The Vasco da Gama Movement

Dr Cliona Doyle explains how support from a European organisation helped her with GP training.

It has been several months since I attended the annual European conference of the World Organization of National Colleges, Academies and Academic Associations of General Practitioners/Family Physicians (WONCA) or the World Organization of Family Doctors in short.

Set against the backdrop of Istanbul, I came to realise my own value as a meaningful contributor to various discussions and debates on family medicine and general practice. It was truly a spectacular conference.

GPs of the future
I first encountered members of the Vasco da Gama Movement at the Marmara campus after its pre-conference meeting and there began my journey of discovery on ideas and information concerning developing GPs of the future.

The Vasco da Gama Movement is the WONCA Europe working group for young and future GPs.

The aim is to exchange ideas and experiences with the purpose of developing and improving general practice.

It was founded by Dutch trainees at a WONCA conference in 2004 and achieved official status at WONCA in Kos, Greece 2005.

As such, it is a relatively new organisation but it is developing and expanding rapidly. To date, it consists of a council of 32 members and an executive committee group of 11 members who are elected annually at the WONCA Europe conference.

Its members are all volunteers and are either GP trainees or GPs with less than five years experience as a qualified GP. Membership is through free online registration.

The organisation is divided into five groups: recruitment, education and training, image, research and exchange. The research group presented results of a pilot questionnaire they had developed on satisfaction with GP training. The UK trainees provided valuable feedback on the findings from this questionnaire.

Unfortunately, there was not a minimum of 20 trainees, which would have ensured that our views would receive greater recognition. In this context I would like to gather other trainees who attended to promote a greater awareness of the Vasco da Gama Movement. There has been a recent meeting of the International RCGP Vasco da Gama group, which was a great success.

Supporting GP training
The Vasco da Gama Movement works closely on various projects with other European organisations, such as The European Academy of Teachers in General Practice (EURACT). The EURACT document on core competencies is an interesting reference as it reflects many of the RCGP training goals.

It strives to 'aim for harmonisation of the different learning programmes in Europe at the level of common European competency'. I am familiar with the close working relationship Vasco da Gama has with EURACT and how it can assist in undertaking research.

A Young Researcher's Award prize has been arranged for the first time this year as a result of discussions during workshops at WONCA 2008.

The Vasco da Gama Movement acts as a forum for supporting trainees and GPs on regional, national and international levels. It is a great medium to facilitate communication.

We are looking forward to outcomes of the WONCA 2009 Basel pre-conference and conference, where the theme is 'Fascination of Complexity - dealing with individuals in a field of uncertainty'.

Since the conference I am compelled to 'think outside the box' as a trainee. While I can saturate myself in AKT revision, CSA preparation and the ePortfolio, I find I need to keep a broad outlook because GP training is undergoing significant changes here in the UK, with the introduction of a five-year programme in some areas.

I would like to thank the International RCGP and thank the Severn RCGP Deanery, which made it possible for me to attend this conference.

  • Dr Doyle is a GP registrar in Gloucester
  • For more information on the Vasco da Gama Movement see

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