A massive 3761 participants from all over the world attended the 19th WONCA Europe Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, from July 2nd to 5th 2014, including 1203 young family doctors/GPs and 120 undergraduate students. The conference offered an interesting and stimulating programme, searching answers for pertinent questions that involve the activity of family doctors/general practitioners from different countries and contexts, looking to solve the daily problems of the present, and thinking about the future of this specialty.
Delegates could participate in five brilliant keynote lectures, 202 sessions, 100 workshops and 445 oral presentations as well as peruse 1041 posters.
I’m really proud to say that, although Portugal is overcoming a severe economic crisis, the event was magnificent and very well organized.
At the end, we could hear that all appreciated being there. Besides the Conference, the participants enjoyed the food, the wine, the restaurants, the landscape, the sun shining, the congress centre, and also the social program, full of many typical surprises.
Most important, the delegates seemed stimulated by the scientific program, and shared experiences not only inside the sessions but also in the corridors, and other informal areas. A pleasant atmosphere was always present, relevant, since this kind of event is an excellent forum to share ideas and experiences. João Sequeira Carlos, President of the Portuguese Association General Practice and Family Medicine (APMGF) stated, at the end of the event, that he had good feed-back from all the participants and he was very glad with the success of the Conference, in particular because of the opportunity provided, in terms of learning activities and socio-professional interaction.
For Isabel Pereira dos Santos, chair of the scientific committee, most remarkable was the high participation rate of younger doctors (35% of all attendants). The collaboration of these attendees, who had an active role in the conference activities, enriched the scientific and technical quality of the Conference.
The growth of the Vasco da Gama Movement (VdGM) excelled. In Lisbon, this youthful trend became obvious not only with the success and enthusiasm around the Pre-Conference, but also with the celebration of the 10th anniversary of VdGM, marked by the launch of a book about the past ten years of the movement, “Ten years sailing, much more to discover”. The new generation of family doctors should inspire others, sharing experiences, exchanging training programs globally (Family Medicine 360º), promoting research (Junior Researcher Award) learning with each other, in order to change the world in small steps.
In terms of content, the scientific program was developed under four main themes: innovation in GP/ Family Medicine, knowledge management, the new generation of family doctors, and personalized and comprehensive care.
Joana Carneiro, music director of the Berkeley Symphony and invited music director of the Gulbenkian Orchestra conducted the opening session, as she draw a parallel between the team work developed in Family Medicine settings and orchestra coordination and, at the same time, remembered her early times as a medical student, a professional path that she eventually abandoned to embrace a musical career. She showed, conducting the Gulbenkian Orchestra playing Schumann, that it is possible to link the team work found in Family Medicine and the achievements of an orchestra. As she stated, Family Medicine covers many areas of healthcare, integrating them in one medical specialty, in the same way a musical conductor combines several instruments, developing the whole composition. It is important to know each of the components of that composition in detail, and to work as a team leader to have good results for teamwork.
Margaret McCartney, GP in Glasgow, and author of the “The Patient Paradox, why sexed up medicine is bad for your health” focused her keynote lecture in the right of the patients to refuse screening programs, even those promoted by governments, especially those with no scientific evidence to support them. She spoke about the moral duty of family doctors to inform their patients about the real benefits and harms of certain medication and preventive exams. It is necessary to respect the informed will of each patient, although the social and political pressure in offering screening programs is very high in the Scottish context. It is better to solve patients’ problems than to propose them preventive activities that, in some cases, can cause overdiagnosis and harm, in order to prevent the ”inverse care law”.
Michael Kidd, the WONCA World President, in his keynote lecture said that Family Medicine has the power to transform the world by improving health systems. WONCA represents half a million family doctors who make two billion consultations worldwide, each year, he said. Family doctors have to have a vision beyond their office and think about working together. He highlighted the role of China and Brazil in improving the value of General Practice and Family Medicine, as well as Ireland that nominated a Minister for Primary Care.
Carl Edvard Rudebeck is a specialist in general practice and a research supervisor in Kalmar County in Sweden. In his keynote lecture he spoke about ‘body and words in the consultation’ and about ‘intersubjectivity’ as the process by which individuals come to share experience and ideas. This sharing is never absolute, even in consultation. Yet it is the glue of relations in society and probably the most human of human capabilities. Empathy is another important competency to develop as a family doctor, during consultation.
Kamran Abbasi, digital editor of the BMJ talked in his keynote lecture about the multiplicity of information that clinicians have to deal with nowadays in order to give clinical responses to patients’ problems. Although clinicians feel that evidence published in medical literature is important, they sometimes feel exhausted and overwhelmed by the amount of information, evidence, and guidelines produced. Abbasi thinks that is not possible to manage so much information, and that clinicians have to share knowledge and to be critical, working with the challenge of the increasing complexity, multimorbility and aging of the population, by adapting the evidences to the knowledge they have about each patient.
Richard Roberts, former President of WONCA World and CMAJ blogger, in his enthusiastic and moving closing address, shared the amazing stories of family doctors from around the world that he had felt fortunate to meet and the most important things that he learned from them, showing the importance, the diversity and the similitude of being a family doctor in every context and in every place.
He also focused in the importance about teaching and learning with a new generation of family doctors.
At the end of the Conference, European family doctors showed they are concerned and committed to the defense of the quality of the Health Systems and with the well being of the populations, that are considered to be threatened with the economic crisis,throughout the world, by disclosing The Lisbon Declaration.
In this declaration signed by João Sequeira Carlos, President APMGF, Job Metsemakers, President of WONCA Europe and Peter Sloane, President of VdGM is stated that in many places of the world, primary care settings are in danger because of the decrease or even the lack of funding. Governments are exhorted to respect the scientific evidences on health policy, and people’s will to promote, defend and develop solid primary care settings, that make health systems efficient for all the citizens, with no exception.
The 19th WONCA Europe Conference was a great success and a milestone for the Portuguese Family Medicine where much has already been accomplished. New routes for the new generation of European Family Doctors were designed by all the participants, enthusiastically listening to different opinions, and opening their minds to learn from each other.