Sonia Tsukagoshi on the Vasco da Gama Movement

Dr Sonia Tsukagoshi, the new Vasco da Gama Movement (VdGM) Liaison Officer on WONCA Europe Executive Board , the British-Japanese family medicine physician, was interviewed recently by Pere Vilanova of semFYC.

How do you see the evolution of the Vasco da Gama movement since you started?

The Vasco da Gama Movement is the European Young Doctors Movement (YDM) which started in 2004. I think it’s growing very fast, mainly because participating in the VdGM movement is fun. There is a pre-conference before every WONCA Europe conference and a VdGM Forum every 18 months, which are very inclusive and friendly. It’s incredibly fascinating meeting like-minded people and comparing our working lives across Europe. We are becoming a stronger voice now and I think others are realising that young doctors are passionate, motivated and ambitious about improving primary care worldwide.

So, you recommend it... ?

Definitely. It is a great experience. If you are a Young Family Doctor you must come and get to know the Vasco da Gama Movement and the other Young Doctor Movements Worldwide – each WONCA region has a young doctors’ movement.

I would like to appeal to all young doctors to become part of this community. I trained and worked in London, UK, and I know how challenging it can be to work in the NHS. However, having seen and talked with colleagues from other countries, I’ve realised that family doctors all share similar challenges such as high workload and risk of burnout, but there are many positive elements to the work that we do. Being part of this community allows us to be stronger together.

Do you think Young Doctors voices are being heard enough?

I think our voices are more heard than before. But I also think we have a long way to go. Very often people say that the young family doctors are the future. I am totally against this statement and I'm a little tired of hearing it. We are the present. It makes no sense when you see that young doctors have not been included in political discussions on current health policy, because this is our present and our future. I think that society is changing, with new technologies and social media and different expectations. As doctors who have grown up with these changes, I believe that we should be part of this conversation as we can bring a new viewpoint to these discussions.

What will your goals be in your new role?

My role will be to represent young family doctors at the Executive Board of WONCA Europe. What I really appreciate about VdGM is the inclusivity. Even within Europe we have a huge discrepancy with what family medicine looks like in each country. My plan is to listen to all the countries and try to meet as many of our needs as possible.

We have a representative from each European country that sits on the VdGM council, and my role is to mediate between the VdGM and the Executive of WONCA Europe . My role is to represent every member of the VdGM Council to the best of my ability and not just the vocal few.

What about other regional Young Doctors’ Movements?

I have worked closely with the Young Doctors Movement in Japan, and through this link, I have come to know the Rajakumar Movement (Young Doctors Movement of the Asia Pacific region) . I imagine that their challenges are greater than the Young Doctors’ Movement in Europe, because family medicine is still fledgling in many countries in the Asia Pacific region, and also not many people speak the international language of English. I love their enthusiasm and their passion for primary care and I think we have a lot to learn from each other.

Where will the next VdGM Forum 2019 take place?

It will be in Torino in September this year and I think there might be a few places left. Our Italian friends are working very hard and I’m sure it will be a great event. The next Forum after that is in Edinburgh, Scotland in February 2021.

Do you have a message for young doctors who will read this interview?

Yes! Come to Vasco da Gama and join WONCA! I have met some of my best friends here and I have a friend in every European country now. It is such a supportive, friendly enthusiastic community and I feel very lucky to be part of this. You have to only try it once and you’ll see what I mean - it is well worth it.