WONCA Europe

Open Letter from the VdGM President

Monday 14th July 
Dear Friends and Colleagues, 
While some of you will already know me, there are many who do not. My name is Peter Sloane and I am a GP / family doctor working in Ireland. I am also privileged, honoured and humbled to have been elected during the WONCA Lisbon preconference to serve you as the new Chairperson of the Vasco da Gama Movement.
As I hope you are also aware, during the WONCA Lisbon preconference, the Vasco da Gama Movement celebrated its tenth birthday. Considering that we are a family, perhaps I should say that we celebrated our tenth birthday. This was a very significant milestone in our history and one of which all those involved in VdGM over the last ten years should be proud. From small beginnings, just like a blossoming tree, we have now grown into a robust, thriving and living entity, a group of passionate, determined, enthusiastic and skilful family doctors and family doctors in training. 
To mark our tenth birthday, a wonderful anniversary book was published. I would encourage everyone to get a copy and read about where the VdGM came from, find out about those who have been involved, and gain an appreciation of our history and heritage. Along with the team responsible for the fantastic organisation of the Lisbon preconference, the team responsible for the anniversary book deserve wholehearted congratulations. To Catarina Matias and the entire team of people behind her (you all know who you are!) on behalf of the VdGM I offer my personal thanks. 
Of course, the Vasco da Gama Movement is a movement of many people, and to everyone who is actively involved, be it in a Theme Group, in the exchange programme, by attending the preconference or Forum, or going to a WONCA conference and presenting a workshop or poster, I offer you my unreserved thanks and congratulations. You are the Vasco da Gama Movement and don’t ever forget it! With the number of people now involved in the VdGM and the vast amount of activity taking place, it was also no surprise that more than 1/3 of all delegates at WONCA Lisbon 2014 were new and future family doctors. And anyone who attended the preconference or conference will be happy to tell you of the fantastic time they had. 
To be involved in the Vasco da Gama Movement is an amazing invigorating and enlightening experience. In the VdGM we share common goals, aspirations and values, celebrate and embrace the diversity of our European heritage and culture, appreciate and try to understand and learn from the differences in our health systems, as well as opening doors to develop friendships, partnerships and collaborative networks in research and education. 
I encourage you all to stay involved, to encourage others to get involved, and of course to become involved in new ways. If you like research, join the Research Theme Group. Likewise if you have a passion for education, care deeply about family violence, or want to experience the world around you, there is a Theme Group or opportunity which awaits. If you love marketing, branding, graphic design or social media, then our fantastic Image Theme Group will be the place for you! We are very lucky to have a brilliant team who do a marvellous job of running our Twitter feed, keeping our website up to date and producing professional VdGM graphics for our meetings and communications. Again, you all know who you are!
Over the next few weeks you will see information about the Second VdGM Forum which will take place in Dublin on 20th and 21st February 2015. The local organising team is already hard at work to put together a great meeting and I hope to meet many of you there. And of course, in October 2015 WONCA Europe and the VdGM preconference will take place in Istanbul. Again, I hope to meet many of you there.
Finally, while it is my great privilege to serve all of you as VdGM Chair, I am lucky to be surrounded by a great team and fortunate to have a wonderful foundation to build on. To the current VdGM Council and Executive I look forward to working with you in the coming months and wish each of you all good luck in your respective roles. 
To those Council and Executive members who have recently stepped down, you have our deep gratitude for your hard work and selfless contribution as well as for leaving VdGM in good health. To Zuzana Svadlenkova (Education and Training), Sara Rigon (Exchange), Raquel Gomez Bravo (Beyond Europe), Tobias Freund (secretary), Martin Sattler (treasurer) and of course my inspirational predecessor who has left a big pair of shoes to fill, Harris Lygidakis (Chair), as we say in Ireland, go raibh maith agaibh, thank you … for everything!


Galway, Ireland.

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