The importance of Family Medicine

By Chra Abdulla:

Have you ever needed to take a vaccine, get a prescription for the flu, or even wanted to discuss your depression with someone? Well, a family physician is your best option. The main problem that many people face in Kurdistan is in having to deal with so many different doctors and queue up for so long. There is a solution to this and it’s called ‘Family Medicine’.

Family doctors are qualified professionals who are trained in a breadth of all medical subjects rather than the depth of a specific medical field. They play an important role in providing direct and continuous care of a person and their family.  Family physicians take care of all types of conditions and believe they all need attention. Whether it is a small bruise, minor illness like the flu or even chronic disease such as cancer, these doctors are trained and passionate about curing all disorders in order to provide the best care for the patient

Another perk of Family Medicine is that the physicians know the patients, their health background and even their family history in order to accurately diagnose any problems. Collecting this information over many years is useful in helping to treat any illness. A family physician not only looks after a patient’s physical well-being but also encompasses the patient’s mental and emotional welfare. This allows the patient to trust their doctor in order to confide in them their medical ‘secrets’ which they wish for no one else to know. This is important so that physicians can be familiar with a patient’s medical background and provide continuous care as the patient’s age and medical status changes.

Family Medicine also shifts the dynamic from hospital-based, expensive surgery treatment to an emphasis on low-cost, preventative medicine via changing the lifestyle of the patient. This makes primary care vital for the healthcare system in Kurdistan, with family medicine at the heart of the system, as it is in many developed countries. Family physicians interact with many different people and professionals to provide the best care available for the patient. These relationships include: nurses, medical educators, researchers, nutritionists, specialists, psychologists …and the list could go on.

Through a long-term relationship between patients and Family Physicians, primary care allows these doctors to progress change over time, provide preventative treatment, limit costly procedures, refer patients to specialists and it even allows the entire health system of a nation to depend on it. Just look at how successful the health system is in Australia, Canada, and the UK….why? Because they have Family Medicine guiding them to provide patient care.  Even the US health system is urging their Medical students to pursue Family Medicine as they believe it will revolutionise the health system within America.

Too many times (within Kurdistan) we see doctors who specialise in a specific field of medicine like Cardiology treating a patient outside of their depth subject: this shows the need for Family Medicine in Kurdistan. This is evident when patients have no knowledge of which doctor they should go to seek help with their problems or even just to speak with someone who will listen to their problems and knows their medical past. By implementing Family Medicine in the Kurdish community the pressure on public hospitals will dramatically decrease and doctors will be able to practice their speciality, rather than diagnose something unfamiliar to them.

In addition, Family Physicians treat all organ systems and diseases. They treat acute and seasonal conditions such as colds or cuts. Family Physicians help maintain problems such as Asthma, Cancers, Diabetes, Blood Pressure, Infections, Flu and so on. Furthermore, they administer vaccinations, do tests for athletes, offer prenatal care, counselling, geriatric care and even female care. When patients are travelling to other countries, family physicians even establish a medical plan and provide vaccines for their care while in a foreign environment.

Dr Noori Abdulla a Family Physician and Dermatologist has quite recently moved back to Kurdistan from Sydney, Australia. He says, “I see how patients are visiting me and enjoying having a ‘family’ doctor who they can trust and visit all the time because, not only do I take a medical history of their past illnesses, but I also treat their basic need, which is what Kurdistan is desperate in need of”.

Dr Abdulla has been back for three years and he has established Family Medicine as a graduate degree within Kurdistan – the first of its kind in this region. But he has seen that, due to the lack of knowledge and enthusiasm for this degree, it is hard to take it to the next level which involves the governmental support and the establishment of health insurance. This allows patients to trust the health system again and ask for advice and, most importantly, not be scared to share.

But I kept thinking: Why does Family Medicine not exist in Kurdistan? The answer is that our medical schools don’t provide this as a subject as other universities around the world do. So, if our students are not learning the importance of Family Medicine, then how do you expect society and the government to understand its huge importance?

The reason for my pursuit and strong feelings about Family Medicine in Kurdistan is not just, in itself, to see it established but also because it can help meet a deeper need in our society. Having a Family Physician is like having a person who knows you, not only at a professional and medical level, but also at a personal level and who can understand and connect to all your problems, whether they be physical, mental or emotional.

I leave you with this statement: Having the same doctor throughout one’s life provides patients with faith in knowing that they are being cared for and not neglected. Kurdistan does not need to become great, as greatness is achieved when our own society meets the basic need for care and, in my opinion, this ‘care’ begins with Family Medicine.

Chra Abdulla is a Medical Student from Hawler Medical college. Born in Iran, grew up in Australia, she has recently moved back to Kurdistan to continue her studies from Dubai. She is very passionate about changing the health-care system and the way people approach health in Kurdistan.

Copyright © 2013

11 Responses to The importance of Family Medicine
  1. Suleiyman
    August 19, 2013 | 11:42

    Great article. We need more young people like yourself to lead the way

    • chra abdulla
      August 19, 2013 | 16:53

      Thanx so much, appreciate that. Hopefully I will write more and govt officals read this article. Please spread the word.

  2. Suleiyman
    August 20, 2013 | 00:27

    You don’t need and can’t wait for govt officials to read it. You need more intelligent people like you to read and meet in common grounds to make change.

    • Chra
      August 20, 2013 | 11:41

      I doubt they will be interested in my opinions but if they are I am more than happy to help

  3. kawa
    August 24, 2013 | 16:17

    Thanks for the nice articles this one and previously. Family medicine speciality already exists in Iraq since 1995, or even before. Please look at Iraqi Board for Medical Specializations link The issue is not in developing subspecialty the question is how to fund the doctors in this speciality. If it is dependent on the patients [customers] payment then the system will completely collapse as it happened in Baghdad. Patient would prefer pay specialised doctor or practitioner than a generalise practitioner. Even in London, the insured people or those who are capable to pay will visit private hospitals or clinics to see subspecialist rather than seeing his or her General Practitioner. To make this work efficiently and as you mentioned to reduce load on hospital we need very good service in the State secondary care competitive with the wide spread private hospitals in the region. While I visited Kurdistan the only hospital that are functioning are in the main cities. There is hardly a doctor practicing 20 miles away to the east of Sulemania city.

    Are you aware that most of graduate medical doctors refuse to work in these small cities and villages even at the very new graduation level? Certainly there are few still attend clinic wherever it is but the majority are using all they can to stay in the main cities.

    • Chra
      September 8, 2013 | 21:41

      I totally agree with you that implantation is needed but I am not talking about Iraq, Iraq is a different story then kurdistan. Have you been back here? There is no GP here’s in kurdistan except my dad and he just recently passed away leaving behind so many patients that have nothing but praise and admiration and now a sense of loss without him. And the issue is working in villages or in the city the issue is building family medicine, my dad came back here and set up a diploma, a bachelor and an undergraduate degree for family medicine. These are the things we need not hospitals that have do pars who don’t care ( I am sorry but I said it and I hope people don’t get offend but enough is enough. They need a wake up call). Patients enter hospitals and don’t come back normally, I personally am disgusted by this. All this can be prevented with GPs

  4. Akam
    August 25, 2013 | 19:40

    A fantastic article and i hope this can be followed up
    Today was a very sad day to hear about Dr. Noori passing away and May Allah bless him
    Condolences to the family
    I hope you, as his children can grow up following his great personality and humanity.
    I cried knowing that the person who saved my life when i was a child has passed away

    • Chra
      September 8, 2013 | 21:35

      Thanx you very much for your kind words my family and I appreciate them. Yes it was a very hard time and it is still very hard knowing the man who was not only my father but my hero/icon/mentor has passed away. I hope he is in a better place and I hope that one day I make his wishes and his legacy proud. I just hope the govt read these articles and understand that they lost a great man and that if they are smart enough they will listen to me and change healthcare here in kurdistan. Once again thank you

    • Chra
      September 8, 2013 | 21:36

      Thank god before his passing I made him sit down and I had an interview with him. Hopefully when all this drama of funeral and when I am ready I will post his interview for all to see just how passionate he was and why I call him my hero :,(

  5. shanga tariq
    September 15, 2013 | 10:59

    dear chra this was one of the most amazing article i have ever read,and if your dad was alive he would be very proud of you,god bless him inshallah hi will rest in peace, we can do so many thing about family medicine and developing it in IFMSA ,i heard it first from mom then search about it a little ,and now i’m reading your article and it’s an honor to me to say that i will be proud to support your idea in this…

    • Chra
      September 22, 2013 | 21:04

      Thank you Shanga gian I am so glad you read it and liked it. And my dad alhamduillah did read this before his passing and was very proud, I even used him as an expert in this article. I hope I can have the privilege in the future to increase awareness about family medicine and it’s a good idea to include IFMSA. I will discuss with them, thanx again. I appreciate it

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