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Interview with
Isabel Pereira dos Santos

“Our scientific programme is very different from those that have characterized previous WONCA Europe conferences”
The chair of the 19th WONCA Europe Conference’s Scientific Committee, Isabel Pereira dos Santos, has no doubt that the main meeting of WONCA Europe in 2014, to be hosted in Lisbon, will be an occasion to innovate. Not only due to the chosen topics, but also as a result of the personalities involved 

What are your expectations for the 19th WONCA Europe Conference, to be hosted in Lisbon, in July 2014? 
First of all, looking at the set of speakers that will be present in Lisbon, I believe our scientific programme is very different from those that have characterized previous WONCA Europe conferences. This is something related to the conference’s motto itself: the discovery of “New Routes for General Practice and Family Medicine”.
In fact, we find in the list of speakers people that have played a part in the governing bodies of WONCA, such as Richard Roberts and Michael Kidd. But the interesting thing is that these leaders, besides being prominent figures of WONCA, are able to convey fundamental messages. Richard Roberts is a man with a great knowledge and understanding of Family Medicine, in the way it is practiced all over the world, supplemented by an enormous capacity of communication and synthesis. Michael Kidd, on the other hand, is a brilliant speaker that is going to bring us a critical issue: the assessment of case reports. A very important research methodology, the origin of many great clinical discoveries so far.  

But there will be others in Lisbon, less associated with WONCA…
We’ll have the company of our colleague Carl Edvard Rudebeck, someone which is rarely seen in this type of events and that, in this occasion, will share is (profound and extensive) thoughts on the patient/doctor relationship and the communication processes established between the two. All of this in areas that we are not used to see examined and explored… In addition, Margaret McCartney will join us, to scrutinize the delivery of personalized and comprehensive care, but always in that very special perspective and supported by a core principle: never harm the patient. She will, therefore, help us to understand how, in an era where family doctors are propelled – almost exclusively – towards Preventive Medicine (an approach of little or doubtful use, in some cases), we can provide that sort of care to the patient, without harming him in any way. Then, we must not forget Richard Smith. For a large number of years, he has been a pivotal figure in the British Medical Journal and we will address a very important issue: knowledge management.  I must point out that Richard is a speaker of enormous scientific stature.
The New Routes that set this event apart are also justified by the innovative way in which we decided to select the people that will participate in the various discussions. Such is the case of the orchestra conductor Joana Carneiro, presenter of the opening conference. She will offer important contributions and ideas, particularly relevant since they originate from a non-medical expert, someone with a strong cultural background. Whatever the direction she chooses for her presentation, Joana Carneiro is bound to bring us something totally new. Looking into our profession from the outside, she has a unique insight into the challenges of our mission as family doctors, a role that is similar in many respects to her own, when it comes to task coordination, but also to art and performance.  

Thirteen general topics were chosen for this conference, ranging from research in Family Medicine/General Practice to the post-modern consultation. Do you believe that all of them are aligned with the needs of contemporary family doctors? What would you like to outline as the most distinctive elements of the conference?
I draw attention, mainly, to the most unconventional – and at the same time up to date – issues, in particular the post-modern consultation and the sessions related to pharmacogenomics/personalized medicine.
The post-modern consultation subject has to do with the autonomy of the people that seek our help and services. Today, our consultations are increasingly more meetings in which the doctor ceases to have the maximum authority and a patronising attitude, they become “I want”, “I wish” moments, led by the patient. 
Addressing this issue, we will certainly discuss the way in which we deal with this sort of auto determination, expressed by the people who come to visit us.
On the other hand, in modern societies, we live with an increasingly vast number of medical devices and innovative drugs that have different effects in different people, according to the various genetic profiles. 
This is the basic principle of pharmacogenomics, which we intend to discuss comprehensively during the event. That is, understanding why distinct individuals react differently to the therapies that we purpose. In reality, we have already identified some of the genetic mechanisms that interfere in these different responses and the research dedicated to this matter is continuously increasing. 
Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that family doctors relay in their case reports and in their files not only the adverse events caused by prescription drugs, in the more technical sense of the term, but also those situations in which they encounter patients who react in a uncommon way to treatments. 

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