Featured Doctor

WINDAK, Prof Adam

Poland – WONCA Europe Kraków scientific committee chair

Adam Windak is the Conference Scientific Committee chair for the WONCA Europe conference coming to Kraków in May 2018. More about the conference here

What work do you do now?

I am a full time professor and Head of the Department of Family Medicine at Jagiellonian University Medical College, in Kraków, Poland. Jagiellonian University is the oldest and most prestigious University in my country. So, the position of the first Professor in Family Medicine in its over 650 years long history is important, but on an everyday basis I don’t feel this pressure.

I chair a team of dozen young and energetic academic teachers, who all are family doctors. We collaborate with over thirty practices in the city and the suburbs- and we do business as usual at the university. We teach students, provide courses for doctors specialising in family medicine and conduct research. Obviously we publish scientific papers and other academic publications, which is a basic requirement for any academic all over the world.

Apart of my university duties, my practice partner and I run a family practice in downtown Kraków. We serve over 3500 patients.

Other interesting things you have done?

Almost whole my professional life is connected with family medicine - a discipline which didn’t exist in my country before the collapse of communism in 1989.

Immediately after that collapse, in 1990, after completion of my specialist training in internal medicine, I joined a group of enthusiasts at my university, who wanted to create the first School of Public Health in my country. We succeeded relatively quickly and started to look around for ideas, inspirations and challenges, which might change a rotten and insufficient health care system. And so, I learnt of family medicine.

In that time, the Ministry of Health was looking for “experts” to organise the implementation of family medicine in Poland. Obviously I was not an expert, but I didn’t know it. I was appointed head of Family Doctors Task Force. Together with four other colleagues we developed a document titled “Responsibilities of Polish Family Physicians” and later the first educational programmes in this field. At that time we were traveling around the world quite intensively collecting good examples of family medicine models and inspirations for further work.

In 1992 we established the College of Family Physicians in Poland, which was as a full WONCA Member Organization in 1996. Since its creation, I have been a member of the Executive Board of the College, serving as president for two terms (2001 – 2009) and now as vice-president. In 1992, I joined EURACT and up until now I have represented Poland in this organization. During the last 25 years I have been involved in many of its fascinating initiatives, such as work on the new European Definition of General Practice/Family Medicine, EURACT Educational Agenda, Leonardo EURACT courses for teachers.

What is it like to be a family doctor in Poland?

Well… It is quite a difficult question with potentially many different answers. My personal perspective is quite optimistic.

For me the glass is always half full, but the other truth is that it is also half empty: only every second Polish citizen is under care of his/her personal family doctor. The rest are still served by mostly paediatricians and internists.

As well, many well trained, young doctors choose to work in other European (and other) countries, instead of Poland. It is not easy to start a new practice especially in big cities. It is easier in villages and other remoted places which suffer a lack of doctors, but then a physician has to be prepared to work mostly in a solo practice with a significant burden of duties. New generations of doctors are not necessarily keen to do it.

Fortunately there are some signs of improvements. The current Minister of Health, who is a Family Doctor himself, appreciates importance of family medicine. Recently a new law on primary health care was established creating the basis for positive changes. In 2017, for the first time in many years, there were more candidates for training in family medicine than places available. Obviously these are good signs.

What are your interests outside work?

The answer for this question is much easier. I have many hobbies. I like and regularly engage in skiing, tennis and bridge. But my beloved activity is sailing which I’ve learnt it relatively late in life, (about fifteen years ago). We have a beautiful lake area in Northern Poland which I wanted to sail on my own and with my family and friends. Another Polish proverb says that “your appetite is increasing while eating” and it was my case. I wanted to sail more and further. So, finally on 28 November 2012 at 10.26 a.m. on board the sailing yacht Selma Expedition I made the traverse of the famous Cape Horn, which is a holy place for every sailor. Really unforgettable feeling! Nowadays I spend all my summer holidays sailing on board a yacht, in Poland or elsewhere in the world.