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Wilson_edited-1(07.06.13)  Webster’s College dictionary defines potpourri as a fragrant mixture of dried flower petals and spices usually kept in a jar; and alternatively any miscellaneous grouping; medley. This blog fits the second definition. 

I returned last weekend from a two-week trip that included the WHO General Health Assembly meeting in Geneva, a side visit to Florence and Venice, Italy for fun followed by the German Medical Association meeting in Hanover, Germany. Back home for a week in Winter Park, Florida, USA, during my morning walks I reminisced about the experience this year of traveling around the world representing the World Medical Association (WMA), and most recently the launching at the WHO meeting in Geneva of the WMA’s global campaign to promote influenza immunization among physicians. 

At the WMA luncheon seminar on influenza we heard three principle reasons physicians (and for that matter all health care professionals) should be immunized annually against influenza. Influenza immunization is effective, safe and protects the health of those who receive it. Physicians who are immunized are less likely to spread influenza to their patients. And, because of the high regard in which physicians are held, they can serve as role models for patients who are considering being immunized. 

It is to the last reason that I relate a personal story. For many years my principle mode of exercise has been daily morning walks. The town of Winter Park where I live has sidewalks and tree-lined streets conducive to being outside. I get up at 6:00 am and on weekdays walk four miles in an hour. Weekends I extend this to six and a half miles. During the walks I do not listen to any recorded audio device, but use the time to think and plan – frequently developing ideas for speeches – and yes for blogs. 

Over the years I have had the frequent experience of patients and friends telling me they saw me walking outside their home or when they were driving by on the road. And, on occasion they indicated this had motivated them to initiate their own exercise program. This has been a reminder to me of the power of modeling healthy behavior. It has also been a two-way street. By acknowledging my exercise program, they are encouraging me to continue. After all, if I stopped walking and that were observed, it would be embarrassing to have to admit I was no longer exercising. 

The second part of this medley is to raise the question about extensive traveling.  When you are from the USA you know you have been traveling a lot when: 

You hear the temperature in degrees Centigrade and know instinctively how warm or cool it is without having to convert to Fahrenheit. 

You can identify Euro coins by feel while riding in a cab in the dark at night. 

You rarely find a hotel shower apparatus that you have not used before. 

You know you have been traveling a lot when you realize that you have visited 18 countries in the past eight months. 

On a more serious note, you know you have been traveling a lot when you come to understand and appreciate the diversity of ideas and approaches to health care challenges found in different countries - and realize that each has its merits. 

Next week I will start another trip that will include a WHO meeting at the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia on influenza immunization, followed by the American Medical Association annual meeting in Chicago. After this I will travel to Toronto, Canada for a summit on medicine shortages then to Edinburgh, Great Britain for the British Medical Association Annual Representative Meeting. 

And that about does it for potpourri.

WMA President Cecil. B. Wilson, MD travels around the world talking about the WMA's work representing the millions of physicians worldwide. Acting on behalf of patients and physicians, the WMA endeavors to achieve the highest possible standards of medical care, ethics, education and health related human rights for all people. This blog will chronicle these travels and important issues.