Monday, May 16, 2016

Countdown to World Family Doctor Day

- Kenny Lin, MD, MPH

On Thursday, May 19th, the World Organization of Family Doctors (WONCA) will celebrate World Family Doctor Day, a day that since 2010 has highlighted the roles and contributions of family physicians in health and health care systems worldwide. The term "global health" has evolved from being used primarily to describe volunteer medical work in developing countries to a broader concept that recognizes the easy transmission of infectious diseases across continents and international boundaries (e.g., outbreaks of Ebola and Zika virus) and the presence of international refugee and immigrant populations with specific medical needs in the "backyards" of the United States. In a 2015 AFP editorial, Drs. Ranit Mishori and Jessica Evert explained why incorporating global health experiences into Family Medicine training and practice "matters now more than ever":

Global health exposure internationally and locally helps develop a broader health system perspective, greater attention to the social determinants of health, and an understanding of population health concepts. Engaging in global health can bolster cross-cultural competencies, along with the desire to work in resource-poor settings. Additionally, it can strengthen skills and passion to care for underserved populations domestically. A few studies have even suggested an association between global health experiences and an increased interest in primary care.

Dr. Kyle Hoedebecke, the American Academy of Family Physicians' New Physician representative to WONCA Polaris, wrote a blog post last year about why new physicians should care about global health and hosted an episode of "Family Medicine On Air" directed at family medicine interest groups (FMIGs) in the U.S. This year, Dr. John Parks, whose health policy fellowship research into the global landscape of family medicine training informed the AAFP's World Health Mapper online tool, will host a live Google Hangout at 11 AM Eastern on World Family Doctor Day. Medical students can submit questions for Dr. Parks, who is now a faculty lecturer in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Malawi College of Medicine, by e-mailing their FMIG Network Regional Coordinator by Wednesday, May 18th.