Mercy physician, Dr. David Barbe, who practices in Mountain Grove, has been named president-elect of the World Medical Association. Delegates from more than 100 countries voted Barbe in during the group's annual convention in late October in the eastern European city of Tbilisi, Georgia.
He will serve one year as president-elect and will be inaugurated as president of the WMA in October 2020 during the annual meeting in Cordoba, Spain.
Dr. Barbe was recent past president of the American Medical Association.
KSMU's Michele Skalicky talked with Barbe about his new position with the WMA.
How does it feel to have been chosen to lead the World Medical Association?
Barbe: "You know, it's a really exciting opportunity. It's very gratifying and very humbling to be recognized by your peers from around the world and be asked to lead them, so it's a great feeling, and I'm really excited about it."
What will your responsibilities be?
Barbe: "The president is mostly an ambassador for the organization...I sit on the executive committee. I will also, of course, participate in the...standing meetings, but between meetings it is a lot of travel around the world to attend different National Medical Association meetings and also to participate in some of the international meetings that the WMA participates in, so the president year will be a moderately busy travel year."
What do you see as being the biggest health challenges the world is facing now?
Barbe: "You know, that's almost hard to answer because there are such a wide range of challenges, and the WMA is looking at everything from vaccination rates around the world, so the whole discussion of the round of vaccines in the United States actually plays out on the world stage as well, all the way to issues around blood pressure control and access to healthcare. All of those are significant issues around the world and more in some of the developed countries than you might think. I mean, I think many times we think that the world's medical and health problems only occur in third world countries, and that's simply not the case. All countries face remarkably similar challenges."
In what ways do you hope that you'll be able to have an impact on some of those issues as WMA president?
Barbe: "I am WMA president, in part, due to my connection with the American Medical Association and having been in the leadership there, and I think, both as a Mercy physician having experienced the integrated health system and the desire to be a highly reliable healthcare organization here in Springfield and southwest Missouri and then also at the AMA level desiring to improve patient care across a wide variety of issues as well as improve the environment of practice for physicians, all of those things will be perspectives that I can take to the discussion of these same issues around the world. And, not only will I take information to the world discussions, but we'll be bringing back perspectives. There are things that are done better in some other countries than we do it here in the United States, and I'll be providing that feedback to the AMA. I'll provide that feedback to Mercy, and it should be a very mutually beneficial relationship in terms of my interaction with the international and world medical scene."
For those who aren't familiar with the World Medical Association, what is it and what does it do?
Barbe: "The World Medical Association is the association of national associations, so it's the American Medical Association, British Medical Association, German Medical Association, Japan and so forth. A hundred and fourteen countries have delegates that they send to the annual meeting in October and then about 20 countries have council members or board members. The board meets formally twice a year, and so there's a broad representation from many of the countries around the world, both developed countries as well as what we sometimes consider third world countries. The countries of Asia and Indochina have strong representation. The African countries are very involved. The South American countries are very interested, but somewhat due to economics in South America, some of them can't be as active participants. But it's designed to be a very broad organization soliciting input and participation from medical associations from countries around the world."
You're a small town doctor. You've served Mountain Grove for many years. Why did you decide to, first of all, serve on a national level and now on an international level?
Barbe: "I was not in practice very long on Mountain Grove when it became very clear to me that a lot of decisions were being made about how I would be practicing in Mountain Grove in other venues, and if I was going to have an influence on how I cared for my patients in Mountain Grove, I was going to need to be involved at a larger level. I was going to need to be involved in the Missouri state medical association and then, clearly, there are many things in this country that are driven out of Washington D.C., so in order to try to have a positive impact on healthcare policy that affects the whole country, that spawned my interest in being involved in the AMA. So, it's the opportunity to take a perspective of a practicing physician to the state and national discussions about how we can do healthcare better, and my experiences in Mercy have accentuated that. Not only does my involvement as a Mercy leader let me influence Mercy's approach to delivering healthcare in southwest Missouri, but my learnings from Mercy are things that I can take to the state and national levels to help improve the environment of practice for physicians and the delivery of care for patients."