Louis Ferrant - Europe 5 Star Doctor

Prof Louis Ferrant, of Belgium, is WONCA Europe’s 5 Star Doctor for 2018. We congratulate Louis on his remarkable achievements.

As a general practitioner and throughout his entire career as a general practitioner, Louis Ferrant has made an effort to bring about changes, bigger or smaller. He is a change agent in his practice, the poverty stricken neighbourhood of Kuregem (Anderlecht, Brussels), at the institutional and political level, and during his academic career. Without any doubt, he has made a lasting impact on a number of people and their organisations, including patients, colleagues, co-workers, trainees, academics and politicians.

Louis’ nomination demonstrates that meets the criteria for a 5 Star Doctor (care provider, communicator, community leader, decision maker, team member) as follows:

His career as a care provider and general practitioner began with the choice in 1977 to settle and work in a multicultural but disadvantaged neighbourhood of Brussels. This part of Brussels has recently been great news because of terrorist activities and is best described by its average low income, high rate of unemployment, bad housing and social instability. The region lacked general practitioners and he began a group practice. First there were two GPs but later there were three colleagues and two dentists. After a few years, the cabinet grew and they began training medical students.

When confronted with a multitude of patients immigrated from Southern Europe and Northern Africa, he and others found the “Comité Socio-Médical pour travailleurs immigrés asbl” (the actual “Cultures et Santé asbl”) in 1979. This still is a non-for-profit organisation to promote health and socio-economic situation of immigrants in Brussels.

In 1980, he became an assistant professor at the Centre of General Practice at the University of Antwerp. In 1985 he was also appointed as GP-trainer which he prolonged during his entire career.

In 1988, as vice-chairman of the “Centre for Ethnical Minorities and Health”, he initiated training of intercultural mediators in Brussels. He was a strong advocate of the importance of intercultural mediators in medical practice ever since and always employed Turkish and a Moroccan intercultural mediator in his own practice. He pressed his networks and as a decision maker was able to co-create of a team of 80 intercultural mediators for medical services made him the first general practitioner to win the three annual price ‘Verhulst Van Eeckhoven’ (dedicated to an influential Belgian medical practitioner combining scientific research and social involvement) in 1998.

In the nineties he intensified his academic activities and became guest lecturer at the Flemish University of Brussels (VUB), Belgian representative for the ESPCG ( European Society for Primary Care Gastroenterology) and also the French speaking Catholic University of Louvain. He initiated a steering group “disadvantaged groups and health” at the University of Antwerp.

His main research topic as assistant professor related to the link between diversity, anthropology and health care. So, amongst other topics, he studied whether there is more to peptic ulcers than Helicobacter Pylori alone – a more anthropological enquiry into a topic that had become strictly medical. He is author and co-author of numerous scientific publications. Among his special interests are: migration, disadvantaged groups and health, (intercultural) communication and health, recurrent gastrointestinal complaints in immigrants, geriatrics, tutorship in medical education and educational support for disadvantaged families. In 2000, he will receive the “Acco” prize for best scientific publication in Tijdschrift voor Klinische Psychologie (the Dutch Journal of Clinical Psychology).

Also as a community leader and regarding policy making and still in the nineties, Louis Ferrant became an actor on a local and regional political level to bring under attention the determinants of health in the more disadvantaged areas of Brussels. He became chairman of the “Centrum voor Welzijnszorg Laken” in 1994 and member of the health care advisory board of the Flemish Community Commission. Later on, he will become vice chair and chair of the latter, he will join the steering group “Pro Medicis” to promote a multilingual care offer in Brussels. At the end of his career he played an important role in the promotion of one unified, trilingual GP guard service in Brussels (so Dutch, French and English speaking!), showing his commitment to serve as a clear communicator with key stakeholders in the field.

In the year 2000, in the line of his conviction that the health status of any person is for a large part determined at a young age, he set up a so called “house for the families”, a local prevention project for children between 0 and 6 years and their families. The house focuses on prevention through education, nutrition and language, and plays its important role in the neighbourhood of Kuregem (Anderlecht). It is now structurally funded by the Brussels Capital Region and the Flemish Government.

In 2008, he plays a strong role in the transformation of the GP practice into a community oriented multidisciplinary patient-centered medical home “Medikuregem” that offers low threshold medical and paramedical care to the inhabitants of the neighbourhood and plays and active role as health promotor in the area. In cooperation with a public mental health centre, it enables outreach counselling of three psychologists – a pilot project and later example for similar activities in Brussels and throughout the whole country. At present, Medikuregem team encompasses 7 GP’s, 2 GP trainees, 3 nurses (one of which is diabetes educator), 1 Turkish intercultural mediator, 1 social assistant, 1 dietician, 1 health promotor, 3 psychologists (outreach), next to an important reception and supportive staff and coordinator. It participates and often takes a lead in various local projects and initiatives (e.g. promotion of clean streets, perinatal counselling and follow up, cooperation with kitchen garden project, project for homeless people). Louis was a team member in this group from the very beginning until 2016.

In 2012 he received the Domus Medica Career Award for his efforts and achievements as a general practitioner.

After his retirement in August 2017, he continues numerous activities in local projects and associations in Brussels and Flanders, Belgium.