The Vasco da Gama Movement at WONCA Europe 2012

by Harris Lygidakis

The WONCA Europe Conference constitutes an annual meeting occasion for the Vasco da Gama Movement, the European working group for trainees and junior General Practitioners / Family Physicians (GPs/FPs). The mission of our network is to extend the knowledge of General Practice / Family Medicine (GP/FM) in a European perspective and to exchange ideas and experiences with the purpose of developing and improving our discipline both at a global and local level.

The Preconference

Besides the activities that take place during the main Conference, the Movement’s Preconference has been organised just a day beforehand since 2005. Under the umbrella of this year’s theme, “The Art of Being a General Practitioner”, the Preconference was held in the beautiful capital of Austria thanks to the valuable help of Julia Baumgartner, Christian Schiller and their national junior association of GPs/FPs.

The theme of this year was introduced in a unique way by the treasurer of WONCA Europe, Carl Steylaerts, who carried out the Visionary Speech in the beginning of the meeting. In his inspiring speech he employed the “Blue Bird”, the 1908 play by Belgian author Maurice Maeterlinck, and accompanied the audience in a voyage of science, dreams and humanism through the Land of Memory, the Palace of Happiness and the Kingdom of the Future.

The participants of the Preconference, coming from countries all over Europe, were divided into smaller working groups and they were asked to work on the challenges that GPs/FPs face when they have to balance the art and science in their work. Under this particularly fascinating theme, they were invited to share their daring first step into the long journey of their career as GPs/FPs and explored how the evidence-based medicine, the clinical guidelines and even the bureaucracy could find equilibrium with the intuition, the compassion and the patient-centred approach.

This intense day of work turned into an astonishingly creative meeting! The groups used their experiences, their everyday problems and hopes and expressed their love and passion of Family Medicine in an artistic way. They used their imagination and drew illustrations, produced videos and set up short sketches to describe how art and science can become the yin and yang of our discipline coalescing into each other.

The Vasco da Gama Movement Fund

During the Preconference, our past President, Sven Streit, announced the establishment of the Vasco da Gama Movement Fund. As there are significant inequities in the European context which also afflict our discipline and prevent many trainees and junior GPs/FPs from joining the Preconference, our Movement would like to aid them actively by inviting National Colleges, Scientific Associations and Junior GP/FM Associations to donate even small amounts of money to our newly established fund. The very first “institutional” donation was made by JHaS, the Swiss organisation of trainees and junior GPs/FPs.

The Main Conference

The Main Conference opened its doors on the 4th July and over the following three days VdGM organised different workshops, presentations and activities. Its five active theme groups, Education and Training, Research, Exchange, Image and Beyond Europe, held informal meetings, which were open to all the interested junior doctors.
Carl Steylaerts was joined by the President-elect of WONCA, Professor Michael Kidd, alongside Luisa Pettigrew, Raluca Zoitanu, Christian Schiller and Mario Malnar in a reprise of the Visionary Speech during a special Keynote; VdGM would like to extend its gratitude to all of them for their help and enthusiasm in organising the session.

Furthermore, the winners of the Hippokrates and Carosino Prizes, Pedro Miguel Oliveira Azevedo and Fabrizia Farolfi respectively, attended this year’s WONCA Europe and had the opportunity to share their viewpoints with the audience. Their experience from the Hippokrates Exchange programme was highlighted in a workshop jointly organised with EURIPA, during which several ways of encouraging young Family Doctors to work and remain in rural communities were explored.

Another special workshop was carried out to honour the champions of the Junior Researcher Award. The prize highlights the importance of nurturing research in Primary Care and aims at rewarding outstanding research proposals and researchers' careers. This year’s four champions, Virginia Hernandez (UK), Mirene Anna Luciani (Italy), Anne Maren Dahlhaus (Germany) and Tiago Luís Baptista da Cunha Sousa Veloso (Portugal) presented their projects during this session.

Moreover, a joint workshop with EURACT explored the development of an International Core Curriculum and Global Standards in Family Medicine education, while another one focused on writing for publication and was held with the help of Jelle Stoffers, the European Journal of General Practice and European General Practice Research Network (EGPRN); the presentation of the latter is available on VdGM’s Slideshare stream.

Finally, an overview of the applications of Social Media and Web 2.0 in Primary Care combined with practical examples of their potential was given in a dedicated workshop. Since the use of Social Media as a valuable companion of people attending conferences is expanding at quick pace, VdGM also encouraged their use with a constant flow of information before, during and after the end of WONCA Europe 2012.

At the set of this year’s WONCA Europe Conference, we still feel the excitement stemming from the opportunities of networking, knowledge and experience sharing and we all look forward to joining next year’s World Conference in Prague.

Introducing the 2012 edition of the Hippokrates and Carosino Prizes

by Sara Rigon, Hippokrates Exchange Coordinator

The Vasco da Gama Movement is pleased to announce that we are now accepting applications for the Hippokrates Exchange and Carosino Prizes for the best completed Hippokrates Exchanges within Europe; the deadline has been set for 30th November 2012. The prizes of 700 euros are only redeemable if they are used to attend the WONCA World 2013 Conference in Prague.

Please note that to be eligible for the Claudio Carosino Prize the applicant must have completed an exchange in a rural practice, however the Hippokrates Exchange prize is open for both rural and urban practices. If you have undertaken an exchange in a rural practice that is not on this list, please contact Dr Raquel Gomez Bravo (VdGM / EURIPA liaison, email: [email protected]) for confirmation of whether it can be recognised as a rural practice for the Carlo Carosino prize.

In order to be eligible to apply you must have been issued with a Certificate of Completion. The applications should be sent to [email protected] and will be reviewed by a panel appointed by VdGM, EURIPA & WONCA Europe. Full details on how to apply can be found here:

The Claudio Carosino Prize has been established in the loving memory of Dr Claudio Carosino, an Italian Rural General Practitioner who sadly died in 2010. You may find more information on Dr Carosino life on Wikipedia

A selection of photos from the Vasco da Gama activties are included.
For more photos go to
For the video of the keynote session "The Art of Being a Family Doctor"