Professor Michael Boland - RIP March 25, 2020

BOLAND (Skibbereen): on March 25th 2020, peacefully, after a protracted illness, in the loving care of Skibbereen Residential Care Centre. MICHAEL, dearly beloved husband of Susan, much loved Dad of Eve, Mary Jane and Mike, and cherished brother of Pat, Sheelah and Mary. Will always be missed by his loving family and dear friends. In accordance with current HSE guidance a private funeral will take place. A memorial mass will follow in due course.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived, and lived well.” RW Emerson.

Dear colleagues

It with great sadness that we announce the death of one of my predecessors as WONCA President, Professor Michael Boland of Ireland. Michael was a true visionary, and an inspirational leader in family medicine, as witnessed by the many tributes already paid to him. Professor Michael Kidd, also a former WONCA President, pays formal tribute to Michael Boland (below) and I can do little better than to echo those sentiments and also recommend to you the profile of Michael Boland, published in 2009 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Irish College of GPs, in which Michael was pivotal. We greatly mourn a global leader and send WONCA’s condolences to Susan and to his children and family.

Dr Donald Li
WONCA President

Professor Michael Kidd, Past President of WONCA writes:

These are some words I shared about Michael when I visited the Irish College as WONCA President in 2014:

“On this visit to Ireland I had hoped to travel down south to Cork and then on to Skibbereen to visit my predecessor as WONCA President, Michael Boland and his wife Susan. I want to speak a little about Michael Boland’s legacy to WONCA, our World Organization of Family Doctors, and through him, some of the contributions the Irish College has been making to our global organization over the years.

Like many members of our WONCA family, I have very fond memories of Michael, his inspired leadership of our global professional body, his talents as a teacher, and his warmth and great generosity towards so many of the younger members of our profession.

One of my favourite family doctor quotes is from Michael Boland:
What do people want from their doctor?
A doctor who will listen
A doctor who is flexible
A doctor who will help sort out problems
A doctor who will be there when I need her

The Irish College of General Practitioners was established in 1984 and two years later Michael joined the World Council of WONCA representing Ireland. Michael quickly became a leader in WONCA and in 1998 was elected as president-elect, taking on the role of WONCA President in 2001. At that time, WONCA represented 65 countries, but over the course of his presidency that number reached 100.

I remember Michael's passion as president for the role that WONCA could play in tackling some of the world's great health challenges, especially smoking and HIV/AIDS.

WONCA represents family medicine at the World Health Organization (WHO). Wes Fabb, our former WONCA CEO has written that we owe this to the work of Michael and his successor as WONCA president, Bob Higgins.

Photo: Michael Boland (second from right) with from left WONCA Past Presidents David Game and Bob HIggins and at right Past WONCA CEO Wes Fabb,  at the WONCA Singapore World conference 2007

Back in 1998, Michael and Bob met with the then Director-General of the WHO, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, to discuss WONCA and family medicine. Before becoming the leader of the WHO, Dr Brundtland had been Prime Minister of Norway, and before becoming Prime Minister of Norway, she had been a general practitioner in the public school health service in Oslo. Michael and Bob received a good hearing from Dr Brundtland, and came away with the impression that there was an understanding of, and support for, family medicine at the WHO.

Together Michael and Bob developed a 'Memorandum of Understanding for Collaborative Activities' between WONCA and the WHO, and this has formed the basis of WONCA's continuing contribution to the global health work of the WHO. Thanks to this initiative we now have a strong influence on the development of WHO policy for primary health care, and involvement in the rollout of many WHO programs in all regions of the world.

WONCA holds a world conference for family medicine every three years, and I well remember the great hospitality the members of the Irish College provided during our wonderful 1998 World Conference in Dublin, with the host organising committee led by Michael. At the time it was the largest global family medicine conference ever with over 4,000 participants and 1,000 accompanying persons.

Before the conference, the WONCA World Council met in beautiful Killarney on the banks of the Lakes of Killarney. Michael and Susan organised a boat trip across the lake for the World Council members and, on the way back, a huge storm blew up and nearly capsized the boat. That boat trip has become the stuff of legends.

I pay tribute to Michael Boland’s great service to our global organisation and for the influence his contributions have had on the course of so many lives, including my own”.