From pre- conference to forum: an extraordinary synergy

   Vasco da Gama Barcelona forum - February 7-8, 2014   Vasco da Gama Lisbon preconference, July 1-2, 2014


When the idea of creating a new meeting for VdGM, the VdGM Forum, sprang to our minds about a year ago, a mixed feeling of optimism and fear came right away to shiver our minds like a storm-announcing wind in a hot summer noon. The tasks to carry out have been in contrast with our … “youngish” experience and many of us, quite rightfully I must admit, questioned our ability to pursue such an aspirational project.

But yet, it felt right! It felt like the time was ripe for our movement to expand its horizons and create an event with a tailored scientific and cultural programme, where all the VdGM members, whether they are old or new ones, come together for a good networking that rekindles old friendships and builds new ones.

Honestly, it is not an exaggeration to claim that all the members of VdGM, from 2004 till now, have been constructing the road that eventually would bring us to such an event. From the founders of our movement, to all the council members, exchange coordinators, participants of the theme groups, preconference participants... Everyone has put a significant stone to build this pathway leading to Barcelona on 7th and 8th February.

But wait, what about the Preconference?

While we are preparing to celebrate the launch of the Forum, we also continue to work hard on the next Preconference which will be held in Lisbon in 2014.

For so many years the Preconference has been such a phenomenal event. It has introduced so many trainees and juniors in the family of WONCA and WONCA Europe. And I strongly believe in this, because I was one of these novice trainees some years ago.

Sven Streit, the past chair of VdGM, once narrated the beauty of this introduction to us. A trainee could participate in the Preconference the first year and would become interested in one of the theme groups and perhaps the following year would wish to become more active, do a Hippokrates exchange, participate in a research study or make a contribution to an educational workshop. And again over the years he/she might wish to be even more involved, perhaps as a leader of a project, a coordinator of the groups, a national exchange coordinator or even as a member of our Europe council or the executive.

By the time a junior GP completes the VdGM journey, he/she will have become acquainted with all the major activities of WONCA and WONCA Europe and will have been facilitated in choosing the most appropriate place(s) to continue his/her personal and professional development.
Isn't this journey amazing? And it starts with the simple injection of a very contagious virus of optimism and activism, as my good friend Martin Sattler claims, at the Preconference. The Preconference is where the magic begins. It's where newcomers are introduced to the Vasco da Gama Movement, WONCA and WONCA Europe family.

And this is done in a very simple, yet magnificent way: with the premise (or pretext if you prefer) of discussing on a primary care topic, newcomers start talking about their own lives, about how they have become interested in Family Medicine, about the problems they face back home, but also about their dreams and aspirations. In Malaga’s Preconference some years ago, I was asked to describe how I imagined myself in 5 or 10 years’ time in front of an audience packed with a mix of newcomers and old VdGM members. Well, though it felt naive or even scary at that moment, it has been part of my thoughts ever since. It was one of those moments that can define a person; what I dreamt there it has become an objective that I have actively pursued ever since. Looking back to that Preconference, I can feel gratitude for that opportunity.

So I would like to ask you to spread this invitation to our junior colleagues who haven’t been in touch with VdGM and the WONCA family yet. Lisbon’s Preconference can be the moment to set off for their awe-inspiring journey!

Charilaos (Harris) Lygidakis
VdGM Chair