Report: WONCA South Asia region conference, Mumbai 2011

February, 2012

FFPAI's first international conference for the Wonca family: a feast of knowledge and fun.

On December 16, 2011, all roads led to the Renaissance Convention Centre in Mumbai, India! Over 700 delegates, 550 from all parts of India and about 150 international family physicians participated in what appeared to be the largest South Asia Regional conference of Wonca, in history. The conference was held under joint auspices of Wonca and the Federation of Family Physicians’ Association of India (FFPAI). The event was organised by the General Practitioners’ Association - Greater Bombay (GPA). The venue was on the Powai Lake, in the centre of Mumbai City and took away everyone’s breath!

Pre-conference events

Hospital Visits

The pre-conference program started on December 16, with hospital visits, for over 100 delegates to see for themselves two centres of excellence namely, Hinduja Hospital and Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital.

The Spice Route

This program for young and future family physicians of the region met formally for the first time after it was launched last year in Nepal by Prof Richard Roberts. Inspired by the Vasco da Gama and Rajakumar Movements, The Spice Route responsibility is shared by Dr Raman Kumar of Academy of Family Physicians of India, an organisation of young doctors in Delhi; and Dr Sonia (Chery) Mehra, who trained in UK. Over 80 young family physicians from the region spent half day deliberating on spelling out a structure, action plan, funding and such basic issues to give a concrete shape to the movement. Prof Roberts inaugurated the pre-conference and Dr Preethi Wijegoonewardene, Dr Ramnik Parekh and Prof Prasad wished them well in the new endeavour.

CME Program

More than 260 practising family physicians spent half day, listening to ten experts, to update themselves in advances in medicine. Due to limited capacity of the hall many had to go back disappointed.

Wonca Executive meeting

The Host Organising Committee (HOC) appreciated the decision of the Wonca Executive to meet at the same venue. This thoughtful gesture gave confidence and encouragement to FFPAI that Wonca believed in them! The HOC felt indebted to them for their presence at the conference and for joining the inaugural and social programs. It gave a unique opportunity for an average member to meet them in an informal setting.

The Conference


The conference attracted 700 delegates of which 550 were from India and 150 from other countries; 42 from Nepal, 26 from Bangladesh, 15 from Sri Lanka, four from Pakistan and others from about 15 countries of the world. The whole atmosphere was charged with energy and enthusiasm.


Wonca World President, Professor Richard Roberts, kindly consented to inaugurate the conference and gave his address in his inimitable style. Wonca South Asia Regional President, Dr Preethi Wijegoonewardene, appreciated the revitalisation of Wonca South Asia region activities, in his address. Dr R G Jimulia, Emeritus Chairman of the conference, welcomed the guests. Dr Ramnik Parekh, the executive Chairman gave an overview of the event and GPA President, Dr Chandrakant Kambli, expressed a vote of thanks. The HOC felicitated Prof Roberts, Dr Preethi and Prof Michael Kidd earlier. The short but very dignified inaugural ceremony concluded with the Indian national anthem.

Scientific Content:

High quality scientific material was the highlight of this conference according to the feedback received. There were 10 CME talks, 15 Symposia/workshops, 38 guest/ keynote lectures, 25 free papers and 10 poster presentations. Average attendance in each of three parallel sessions was 250! The faculty comprised of 38 Indian and 29 international speakers.A number of remarkable panel discussions were held including: one on the theme, Only family physicians can provide accessible, cost- beneficial and equitable healthcare, chaired by Prof Rich Roberts: The future of family practice- global scenario led by Dr Dan Ostergaard, from the USA; Women and family medicine: leadership challenges and opportunities in the regions, led by Prof Amanda Barnard (Australia).

Delegates from Pakistan presented an excellent workshop on Hypertension. Scientific contributions by Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the hosts India were all highly scholastic.

Social Program:

A welcome dinner on December 16, for the delegates and the Wonca executive, set the ball rolling. The evening of December 17, began with a Bollywood Dancing Performance, and was interjected with Valedictory addresses from all the Wonca dignitaries, leaders of Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan contingents and others who wanted to share their experiences of the event. There was praise all around for the famous Indian hospitality.Dr Geeta Vora, a senior member of GPA, was conferred with the Dr L U Kirpalani Life-time Achievement Award by Prof Roberts. He also declared open the on-line Journal of Academy of Family Physicians of India. Prof Pratap Prasad, of Nepal, handed over a gift from the General Practitioners’ Association of Nepal to FFPAI President, Dr Ramnik Parekh. Festivities followed in form of cocktails and banquet.

Accompanying persons had a gala time, beginning with a cookery demonstration by nationally reputed expert Mrs Asha Khatau. Next two days were spent shopping and sightseeing, in Mumbai.All delegates and accompanying persons were given a gift of wrist watch with Wonca-FFPAI logo; chairmen and guest speakers were given a gift of 4GB Pen drive with the logo.

Media Campaign:

HOC took this conference as a unique opportunity to highlight the importance of family doctors in every family’s life and the significance of primary care as the basis of healthcare system. With a systematic approach the print media and the news websites took notice of our event and our strong views on primary care. The presence of so many international delegates and Wonca dignitaries made the task easier.

Dr Ramnik Parekh
Executive Chairman
Wonca Mumbai conference

Editor's note: Dr Ramnik Parekh has received many messages of congratulations from his colleagues for the enormous amount of work which he personally contributed to the success of this conference. The FFPAI should also be very pleased with the many items picked up by their national newspapers relating to the conference. A further article, in this issue of Wonca News, records the increased notice being taken of family doctors in India, and we would like to think that this is as a result of the Wonca Mumbai conference.