in contact.