Sunday, 16 September 2012

Wonderful Women of WONCA

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting of the WONCA Working Party for Women in Family Medicine (WWPWFM).  

First of all, let me tell you about WONCA.  No, it has nothing to do with Willie or candy factories or umpa lumpas.  It is the World Organization of National Colleges, Academies and Academic Associations of General Practitioners/Family Physicians.  The short long name is World Organization of Family Doctors just in case the long long name is too confusing.  (I'm definitely confused.  Are you?)  For any of my fellow family docs out there, you are indirectly a member of WONCA if you belong to your national organization i.e. AAFP.

WONCA has several working parties and special interests groups that focus on specific issues within the organization and family medicine--such as rural health, cancer and palliative care, ethics, quality and safety, and young physicians.  The WWPWFM, also known as the Wonderful Women of WONCA, is one of those groups.  This working party focuses on gender equity, support for women family doctors, and women's health in family medicine/general practice.  

The WWPWFM gets together about every three years, one year before the big WONCA conference.  I was awarded a bursary to attend this year's meeting at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia.  Our activities for the week included building an action plan for the working party, finalizing gender equity standards for the organization, medical writing workshop, and a full day conference on domestic violence.

There were 25 ladies from all over the world--Canada, Nigeria, Columbia, the U.K., Burma, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Spain just to name a few.  Many of these women were leaders in family medicine in their countries, and most of them were involved in academics.  Being a missionary from the bush, I was definitely the odd gal out.  Despite our different experiences and beliefs and focuses, we all shared the same passion:  women.

As I take care of patients with cervical cancer, complicated OB, victims of rape and domestic violence, sometimes I feel like what I do is such a very small drop in a bucket with a hole in it.  I was encouraged and inspired and challenged by the Wonderful Women of WONCA, who are fighting similar fights across the globe.  It was so good to have my passion for taking care of the women of PNG re-feuled.  God sure chose to do that in a rather unexpected way!  I pray that He will continue to strengthen me in His work.

The week in Canberra was mostly work, but we did have a little time for play.  We had lunches at the National Gallery and Botanical Gardens.  One afternoon we drove to see kangaroos that were hopping around in the wild.  Another evening we had dinner in the Great Hall of the university.  The main course was kangaroo sausage.  No, it did not taste like chicken.  I did a little shopping, mostly at Target and the grocery store.  You would probably have a good laugh if you saw the random things that came home in my suitcase :).

My favorite extracurricular activity was an overnight in Sydney on the way back to PNG.  I had never stayed in Sydney before, and I couldn't do so without seeing the famous landmark.  I checked into my hotel, found the train and figured out how to buy a ticket, and headed to the city center.  (Very impressive for a FOB.)  I spent about two hours running all around the Opera House and over the Harbor Bridge.  It was magnificent!

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
~ Galations 6:9


  1. My kids are in bed but I will have to tell them you went to the Opera House in Sydney....Tommy drew it the other day and explained it to me. I wondered how in the world he knew about that! Well, he informed me that it was in "Finding Nemo"! Glad you had a good time and got to stop at Target and the grocery store. I think you should do a blog on what random items you picked up!

  2. So, why is there a guy in center of the group pic?

  3. Good eye, Mark! He is the president-elect of WONCA. Came to meet with us on the first day.

  4. Good eye, Mark! He is the president-elect of WONCA. Came to meet with us on the first day.