Polaris Shines Bright in Montevideo

Recently, Polaris took advantage of the chance to collaborate in the planning, leading, and development of a Family Medicine preconforence with our international colleagues in Montevideo, Uruguay. This meeting was a collaboration between three World Organization of Family Doctors (WONCA) regional Young Doctor Movements (YDMs): Waynakay (Iberoamericana Region), Polaris (North America Region) and the Vasco da Gama Movement (Europe Region).

Polaris was represented by, Drs Kyle Hoedebecke and Maria del C Colon-Gonzalez, who served as part of the organizational committee, speakers, as well as moderators for the small group discussions that took place during the YDM preconference. During the group sessions, Kyle helped lead discussions that broke down the unique roles of family physicians/residents in Iberoamerican countries and discussed way to better serve our patients, communities, and colleagues. Maria’s group evaluated the academic formation of the Family Medicine residents across the region, solidifying the six competencies for family medicine residents in Iberoamerica. Later, both participated as invited panelists – with Maria addressing rural medical education in Iberoamerica and Kyle addressing research improvement and recommendations for residents. Closing remarks were given by the WONCA President, Prof Michael Kidd, with Kyle serving as the English-Spanish-Portuguese translator between Prof Kidd and the preconference attendees.  (Kyle and Michael pictured above left)

The preconference was followed by the 4th Iberoamerican Congress of Family and Community Medicine with Polaris represented via two poster and four oral presentations. These works were completed in collaboration with Family Medicine physicians from countries around the region including Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Spain. Indoubtedly, evidence of Polaris’positive effect in the Iberoamerican region went far beyond its posters and presentations themselves. One such example was the Polaris-led initiative – the Balint 2.0 Abassadors – which has united all seven WONCA YDMs in the first ever multi-international online Balint group. Of the 14 international participations, including Kyle and Maria, five were present in Montevideo (photo to right).

Additionally, the social media project Polaris launched eight months ago titled “1 Word for Family Medicine” (# 1WordforFamilyMedicine) proved to have gone viral within Iberoamerica. The project asks family physicians and residents to describe their favorite part of our profession in a single word. Responses are then collected and the lists are turned into “Word Cloud” images that represent the specific participating region/country. Of the over 50 countries that have participated to date, almost half are from the Iberoamerican region. Evidence of the project perforated the conference atmosphere in the form of t-shirts, photos, mugs, posters, and even receiving a dedicated slide during a talk by the WONCA President himself. This ongoing project has helped unite young Family Medicine physicians from the different parts of the world and improve our image around the world. The following link shows those countries that have completed images to date in the form of an interactive map.

Polaris’ guiding light did not burn out in Montevideo. Within days of the conference, Kyle was invited to speak with Paraguayan young doctors and residents near the capital Asuncion. During this encounter, Paraguay launched its national level YDM and elected representatives to their regional YDM, Waynakay (see photo). Polaris continues to collaborate within North America and around the globe in order to advance and promote our specialty.

Returning home more energized than ever, Polaris now focuses its efforts on organizing WONCA North America’s first ever preconference that will take place on October 1, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. In addition to our Canadian and Caribbean brothers and sisters, the organizing committee is delighted to have assistance from other regions’ YDMs. The preconference will occur in conjunction with the AAFP Global Health Conference where both events will give medical students, Family Medicine residents and young physicians the opportunity to develop in the areas of research and scholarly activities, as well as in leadership and mentorship.

Kyle Hoedebecke, MD (Polaris, Chair)
Maria del C Colon-Gonzalez (Polaris Member)