From the CEO's desk: August 2014

 Photo: WONCA Europe Lisbon organising committee

What a great WONCA Europe conference! As ever with regional events it was a brilliant opportunity to meet with old friends, to make new ones, and to enjoy both the academic and more social sessions that were taking place. My thanks and congratulations to João Carlos and his colleagues for a wonderful event. Each year the bar is raised, but I’m sure that the 2015 WONCA Europe conference in Istanbul in October 2015, will be even better!!

Photo: João Carlos (right) and Job Metsemakers (WONCA Europe president) wave goodbye to the particpants in Lisbon

Prior to the main conference Vasco da Gama, the Young Doctors Movement of WONCA Europe Region, held an immensely successful pre-conference, to celebrate its 10th anniversary. There are reports of this event elsewhere in WONCA News, but it is an incredible movement, with energy, passion and motivation, ensuring that the next generation of family medicine leaders is already there and waiting.

Congratulations to Harris Lygidakis for his recent fantastic leadership, and congratulations to Peter Sloane of Ireland who has taken over as Chair. We look forward very much to working with him.

WONCA Executive

The WONCA Executive “meets” every 4-6 weeks by teleconference, and we would love to have more face-to-face meetings, but sadly finances do not currently allow that. However with half of the Executive physically in Lisbon, and most of the rest joining by video link, it gave us a great chance to hold a half-day Executive meeting and to discuss some issues in greater detail. Among the many issues discussed were:

  • WONCA Accreditation
The WONCA Working Party on Education (WWPE) worked hard to develop “Standards for Postgraduate Family Medicine Education”. These were based on those developed by the World Federation of Medical Education but were adapted to meet the specific requirements of family medicine training. WONCA World Council endorsed these standards in Prague, and in March this year we had a chance to pilot them when we were invited by Shanghai Medical College of Fudan University to carry out an accreditation of their training programme. Michael Kidd, Allyn Walsh, Donald Li and I undertook the visit, and we were delighted to be able to recommend that WONCA accredit the programme, which Executive endorsed. Michael Kidd will report more fully on the presentation of their accreditation certificate, which took place last month in front of Dr Margaret Chan, Director General of WHO, but WONCA Executive has now endorsed the accreditation process for future visits.

Photo: WONCA President, Michael Kidd presenting to Prof Zhu Shanzhu, president of the Society of General Practice of the Chinese Medical Association; in the presence of Dr Margaret Chan (second from right)

  • Membership Issues
WONCA has been keen to encourage membership of as many family doctors as possible, and yet the current interpretation of our bylaws has prevented several groups or associations from applying. In many countries – such as Brunei, Oman and Kuwait – governments do not allow independent professional bodies and thus these countries have been unable to apply for WONCA membership, as they have not met the current membership criteria. There was a very considered and thoughtful discussion among Executive on this issue, with everyone keen to encourage membership wherever possible. Executive has now agreed a solution to allow these countries to enjoy the equivalence of Associate Membership pro tem. In the meantime a revision to the Bylaws will be proposed to the 2016 World Council for it to consider for endorsement.

  • FM360 Exchange Programme
Exchange programmes for junior doctors, organised though WONCA networks, have been running since 2000. The Vasco da Gama Young Doctors movement in Europe has been coordinating these programmes, but in Prague in 2013 they proposed rolling out exchange programmes to the whole WONCA network. Executive discussed ownership of the programme and was keen to encourage it, but at the same time was acutely aware that it had a duty of care to anyone taking part in the programme. After a productive discussion Executive agreed to endorse the programme but has asked the Young Doctor movements to work with the CEO and legal advisers to ensure that certain disclaimers are inserted into the application process to protect WONCA from any future claim. There is huge enthusiasm for these programmes, and the American Academy of Family Physicians recently published a report from one of their members on his exchange to Austria.

WONCA and Occupational Health

For a while now, WONCA has been having discussions with ICOH (International Commission on Occupational Health), which is the occupational health counterpart to WONCA. This culminated in a joint statement on workers’ health, launched by our President, Professor Michael Kidd, at the WONCA Europe conference in Lisbon. You can read the statement here.

The key point is that most people have access to a family doctor, whereas few have access to an occupational physician, and as family doctors we have to be ever-more-aware of how the workplace can affect the way our patients present – and with what. Over the coming months WONCA hopes to be featuring a series of articles from ICOH as a resource for our members, to help them when dealing with work-related conditions. Keep an eye out for that.

Men’s Health

At the Asia Pacific Region conference recently in Kuching there were some really excellent presentations on men’s health – with some really worrying statistics provided. WONCA has been having discussions with the International Society on Men’s Health (ISMH) to see how we can collaborate more closely in the future. They fully recognise that men consult rarely, and if they do consult then it’s most likely to be with a family doctor. Thus we are key to better screening, diagnosis and education for men and their health. This was highlighted in a recent newspaper article in the UK, which reinforced that men often ignore what might be really quite serious signs and symptoms.

WONCA is keen to see a Special Interest Group on Men’s Health established, so if anyone is interested in leading on this, please contact me at ceo@wonca.net for further information.

And that is all for this month. In August I will be in Taipei attending the General Assembly of the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA) which is an Organization in Collaborative Relationship with WONCA. We will renewing our Memorandum of Understanding with IFMSA for another three years, and I will also have an opportunity to talk to them about family medicine and the role of WONCA. I also hope to meet with the organizers of the 2015 Asia Pacific Region conference, which will be held in Taipei in March 2015. On 16th and 17th August, along with our President, I’ll be in Chennai at the WONCA South Asia conference. Of course I’ll report back on all of these events next month, but for now we send greetings to the WONCA family from all of us in Bangkok.

Garth Manning
CEO