WONCA conference comes home in October

3 minute read

The World Organization of Family Doctors, which represents GPs worldwide, is returning to its birth country to celebrate 50 years.

The RACGP is promising opportunities for education, networking and fancy dress at the upcoming WONCA world conference in Sydney this October.

This will take the place of the college’s regular GP23 conference this year.

Immediate past RACGP president Associate Professor Karen Price, who is chair of the organising committee, told The Medical Republic that there would be an “enormous amount” of international talent converging in Sydney for the four-day event.

“There’ll be some great discussions led by [outgoing WONCA president Dr Anna Stavdal], regarding advocacy through the World Health Organisation, the OECD, the World Bank and the United Nations [and] how WONCA can represent at that level,” she said.

“Australia has an opportunity to feed into those really strong advocacy statements.”

WONCA – which stands for World Organization of National Colleges, Academies and Academic Associations of General Practitioners/Family Physicians – holds its worldwide conference once every three years.

This year’s conference is an outlier event, having been pushed back by a year due to the pandemic.

“It’s going to be a very friendly conference, we’re going to set that tone, and we’re going to have a strong environmental message,” said Professor Price.

“All the days are going to [have sessions] talking about climate and its impacts, but there’ll be a particular day where we actually have some dressing up.

“We’re going to have some fun as well, and I think that’s important part of restoring people’s hope and faith in humanity and faith in their profession.”

While this will be just the third time that Australia has hosted WONCA’s global conference, the country has a long association with the organisation, which was founded by Melbourne GP Dr Montague Kent-Hughes in 1972.

Former deputy chief medical officer Professor Michael Kidd AO was the association’s most recent Australian president, having served from 2013 to 2016.

Australia’s own Associate Professor Karen Flegg, who practices in Brisbane, will be sworn in as the 20th WONCA president at the Sydney conference.

According to Professor Price, WONCA will be engaging even for doctors who may not normally attend an RACGP conference.

“People are going to be exposed to international colleagues from a variety of different settings – from low- and middle-income countries, as well as leading general practice areas like Denmark and the Netherlands,” she said.

“There will also be a lot of UK doctors, which is perhaps a bit of a warning for us.”

It’s also a chance, she said, to examine the existential threats to general practice which are causing cracks the world over.

“We’ve got to this point in healthcare where there is extraordinary fragmentation, partialisation, super-subspecialisation and a complete lack of recognition of generalism as a form of expertise,” Professor Price said.

“And yet, we know the evidence for healthcare is that that generalism is extremely valuable, just very hard to measure in a very linear way.”

Early bird ticket sales end this Thursday, 13 July.

The next WONCA world conference will be in September 2025 in Lisbon, Portugal.

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