In late August, I received an email from Duke Family Medicine Residency Program Director Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, M.D., FAAFP, inviting residents to apply as a World Health Organization (WHO) young leader to attend the WHO/UNICEF Global Conference on Primary Health Care in Astana, Kazakhstan. After reading the application, I knew being accepted out of a global group of young health professionals would be a long shot, but the advice of a long-time mentor popped into my head. He told me to always shoot for 50 percent success in what I apply for, because if I am always successful, I will be missing many incredible opportunities.
In early October, I was invited to experience one of these incredible opportunities as part of a group of 50 young global primary care health professionals invited to attend the conference, as well as special preconference. During the preconference, I met individuals across the spectrum of health professions to discuss issues facing primary health care in our countries and determine policy priorities to building a future that puts primary care at the center of our health care systems. It was stimulating and inspiring to work with people coming from backgrounds and professions so different than mine and to brainstorm solutions to problems as diverse as reliable power sources for rural African clinics to the need for comprehensive payment reform that better compensates primary and preventive care. While we each had unique challenges, we realized that we shared many of the same struggles to bring primary care to the forefront of our health systems.