Professor Amanda Howe, RCGP Hon Secretary, to speak in Prague

Professor Amanda Howe was elected RCGP Honorary Secretary in 2009. She practises at the Bowthorpe Medical Centre in Norwich, England and has been Professor of Primary Care at the University of East Anglia since 2001. “I wanted to be a GP when I was a medical student, despite influences from tutors to do otherwise”, says Professor Howe. “I’m fascinated by the role that the GP consultation can play in helping patients make sense of their lives, and overcome physical and mental adversity. ”

WONCA involvement

Amanda has been deeply involved with WONCA since 2000, when she facilitated a workshop for their Working Party on Women and Family Medicine. She is on their Executive, chaired the group from 2007-2009, and hosted an international meeting at UEA in 2009. She now serves on the newly created Equity Committee, is a member of WONCA Europe’s Bylaws Committee, and (also as part of her role as RCGP Honorary Secretary), often attends WONCA conferences in Europe and around the world to contribute relevant papers and promote the development of family medicine. She also has promoted the need for a more international flavour for RCGP policy development, has supported WONCA at WHO meetings, and has taught as a visiting academic in Malaysia, Hong Kong and Thailand as well as in Australia and New Zealand.

A GP academic

Many RCGP Members and Fellows may know Amanda best as an academic GP who tirelessly promoted research and teaching within general practice. She was RCGP Chair of Research from 2000-2005 and her involvement continues through the Society of Academic Primary Care. Her commitment as a founder member of a new medical school in U.K. reflects her abiding belief that it is only in community settings that students can really understand how illnesses affect people, and what makes health care effective. “As an academic you learn to structure your thinking to find out what is already known and what changes, if any, need to be made. GPs are out there really trying to do the best they can, often in extremely difficult situations, and the College is there to help to strengthen the development and the quality of practice.”  “I like people and I like to help them achieve their potential. Having a life outside general practice does help too, but I must say that general practice is my passion. I’ve been a College member since finishing my VTS, and feel the RCGP is the most important body for professional GPs, especially at this time. It’s a privilege to play a senior role for an organisation that really matters, and to contribute through WONCA to the same challenge in other countries.”

Amanda also has a cautious side which has proved useful in tackling her responsibilities, not least in acting as the College voice on the hundreds of consultations to which the RCGP responds each year - with issues ranging from safeguarding children to the role of pharma companies. “I do pride myself on being able to watch the back of an organisation, and will do everything I can to protect and enhance the reputation of the College”.

Passionate about patients and leadership

She is still very much involved in caring for patients, working one day a week at the Bowthorpe Health Centre in Norwich – and she remains “in awe” of how resilient patients can be. “It’s a privilege to work with people faced by adversity and illness. People are often very courageous and extremely strong, they really do inspire me, that’s why general practice is such a great place to learn”

Another area Amanda is passionate about is that of promoting leadership within primary care with a view to ensuring the profession has enough leaders for the future. “Every doctor needs to be an effective leader at various times in their career but I’m concerned that sometimes GPs just don’t feel they have the time or the confidence to be leaders” she says. “We really need to turn that attitude around to ensure the full impact of the profession. “I think that women in particular do not have enough confidence in their ability to become leaders: they need to be supported to take on responsibilities where they can build up leadership skills to become leaders of teams, communities, and the profession. “When I entered general practice, women made up one in 10 of the profession. While that has improved over the years, the RCGP needs to be conscious that everyone gets an equitable chance within general practice to develop as leaders..”

One of her major contributions to developing family medicine has been the landmark RCGP report on the contribution made by medical generalists - 'Experts in whole person medicine' . Amanda led the work on this, and the Commission which underpinned it, and recently ran a workshop at WONCA Europe in Vienna. The report can be found on the RCGP website at

Family doctor stories wanted

Amanda will be a keynote speaker at the WONCA triennial in 2013 in Prague. Her theme is ‘Doctors’ health and wellbeing’, and she is inviting contributions from WONCA members via the new WONCA website (you need to join the WONCA forum to add your story So please consider adding to the theme – as at RCGP, Amanda is encouraging member engagement in everything she does!