Interview with Charilaos (Harris) Lygidakis

Are we growing together in diversity?

In 1990, Voyager 1 took a photo of the Earth from a distance of 6 billion kilometres. Seen against the darkness of space, our planet appeared as a pale blue dot. “Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena,” was the reflection of the astronomer Carl Sagan, and he continued: “To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.”
Our world is such a small, yet diverse place. To tackle its challenges, from the tame to the grand ones, we must foster diversity to harness expertise and deliver effectiveness. Respecting, communicating and building on the perspectives and experiences of different individuals, are key to personal and collective development, enhanced decision-making and problem-solving, as well as to creativity and true innovation. Family doctors are uniquely positioned to see diversity and care for people and societies unconditionally, regardless of gender, age, race, ethnicity, and other dimensions. We work with a diversified team of health professionals and workers, and we leverage their different viewpoints and experiences to address challenges creatively.

How attractive you find family medicine for young doctors?

It surely depends on the country, the context and the individual aspirations, but generally speaking, I would say that it is not as attractive as it should be!
One of our most common challenges is our image. This can be seen especially with the young doctors who choose family medicine, but they have not yet experienced the beauty of our discipline to its full extend. Their defensive mechanisms may not be prepared for the confrontation with the “real” doctors. I experienced that feeling when I started my residency, and found it being worryingly common among colleagues across Europe. In the world cafés, the preconferences, the design thinking and other workshops that VdGM has carried out over the years, this has always been among the first top challenges discussed.
Investing in promoting our image is pivotal. And I am not being frivolous when I speak about image. The work of family doctors is essential, yet overwhelming. We need to share our success stories from our practices and communities. We must celebrate them! At the same time, we should enhance the promotion of the brilliant content that is produced across WONCA Europe, the networks and special interest groups: our conferences, our meetings, our scientific, cultural, and advocacy work.
So how can we recruit more medical students and young colleagues, and promote our discipline more effectively? An answer to the challenge may be the appropriate promotion of our content within our organisation, to our colleagues, other specialists and health professionals, medical students (we must get them young!), other key governmental and non-governmental organisations and institutions, and patients and caregivers. Many national colleges already do this quite successfully, and in the recent years, all the networks have worked towards the very same direction.
To achieve this, we must ensure that we establish a framework that guarantees and enhances the coordination among member organisations, networks and interest groups. I do believe we have a huge potential to enrich the way we “market” our work meaningfully, thus making our discipline more visible; and this is one of the key values of WONCA Europe.

How to organize a great conference in perspective of digital technology?

That’s a great question! One may start referring to fancy things, such as augmented reality and virtual sessions, but I believe that technology is an enabler and supporter, not the main focus. Therefore I would explore any solution that opens the conference doors to broader audiences, supports diversity and the delivery of contextualised content, increases engagement and interaction, facilitates the establishment of new relationships, and expands our intellectual work beyond known boundaries. Thereafter, I would try to consider those solutions that respect sustainability, accessibility, and availability.