David Smith photo/Telegraph Journal

Former SJHS Grad Appointed Head of World Medical Assoc.

by Benjamin Shingler - Tuesday, October 20, 2009

This article is courtesy of Telegraph-Journal

FREDERICTON - Years ago, at Dalhousie medical school, Dana Hanson never imagined anything quite like this. The Fredericton dermatologist is in New Delhi, India, today to officially begin his one-year term as president of the World Medical Association.

Reached at his hotel Thursday night, the Saint John-born Hanson said he was excited for the opportunity to make a difference on the international stage.

"In medical school, many years ago, this was never even on my radar, but as time went on"¦ doors open, opportunities arrive," Hanson, who was president of the Canadian Medical Association in 2002-03, said Thursday.

"It is a true challenge, and I hope that we can make a difference, not just for physicians but for people the world over."

Hanson said climate change will be at the top of the agenda during his tenure, explaining that health problems caused by climate change could be the leading cause of death in the 21st century.

"We feel very, very strongly that the facts of health on climate change shouldn't be an afterthought," Hanson said.

The World Medical Association was founded in 1947 and represents about 85 national medical associations the world over.

Hanson will be the first Canadian in more than three decades to head the international group.

He was acclaimed with unanimous support during the association's general assembly last October in Seoul, South Korea.

Over the past four years he has been a member of the World Medical Association council.

Among other things, the organization has developed the Declaration of Helsinki, making it the duty of physicians to safeguard the health of patients involved in medical research.

It also established protocols for doctors to report cases of torture to international authorities.

Hanson said he will continue to practise medicine in Fredericton during his time as president, but he expects to do a lot of travelling as well.

He said working at the global level means a different set of considerations than in his home country, but added that some issues transcend country lines.

"There are things that are universal - a shortage of health professionals, things like that," he said.

"One of the things that it's very strong about is medical ethics and human rights."

The organization will hold its general assembly in Vancouver in 2010. Health and the environment will be the topic of the association's scientific session.