Wonca Rio, the 21st World Congress of Family Medicine, took place between the 1st and the 6th of November of 2016, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I was very fortunate to be able to attend, thanks to a WONCA World bursary. Additionally, it was very exciting to participate in the panel “Social Media: the dust settles, it’s time for a reality check”.
Wonca conferences are always a great opportunity to learn from high-level presentations and discussions, as well as to connect with highly motivated and inspiring family physicians and young trainees. It is also a wonderful chance to catch up with so many friends from all over the world, as well as hear about the stimulating work they are doing in their communities, or the original research they are conducting in their institutions.
The panel that I was fortunate to integrate was a good example of the kind of inspirational people that Wonca conferences bring together. The session was moderated by Harris Lygidakis, and focused on the meaningful use of social media for both healthcare providers and patients. Presentations by Claire Marie Thomas, Nina Monteiro, Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, Ana Luisa Neves, Raluca Zoiţanu, and myself covered aspects going from the use of social media for learning and collaboration, its impact on patient-doctor communication, online reputation, social media use in population health, and association with health literacy and health behaviour change. The discussion that followed was even more interesting and engaged everyone in the audience.
For me personally, Wonca Rio also brought about a totally different, and unexpected, perspective. Indeed, I got to experience Brazil’s healthcare system first hand, and ended up spending a couple of days at Hospital Municipal Miguel Couto. In this under-resourced hospital, patients from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, unable to afford the health insurance that pays for private hospital care, were nevertheless receiving quality healthcare, for free. I guess, in the end, I was very lucky that this acute incident happened in a place where I could speak the language, and where I was surrounded by physician friends attending the Wonca conference. I cannot thank enough Tiago Villanueva, Ana Costa, and Thais Façanha, for all their help and support, trying to make sure I was receiving the best possible care. Not only that, but Ana Luisa Neves and Harris Lygidakis went above and beyond to allow me to still be able to participate in the social media panel, despite being discharged from hospital only a couple of hours before the event. No doubt about it, this Wonca conference was one-of-a-kind!