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Canadian dermatologist to head World Medical Association

Jens Ourom meets with new World Medical Association President in the epidermis

By Jens Ourom

Fredericton’s own dermatologist Dr. Dana Hanson has become the president-elect of the World Medical Association. Dr. Hanson, a Saint John native and UNB Fredericton Science graduate was elected last month at the WMA’s General Assembly in Seoul, Korea. A blanket organization, the WMA represents over 90 medical associations worldwide, and as a past head of the Canadian Medical Association, and WMA board member, Dr. Hanson should be up to the task. However, he’s not yet getting too big for his bowtie, modestly stating, “I was very honoured and humbled by the fact that people had the confidence in me to suggest that I could do the job.”

The WMA has an ever-changing mandate, though it is always concerned with issues such as the world-wide shortage of medical professionals, advising governments, non-government organizations and the World Health Organization on the ethics of various medical issues including genetic experimentation, as well as combating Tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Hanson further added to the list of issues concerning the WMA, “tobacco cessation, alcohol reduction, treatment of chronic diseases… There are some very practical aspects that the WMA has been involved with on a day-to-day basis.”

Over the two years Dr. Hanson will serve as President, from 2009-2010, the stated focus of the WMA will be shifted towards health and the environment, culminating in a 2010 General Assembly in Vancouver, which will focus on these topics.

Dr. Hanson, the first Canadian to head the WMA since Dr. A.F.W. Peart in 1971 went into detail about the WMA’s stated future focus on the environment, and what the WMA could contribute.

“The physicians can’t bring to the table expertise on what’s causing climate change, the potential factors in that, because we aren’t experts any more than the rest of the public. What we are experts in is the effects of climate change, or the environment change, on health. What affects health, what changes one can expect and how do we try to analyze that, and most importantly, how do we try to counter that?”

The WMA presidency is expected to command about half of Dr. Hanson’s work time, and, as was the case when Dr. Hanson was the head of the CMA, he “will call upon my other dermatology colleagues in the province to be of help, and they’ve always come to bat for me.”

“Most of the time will be spent visiting a number of member countries, and non-member countries as we look to continue to expand, because we are 90 or more now. We always look to include more countries because we want to be of help to patients and physicians in those countries.”

“Interactions with other non-government organizations, and interaction with the World Health Organizations,” will also be key focuses, said Dr. Hanson.

Having explained how he will spend much of the upcoming two years abroad, Hanson returned to comment on the Canadian and American healthcare systems, and inherently, the conflict of private versus public healthcare systems.

And though Dr. Hanson expressed his very cautious acceptance of the benefit of privatizing certain medical support services (i.e. laundry services), he stressed that “I always have, and continue to be a very strong supporter of the Canadian health care system.”

This led him to a brief analysis of the United States’ private healthcare system.

“The thing is, when we look at the United States, why do they have a number of people with no medical coverage whatsoever, greater than the population of Canada, in, until the economic downturn, the richest country in the world?”

On a slightly lighter note – his trademark bowtie – Dr. Hanson was utterly unconditional. Does he still tie his own?

“Absolutely, I would never wear one I didn’t tie.”

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