WONCA Rural's Outstanding Service Award to John Wynn-Jones

The WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice Award for Outstanding Service to Rural Practice was presented to Dr John Wynn-Jones at the 16th WONCA World Rural Health Conference, Albuquerque October 2019.

The WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice Award for Outstanding Service to Rural Practice is given to working rural family doctors who have made an exceptional contribution to rural health on both a global and local perspective.

This award recognises a clinician’s exemplary service to their rural communities, to their professional colleagues and to the next generation of doctors.

Recipients are champions for those who they work with and role models for those who follow them. The WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice wishes to acknowledge rural family doctors who make a difference.

John Wynn Jones is one of these doctors.

Dr John Wynn-Jones was a practicing rural GP in Wales for over 30 years. He trained at Guy’s Hospital London 1969-75 and, after finishing his GP training, returned to his native Wales to work in a rural practice in Montgomery on the Welsh borders.

With his wonderful wife Jacqui, the beautiful countryside surrounding Montgomery became their home and their work environment, presenting the best aspects and the inevitable challenges faced by a rural community. To quote Jacqui: “John, as he always will, launched into practice life with enormous enthusiasm enjoying the challenges of careering through the countryside in varying weather conditions and finding out what living and working in a mainly farming community meant.”

He soon became aware that the rural GPs lacked any significant support or on-going continuing education. He and a few colleagues formed a local medical society, which provided educational and support for general practitioners and their staff. He also established an annual national conference for rural GPs which will celebrate its 30th anniversary next year.

As a result of these experiences, he took a year’s sabbatical in 1997 to investigate rural practice around the world and founded the UK Institute of Rural Health. In the same year he was instrumental in creating the European Rural and Isolated Practitioner’s Association (EURIPA) and remained its president until 2012. Under his presidency the network grew in stature and influence and represents rural practitioners across the continent. It is now recognized as one of the key networks in WONCA Europe.

In the UK he has held many posts and roles over the years including the position of Medical Advisor to the BBC’s Archers (for 15 years), the longest running radio soap in the world. In 2017 he received the President’s International Medal of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP).

John was one of the founding members of the WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice (RuralWONCA) and took over as chair in Prague (2013) from Professor Ian Couper. He has been directly involved in organizing many of RuralWONCA’s annual World Rural Health Conferences, especially as chair of the Scientific Committee for the 2003 Conference in Santiago de Compostela.

His passion for rural practice remains unabated and says that, despite the success, we have much more to do to reduce rural inequalities and improve global rural health outcomes. He has worked tirelessly to engage with younger doctors and medical students around the world to promote rural practice through initiatives such as Rural Seeds. His great sadness is that those who really need to engage with global rural health family are the ones who are unable to travel to the annual WONCA World Rural Conferences. Throughout the world, health professionals and rural and isolated communities in low and middle income lack a prominent voice and as a result often remain invisible to policy makers and academic institutions.

He is married to Jacqui who worked as a Health Visitor (Public Health Nurse) with a special interest in and responsibility for breast feeding. They have three children (William, Owain and Rosa) and two grandchildren (Henry and Clemmie). This award is also recognition of a family that understood and supported the cause which enabled John to empower and achieve so much for so many.