WONCA Europe feature- Istanbul conference, awards and more

Photo: WONCA Europe council meeting  led by Job FM Metsemakers (right) and Anna Stavdal (left)

WONCA Europe region held its annual conference in Istanbul during October and as a result WONCA News for November sees a focus on WONCA Europe. Harris Lygidakis, WONCA Europe Hon Secretary, reports on the conference.

Returning from the WONCA Europe conference in Istanbul, we look back at an amazing organizational feat, led by Okay Basak, Dilek Guldal, Mehmet Ungan and Resat Dabak, which saw the participation of more than 3,600 colleagues, more than 1,000 of whom being junior doctors or trainees. Despite the dreadful terror attack of a few weeks before, family doctors from all over the world met and celebrated the 20th Anniversary of WONCA Europe and the 25th Anniversary of the Turkish Association of Family Doctors (TAHUD).

Photo: Dilek Guldal, Mehmet Ungan on the Bosphorus cruise with most of the work over!

On such a special occasion, the “World Book of Family Medicine - the European Edition” was launched, edited by Carl Steylaerts and Mehmet Ungan and featuring 100 essays on topics that were presented in conferences of the last 20 years. All contributions are now freely available from the WONCA Europe website.

Photo: WONCA Europe Treasurer, Carl Steylaerts  with WONCA Europe Adm. Secretary, Barbara Toplek, at the WONCA Europe booth.

The current refugee crisis, which represents the biggest humanitarian emergency in Europe since the Second World War, was in the spotlight during the conference. Member Organizations from 26 countries collaborated and published a statement that urges actions to be taken so that refugees have access to equitable, affordable and high-quality health care services in all Europe. It also reaffirms the significant role that family doctors can play in the provision of such services for the entire current and future European population. Most importantly, the message that the statement reverberates is the cry for peace around the world.

Preceding the conference, trainees and junior family doctors participated in an intense and inspirational day of ideas exchange at the the Vasco da Gama Movement (VdGM) Preconference. This was- a unique opportunity to become acquainted with the WONCA family; meet peers; share knowledge, experiences and dreams, while learning about different healthcare systems and cultures in Europe. The participation this year was phenomenal and reached nearly 200 attendees.

But the young spirit permeated the main conference too. For the very first time, a dedicated session saw all the leaders of the WONCA young doctors’ movements from the seven WONCA regions (Kayode Alao, Nagwa Nashat, Kyle Hoedebecke, Shin Yoshida, Bhavna Matta, Peter Sloane and Andrea de Angulo), as well as the Young Doctors’ representative on the WONCA executive (Raman Kumar), joining forces in an interactive discussion conducted by Anna Stavdal and Canan Tuz. They addressed such issues as the current problems of th young family doctors and their role within the medical community.

Photo: Young doctors' Movements' leaders with some WONCA World exec members

Twitter also got big - with nearly 5,000 tweets being sent throughout the week of the conference from more than 400 attendees, as well as people who were not physically in Istanbul. Some panels accepted questions from tweets, some conversations were projected -all this encouraging more comments and interaction. For the first time, some sessions were broadcasted live on Periscope by enthusiastic attendees, paving the way for even more “socially-enabled” conferences with a global audience.

The WONCA Europe awards were presented in the closing ceremony. The Montegut scholar was Patrick O'Donnell from Ireland, while Ali Cerrahoglu from Turkey was honored with the 2015 WONCA Europe 5-star doctor for his career achievements.

Photo: WONCA Europe President, Job FM Metsemakers, speaks at the conference

The VdGM presented the 2015 Junior Research Award to Katarzyna Nessler from Poland, with the finalists being Jessica Watson from the UK and Patrick Redmond from Ireland. The Hippokrates Prize for the best exchange was awarded to Hugo Andrè Malheiro Rodrigues from Portugal and the Claudio Carosino Prize for the best exchange in a rural setting was granted to Ana Catarina Henriques de Carvalho from Portugal.

Finally, this year’s VdGM fund bursaries were awarded to Vera Cristina de Jesus Pires da Silva from Portugal and Yelena Khegay from Kazakhstan, supporting their participation in the conference. The Fund was launched in 2012 by VdGM’s Past Chair Sven Streit, has distributed more than 7,000€ to young colleagues thanks to the generous donations of national associations and individual doctors.

As the very successful Istanbul conference fades into the history of WONCA Europe, we are looking forward, with head and heart, to the next big date; the 2016 conference in Copenhagen!

Harris Lygidakis

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