Prof Janko Kersnik - 1960-2015
WONCA Europe Honorary Secretary

June, 2015

On Wednesday May 20th 2015 we said farewell to Janko Kersnik who died at the age of 55 years. After a heart attack he had fought for his life for more than two weeks, surrounded by his family.

At his funeral, on a rainy afternoon, we stood in the village of Dovje (Slovenia), looking towards Mojstrana where he was born in 1960. We could see the mountains he loved. A large crowd of family, community members, friends who shared his hunting passion, national and international colleagues and friends could still not believe that he had passed away, and that his voice would never be heard again.

Janko finished high school in Jesenice, in 1979, and entered the Faculty of Medicine, in Ljubljana, as the first selected candidate in that generation. After graduation in 1985, he returned to his home region and started working there as a general practitioner. He then started specialisation training in general practice, which he completed in 1995. During that period he became interested in research. As the possibilities of a master’s degree in Slovenia were limited, he completed his masters’ degree in Zagreb (Croatia), in 1997. In 2001, he obtained his PhD in Ljubljana (Slovenia).

He had already joined the Medical Faculty in Ljubljana, in 1996, as an assistant in the Department of Family Medicine. In 2007, he became professor of Family Medicine. When the Medical Faculty in Maribor was established, he became their first chair of the Department of Family Medicine. In 2012, he received the award for the best teacher in the Medical Faculty. He attained the status of full professor at both Medical Faculties in Slovenia: in Maribor in 2012 and in Ljubljana in 2013.

He had a great interest in education. In addition to holding the chair in Maribor, and being a collaborator at the University in Ljubljana, he was also involved in inter-faculty master's programs of the management and economics of health care in the Faculty of Economics. He taught about health systems in the European Community, as well as leadership in healthcare organisations in the Nursing masters’ program of the Faculty of Health Sciences. He was also a teacher in the masters’ program of the Faculty of Organizational Sciences and the Faculty of Health Sciences.
Janko was the president of the Slovenian Family Medicine Society from 1997 to 2013, and a member of the Medical Chamber of Slovenia.

On an international level, his career started in 1992, when he attended the first annual international course for teachers of family medicine, later known as “the Bled course”. Since 2004, he had been its course director.

He also organised numerous local courses and congresses in Slovenia. He was president of the organising committee of the 2003 WONCA Europe region conference, in Ljubljana.

He joined EquiP, our European organisation for quality, to become the first Slovenian representative in the group, and later, a member of the executive committee. He also became a member of EURACT, the European Association of Teachers in Family Medicine, of which he became President, in 2010. As a rural doctor himself it was only naturally that he would serve on the board of EURIPA, the European organisation for rural doctors. In 2013, he was elected as Honorary Secretary of WONCA Europe, the European regional organisation of the World Organisation of Family Doctors.

Janko Kersnik was an esteemed colleague, and highly regarded as a creative, productive, smiling, and energetic person. He was also a wise person, thoughtful and respectful. He could listen, patiently listen, but not forever. Sometimes, he could show his temper, but not for long. Janko stimulated others to think and was inspirational both at official meetings and during personal interactions.

On a personal level we know that he loved his family dearly. He liked taking his wife Zdenka with him to meetings. We could see how much he enjoyed her company, as we did as well. He also was proud of his daughters Ana and Eva. And recently he shone as a greatly dedicated grandfather. He could see himself playing in the future, with his grandchild.

Professionally, he started work as a family doctor in the rural community of Kranjska Gora. Soon he became the professional head of the health centre of Gorenjska, which is one of the largest health centres in Slovenia. He continued to serve his patients amidst all the other activities he engaged in, and their presence at the funeral ceremony was a clear sign of how highly he was valued by the local community.

Standing in the rain at his funeral, we heard the stories of his life and realised that the legacy that Janko had left behind could not be described in words. We, in WONCA Europe, know that his unfinished plans remain for us to carry out.

Our thoughts go to his family, his colleagues and the GP community in Slovenia. We wish them strength in these difficult days.

Prof Igor Svab
Past President WONCA Europe

Prof Job FM Metsemakers
President WONCA Europe