Rich Roberts finishes on WONCA Executive

The recent WONCA Executive meeting in London marked the end of many years of service to WONCA by Prof Richard Roberts.

Rich began his service on Executive in 2004 when Council chose him to be an At Large member. Council elected him President-Elect in 2007 in Singapore. He took office as President in Cancun in 2010. Rich served as President through the WONCA Council meeting in Prague in June 2013. His term as Immediate Past President concluded at the London Executive meeting in January 2014.

Many national colleges, international organizations, governments, and other groups invited Rich to visit their countries. He visited as many as he could to spread the word about WONCA and Family Medicine. In total he travelled to more than 70 countries. He always tried to master a few words in the local language and was ever keen to meet young doctors and students.

Most meaningful were his frequent observations of family doctors during consultations with their patients. He sat in on nearly 3000 consultations involving almost 300 family doctors in more than 50 countries. Rich documented many of his visits in his monthly WONCA News column. To view the collection of Rich’s writings during his time as President click here.

Rich seemed to thrive when visiting other countries. A typical day might begin with a breakfast meeting with national college leaders. He would spend the morning observing local family doctors during patient consultations. Lunch often involved group conversations with young family doctors and students. The afternoon would find him in negotiations with that country’s political and community leaders. He would finish the day with an opening ceremony reception and an evening keynote address at the college’s annual conference.

Rich hopes others remember him as the WONCA President who inspired family doctors to do their best for each person they serve and who challenged the world to advance social justice by assuring robust health care systems committed to a family doctor for every family.

He is proud of several initiatives during his term. An excellent CEO, Dr Garth Manning, was recruited and hired. There was a smooth transition moving the Secretariat from Singapore to Bangkok. WONCA helped the young family doctor movement to blossom and established formal relations with the International Federation of Medical Student Associations.

Rich is very excited about the future of WONCA – special outreach efforts have been successful to better engage family doctors that are younger, female, and from historically under-represented areas such as Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and South Asia.

In his parting words to the Executive in London, Rich urged WONCA leaders to continue to support family doctors and their national colleges so that everyone everywhere can have a qualified and high quality family doctor. He told Executive that he may have finished his term as a WONCA officer, but he was ready to help WONCA and family doctors wherever and whenever needed.

To read more about Rich Roberts click here

Dr Karen Flegg
WONCA Editor


To view the collection of Rich’s writings during his time as President click here. Selected photos from around the world are shown below.