President of WONCA Europe
“The 19th WONCA Europe Conference will happen in an important and strong country in the development of Family Medicine”
The Dutch family doctor that leads WONCA Europe is satisfied with the preparations for the Lisbon conference, calls upon every family doctor to share the unique experience associated with a meeting of this magnitude and underlines a relevant fact: the recent changes introduced in the Portuguese primary care setting will, surely, trigger the curiosity of colleagues from other parts of the world.
What is your view on the planning and preparation work done before the 19th WONCA Europe Conference?
Job Metsemakers – From what I’ve learned so far, the preparation for the 19th WONCA Europe Conference is going fine. Something that I, personally, was expecting. There is a good number of registrations already and we’ve seen that the abstract submission process, guided by Isabel Pereira dos Santos, went very well. A lot of people sent in abstracts and the reviewers did their work, as you would expect. Obviously, not everybody is going to be happy, if their work is not accepted, but that is normal in a selection process of this kind. As far as we could see, this was a thorough assessment of the abstracts and, as always, you cannot accept everything and you have to make decisions, leaving out some of the proposals.
Will the Lisbon event bring a different energy, in comparison with previous WONCA Europe conferences?
Of course, when we compare this event with other conferences, it is a different setting and a different country, with its own customs. But I think that basically a WONCA conference is seen by us as a meeting of family, friends and colleagues, which we always hope will strengthen the development of Family Medicine, provide scientific evidence which has been researched and get people involved in education, through good workshops and a number of other parallel activities.
But do you believe the fact this conference is going to take place in Portugal will have a specific influence in the exchange of ideas, or in the kind of discussions that will arise?
I think Portugal will have its specific and original activities, in the context of this conference. It is important to outline that the 19th WONCA Europe Conference will happen in an important and strong country in the development of Family Medicine, particularly in a moment when we can see changes in the healthcare system itself, with the transformations occurring in the health centers and in the relations with doctors and private practice, the new contracts and so on. It is interesting to be in Lisbon, in times like these! I hope a number of my colleagues will have the opportunity to see that, to speak to each other and get to know, for the first time, what is going on in this country. When you visit a country and an unknown society, you should always ask questions like: How are things organized here? What can we learn from your problems and strengths? On the other hand, I would hope that Portuguese family doctors will seize the opportunity to come to Lisbon and meet colleagues from other nations. Because it is inspiring to get out of your practice and learn more, through new experiences.
It will be the first time Portugal will host a WONCA Europe Conference… Do you have any concerns about this baptism by fire?
To me, the WONCA/SIMG Spring Meeting, organized in 1994, in Estoril, was a real international conference, much alike the traditional annual WONCA Europe Conference, which means that in my perspective it is not the first time Portugal hosts a major WONCA event. Also, the Portuguese colleagues have, in between, organized important meetings for the WONCA Europe member organisations, to discuss specific topics outside of the conference agenda, which means they have been very helpful in the development of WONCA Europe. Their organizational capability has to be proven, of course, something that we can only fully verify after the end of the congress. But as far as we can see for now, they´re doing just fine.
I’m sure you have been able to consider the keynote lectures planned for this event … What is your general impression of the proposed lectures, in terms of diversity and thematic richness?
We can learn skills and competences – useful to our objectives – from people who have different professions. A conductor of a great orchestra can teach us a lot regarding discipline, time management, time phrasing and leadership. It is very interesting to be able to hear things of this sort and not talk only about issues like hypertension or diabetes. In a way, we’re helping people to enter a new mindset.
Besides the lecture you’ve just pointed out, there are others, of a more technical and clinical nature, concerning areas such as interpreting the patient’s body language during the consultation, or the real relevance of mass screenings, for example…
It is fundamental to show the diversity of what is going on, today, in Family Medicine, in Europe and around the World. Therefore, it is only natural that the scientific programme should include speakers who are appealing people and deal with interesting topics and, at the same time, that the organization prepares a good variety of activities for the conference. People like this sort of approach and that is exactly what they are expecting, from a conference of this scale.