Stress, Illness and Primary Care in Europe (1)

Yesterday I was honored to speak to primary care practitioners from Europe at the annual conference of WONCA (the first five initials of the World Organization of National Colleges, Academies and Academic Associations of General Practitioners/Family Physicians), held in Malaga, Spain.  I had been invited by a varied group of remarkable clinicians including:

  • Dr. Gabriel Ivbijaro, a native of Nigeria who practices in northeast London, UK and chairs WONCA’s working group on mental health.  The list of qualifications after his name, the breadth of his clinical and managerial responsibilities and his ability to bring a range of people together are remarkable.  It was no surprise to learn he was invited to write the foreword to a well-regarded textbook of behavioral medicine.
  • Dr. Tony Stern, assistant professor of psychiatry at Montefiore hospital in New York who has edited a book of meditations on prayer by Mother Teresa that was praised by former US President Jimmy Carter among others.
  • Todd Edwards, PhD, marital and family therapist and program director in the school of Leadership and Education Sciences at the University of San Diego.

All three share an understanding of the critical importance of evaluating psychosocial stresses in patients with medically unexplained symptoms.  They are  committed to sharing that knowledge with any practitioner willing to listen.  It is heartening to work with people like this since I have encountered so many clinicians over the years who lack even limited insight into these issues.  (Another plus for this group is their appreciation for a great Spanish meal but that is another story.)

Despite speaking after a lunch where wine was served (this is Spain, remember!) the room where I spoke was packed with attentive clinicians whose questions clearly demonstrated eagerness to bring solutions to their daily practice.  This was tremendously gratifying and I look forward to other opportunities to share ideas with clinicians in Europe.