In late 1983 when I was the Area Medical Records Officer for the Rochdale Hospitals, a new travelling scholarship was launched to encourage all disciplines of staff to travel to widen their vision, to experience an international dimension in their chosen profession and to provide an opportunity to make professional contacts around the world. Shortly afterwards, I received a flier for the 9th IFHRO International Congress to be held in Auckland, New Zealand in May 1984. I was very interested in applying for one of the scholarships and the congress in Auckland seemed to “tick all the boxes”! I submitted my application and was, in due course, invited to attend for interview.

To my great surprise I received a letter informing me that my application had been successful!  I sent off my registration form for the congress, made contact with one of the congress organisers, Gerald Wakely in New Zealand, to inform him about my scholarship and to ask him if he could help me to gain some operational experiences whilst I was in New Zealand by devising a study programme for me. As I started making my travel arrangements it felt like a dream at times but I could never have dreamed of the personal and professional “riches” that would come out of my visit to “Aotearoa – The Land of the Long White Cloud”!

I felt truly honoured to travel to New Zealand and attend this global gathering of health records and information professionals – the experience has stayed with me ever since and I can honestly say that it changed my life! I went on to do things career-wise that I would never have dreamed of before, I learned a great deal professionally and made some wonderful friends from many countries. As a result my professional life took me in directions I would never have thought possible! I have been fortunate enough to attend all of the international congresses since 1984 except for the 19th congress in Tokyo due to illness and each congress has provided new insights, stimulated new ideas, generated new professional contacts and I have made many more wonderful friends!

I was fortunate enough to travel the world as a Fellow of the University of Manchester and an independent HIM consultant to assist organisations and practitioners in many different countries in both the developed and the developing world. I have also been privileged to serve IFHRO/IFHIMA in a number of different roles, including President 2007-2010. I urge all HIM practitioners at all stages of their professional lives to join IFHIMA to support its global mission and to strive to attend future IFHIMA congresses in order to gain a global insight into their profession and to build a network of international contacts – believe me there is no better way to achieve these goals! The 19th IFHIMA congress in Dubai, 18-2 November 2019 is just around the corner and it will provide delegates with an excellent opportunity to become active members of the international HIM community.

Whilst drafting this article I found myself reminiscing about my time as Editor of the IFHRO Newsletter in the late 1980’s. I had to source articles by telephone or letter and they came to me in paper format! When the content was complete, I had to re-type it onto a Roneo wax stencil, duplicate sufficient copies for members around the world, assemble the content, staple the pages together, put the Newsletters in envelopes and take them to the post office for the correct value of stamps to stuck on the envelopes and an air-mail sticker for overseas members affixed before posting… times have changed!

Lorraine Nicholson, FHRIM
President of IFHIMA 2007-2010
Membership Chair, 2013-2019


Pictured:  Vicki Tichbourne (left, Canada) and Lorraine Ellis Nicholson (right, UK) at a panel discussion, 9th IFHRO International Congress in Auckland in May 1984