Junior GPs can go international

Dr Suchita Shah explains how junior and trainee GPs can get involved in international primary care.

The committee debated whether GP training should be the same across Europe
The committee debated whether GP training should be the same across Europe

Established in April 2009, the RCGP Junior International Committee (JIC) provides an exciting opportunity for younger GPs and trainees interested in international primary care.

The ethos of the JIC parallels that of the RCGP International Committee, which is committed to promoting primary healthcare excellence internationally via a range of initiatives.

Key aims and activities
The JIC's key aim is to facilitate involvement of UK GP trainees, and those within five years of qualification, in international primary care educational activities, including:

  • establishment of international networks for exchange of knowledge and skills;
  • co-ordination of international clinical exchanges in primary care;
  • attendance at conferences;
  • facilitation of primary care research at an international level; and
  • facilitation of involvement in international development work.

Origins of the JIC
The World Organisation of National Colleges, Academies and Academic Associations of General Practitioners (WONCA) was founded in 1972 and has 97 member organisations from 79 countries whose common aim is to improve primary healthcare.

The Vasco da Gama Movement (VdGM) is WONCA Europe's Working Group for trainee and junior GPs. Established in 2005 and named after the famous Portuguese explorer, the VdGM is a forum to promote international primary care networks and new discoveries and opportunities.

Under the umbrella of VdGM Europe lies the newly-formed UK JIC, along with its counterparts from other European countries. The main role of the JIC is to represent the RCGP within the VdGM.

The first meeting of the JIC was held on 24 April 2009 at the RCGP headquarters in London. We were inspired by speakers Dr Iona Heath and Dr Steve Mowle, who shared the experiences of our Dutch counterparts and first British exchange participants.

Currently, the JIC offers opportunities to contribute to any of the theme subcommittees including: exchanges; research; education and training; strategic planning; image; and recruitment.

The VdGM convenes at the annual WONCA Europe Conference, the most recent of which was held in Basel, Switzerland, in September 2009, attracting more than 4,500 people from 73 different countries. This year, more than 30 junior UK delegates attended.

The JIC also formally took part in the RCGP annual conference in Glasgow. Part of the programme included debates on whether GP training should be the same across Europe, and whether euthanasia should be accessible to all across Europe.

As the JIC grows, and with continued support from faculties and deaneries, opportunities to attend such conferences will increase.

Research, collaboration and communication
A European-wide survey is examining motivation and satisfaction in vocational training. The research team is also working to establish a platform to facilitate international research for junior GPs.

The JIC is collaborating with the Hippokrates programme to facilitate clinical exchanges in the form of two week-long observing placements in another European practice. Benefits include learning about another primary health care system, embracing different cultures, sharing ideas and experiences and reflecting on one's own practice, all within a supportive network.

JIC members communicate mainly via our Google group, new website and the quarterly newsletter.

International primary care
As geographical borders shift, merge and reform, underpinned by legal, political, social and economic changes and within the broader context of globalisation, there is a heightened awareness of the field of international primary care.

WONCA and the RCGP believe there should be established primary care medicine in every country of the world. This can happen if primary care doctors believe they are part of a larger community.

Getting involved is a wonderful way to reinforce and nurture this sentiment, as well as to gain additional skills, knowledge and experience in a new climate of revalidation.

Since its inception, and under the guidance of the RCGP International Committee, the JIC has made much progress. With greater participation from young and enthusiastic GPs, we envisage an exciting future for global primary care.

  • Dr Shah is a JIC member and a leadership fellow in general practice
Key points
  • UK JIC was founded in April 2009 as a subcommittee of the RCGP International Committee.
  • It represents the RCGP in the Vasco da Gama Movement of WONCA Europe.
  • It is open to all UK GP trainees and those who have qualified in the past five years.
  • The core aim is to facilitate international educational activities in primary care.
  • There are numerous learning opportunities for members.


Further information
For further information, please email ukvdgmchair@rcgp.org.uk or view the following links:

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