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Wijegoonewardene, Dr Preethi: WONCA South Asia region president 2010-2013

(Sri Lanka)

Dr Preethi Wijegoonewardene MBBS, DFM, FCGP(Sri Lanka), FRCGP(Honorary) is a leader in family medicine in Sri Lanka and South Asia. He was elected as regional president of WONCA’s former Middle East and South Asia region (MESAR), in 2007, at the WONCA World conference, in Singapore. After the division of WONCA MESAR into the Eastern Mediterranean region and the South Asia (SA) region, he has continued as president of the WONCA SA region, from May 2010 to June 2013.

He has been actively involved in teaching family medicine for 26 years: to undergraduates, as a visiting lecturer of the extended faculty of the three Medical Schools, in Colombo; and for post-graduates of the Post Graduate Institute of Medicine of the Colombo University. He is a leading general practitioner/family physician in the city of Colombo. Undergraduates and post-graduates enjoy his clinical teaching sessions at his own practice. Preethi has a passion for teaching, and looks forward to having students in his practice, all the time.

Preethi was elected president of the Sri Lanka Medical Association, in 2002, which is the umbrella organisation for all medical Professionals in Sri Lanka, and the oldest professional medical organisation in Australasia. It is rare that a GP /family physician is elected to this prestigious position, and Preethi was honoured with this distinction. In the role, he brought much recognition and honour to the discipline of family medicine, and to the College of General Practitioners of Sri Lanka, of which he is a Fellow and an active member.

He was President of the College of General Practitioners of Sri Lanka from 2004–07, during which time the College made vast strides in the development and strengthening of the discipline of family medicine, in Sri Lanka, and also gaining recognition internationally. During his tenure as President, the 2nd WONCA MESAR Conference, in 2005, was held in Colombo, although it was during the troubled times of an on-going war in one part of the country, and the post-tsunami catastrophe . At this meeting, there was much fellowship and participation from the region.

Activities as region president

After he took over the presidency of WONCA SAR, Preethi took up the challenge of bringing back India to membership of WONCA. India, being the biggest country in the South Asia region, has a vital role to play in developing Family Medicine / General Practice.He has encouraged his colleagues in Nepal and Mumbai, to host WONCA SAR conferences. Preethi firmly believes that these regional conferences have brought GPs in the region together and also gained much in the recognition of family physicians, amongst all stakeholders, government health planners and teaching units of family medicine in the region.

His crusade to get family medicine recognised and accepted, in South Asia, which was hitherto ignored by health planners and universities seems to be bearing rich dividends, and now family medicine is getting gradually accepted as an important integral part of a primary health care team in the region.

Preethi has been an invited guest speaker at many international conferences; locally, and in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Thailand.

Other activities

Preethi has been associated with the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), since 2004, and has been an active participant in developing the MRCGP (International) SA Exam, which has had a tremendous impact on the interest in, and quality of, family medicine in South Asia. He was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the RCGP, in November 2009. He is also a member of many committees of the College of GP’s of Sri Lanka including: Non communicable diseases committee, diabetes interest group, respiratory interest group, values and ethics committee. He is a member of the Board of Study in family medicine, at the Post Graduate Institute of Medicine, Sri Lanka.

He is a keen enthusiast of promoting research amongst young general practitioners in South Asia; and with his colleagues in Pakistan, he pioneered the formation of the South Asia Primary Care Research Network (SAPCRN), of which he was nominated the co-patron.

Dr Preethi Wijegoonewardene was awarded the lifetime award of the College of GP’s of Sri Lanka for “Excellence in Leadership”, in 2009.