The planning and preparations of the 2006 Congress in Malaysia


XVIII FIGO World Congress of Gynecology and ObstetricsNovember 5-10, 2006 - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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Dr. Valerie Guinto: Good afternoon, I am Dr. Valerie Guinto from the Philippines. I am representing China We are going to conduct an interview. We are very fortunate today to have with us the man credited for the success of the 18th FIGO 2006 World Congress. He is a very prominent obstetrician and gynecologist from the Gleneagles Intan Medical Center. He is the Chair of the Obstetrical and Gynecological Society of Malaysia, and the local organizing committee of the 18th FIGO 2006 World Congress. We have here Dr Abdul Aziz Yahya.

Dr. Yahya, I know you are very prominent and very recognized in your field, particularly in gynecological oncology, but the topic of this interview will focus more on how this Congress was organized. Everybody is talking about how well this Congress is organized. Maybe you can describe to us the pains and tribulations, from conception to birth, of this very successful Congress.

Dr Abdul Aziz Yahya: Well, that is going to be a long story, because I have to tell you that it has not been that easy. But the advantage I had was that I had very good supporting colleagues and family that understood this adventure that we started many, many years ago. I call it an adventure because when you start an adventure you do not really know what the outcome will be. We started in 1998 when we decided to bid for the Congress. When I mooted the idea, there were people in my own society, in their decision, who thought it was not such a good idea, especially when we were competing against renowned cities. I am not going to summarize and say what happened, but we worked very hard to win that bid. The support from the Malaysian government has been excellent and I was able to convince key ministries in Malaysia to support us in our bid. When we eventually we put our bid in Washington, DC there was a lot of background work that we did. We had been lobbying in the background. We sent our senior members all over the globe to speak to voters who would be attending the assembly to work for us. This was our modus operandi.

I even wrote letters. I do not speak French or Spanish but I had some of my patients who are French and Spanish to translated letters for me. I faxed these over to the president of some of the Spanish speaking societies and some of the French speaking societies. So in that sense we did a lot of work. But the importance of planning is also indicated. What you see today, a very successful meeting, is that planning has been rather refined, we planned ahead. We tried to anticipate what sort of problems we would encounter, but despite all that, it cannot be perfect. Hosting a Congress of this size we cannot expect perfection but what we can expect is somewhere near that, with as few hiccups as possible. So far we have not done too badly. But the key point here is you need to have supporting members, friends and also family.

I made a personal sacrifice, and this has taken a toll. When I embarked on this adventure in the year 2000, and I am sure you have heard this story I am not going to repeat it, but there was a day my firstborn, a daughter, was born. She was delivered by c-section at 9:00 in the morning and I had to kiss my wife goodbye, who was still in pain, at 3:00 pm, to be on the airplane. That was not a good thing a husband should do but we were committed. I was committed as a bidding chairman to actually win the bid for Malaysia, so a bit of personal sacrifice there. But we did it.

Dr. Valerie Guinto: You mentioned about the FIGO 2006 World Congress, and I understand this is also one of the reasons why you won the bid for this Congress, but can you describe to us now, what is the objective of this FIGO 2006 Fellowship Program? How did you obtain these objectives? I understand that you accomplished your goals for this program.

Dr Abdul Aziz Yahya: When we put in our bid document for this Congress in the year 2000 we wanted to make our bid look attractive. So one of the ways we looked at making it attractive, making our bid look different from the rest, was that if we won the bid we would bring doctors from underdeveloped countries to Malaysia to learn from our successes in improving, or reducing, maternal mortality ratios in this country. As you know, we have done very well. Malaysia has been quoted as one of the best countries to be able to reduce maternal mortality rates by a significant level, in the shortest possible time, at very little cost. That was one of our bid items.

When we won the bid, we came back and we informed the Malaysian government of our successful bidding. We said that this was what we promised, and through the help of the Ministry of Health, and the support of the Minister himself, we were able to raise funding from the government. We were able to fund 44 doctors from underdeveloped countries, but I know only 42 showed up as there were some travel problems for the other two.

We later sent information to the countries worldwide that we were opening this Fellowship Program and we invited applicants. We had almost 350 applicants. We had strict criteria about whom we should choose, and based on those criteria we chose these 44 individuals. They are already here. They spent about a week here prior to the Congress. We have taken them around and I am sure if you were there at the opening ceremony you saw a summary of what they did. The feedback we got is that what we have achieved from this Fellowship Program is not just these individuals coming over, but goodwill, fellowship and friendship. I think no money alone can actually achieve that. We only spent a little of our money but it was well spent. I am pretty sure that the linkage we developed through this program will continue. These are the key people I think will run the show in their own countries, and we hope that linkage will continue to grow for other generations.

Dr. Valerie Guinto: Dr. Yahya you are a very busy person, we know that. So we will not take much of your time. We have only one more question left. We want to know if there is something that you would like the participants of FIGO 2006 World Congress, or the fellows that participated in the program, to take away. What is it that you want them to think about Malaysia or the World Congress in general?

Dr Abdul Aziz Yahya: Well first of all, the take home message is that you have been here as our guest, we tried our level best to be a gracious host. I do apologize for any shortcomings but I did try my level best to make sure you felt very much at home. I think we have not done too badly. I did speak to the General Assembly in the year 2000 in Washington, DC, and said that this was going to be the best ever, and that we wanted to set a gold standard for FIGO conferences. I think we have achieved that. Even the key FIGO officers have told us that this is going to be a difficult act for other congresses to imitate. It is going to be difficult for them. We have set a standard.

I do want, when people go home, to remember that Malaysians are very friendly people and hospitable. We always like to make people feel at home. We also like them to remember us as having given our very best to make sure that they had an enjoyable conference. This Congress is not just about signs, it is about friendship, fellowship and good memories. I hope that they go home with the memory of Malaysian people who live in Kuala Lumpur as being very friendly.

Dr. Valerie Guinto: I am sure everyone will think like that. On behalf of we would like to thank you very much Dr. Yahya for taking this time with us today, thank you.

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