And now the great news can be unveiled!! The Vasco da Gama Forum is coming to the UK in 2021!!!!
For those of you who are not in the know, the Vasco da Gama Movement‘s (VdGM) annual Forum is a two-day conference for 300 GPs early in their training held in various cities across Europe. So far, it has been held in Barcelona, Dublin, Jerusalem, Strasbourg, Porto and the next one is in Torino this September. Like all VdGM events, the forums are super fun and incredibly inspiring. They’re a great way to meet colleagues from across Europe and we obviously want you to get involved.
I thought I would share with you how we managed to bring the Forum to the UK and what steps we had to go through in order to win this bid so that you can have an insight behind the scenes!
On September 18th 2018, I spotted the call for bids to host the 7th Forum on the Vasco da Gama Movement Facebook group. One screenshot and a Whatsapp later, the possibility of the UK applying became a real discussion between Stuart (the UK VdGM rep) and Cemal (my JIC Deputy Chair). In fact, Stuart had already spotted this and had also emailed us suggesting that we applied – talk about wires being crossed. Stuart diligently collected all the bids from the previous hosts over the next few weeks so that we knew what to build on, which I was supposed to read before our first meeting. I still remember his crestfallen look when he called me out on it “you haven’t read anything I’ve sent you, have you?!” (I’m so sorry, Stuart!! I still have pangs of guilt 😭)
Next, we had to get RCGP International on board, as their endorsement was a prerequisite to our application, so we chose the formal drinks at the RCGP Annual Conference in Glasgow at the beginning of October to corner all the relevant grown-ups in the room, including Mike (Vice Chair of the College), Mark (Assistant Director of the College) and Steve (the Treasurer). Cue Cemal, who is my secret weapon in networking… I’m too rubbish at interrupting other people’s conversations so Cemal goes up ahead as he is a-mazing at working a room and then I casually sweep by as if we haven’t orchestrated this and he invites me into the conversation – this is teamwork. With a bit of relentless canvassing, they were all fully supportive (we probably wouldn’t have stopped talking at them until they were) and we even got a date in the diary with the Treasurer of the College to discuss the budget.
Next, we had to get the rest of the JIC on board which we did at our team meeting at the RCGP conference. Collectively, we have incredible experience running events and workshops and the committee was like a bubbling cauldron of ideas. I love the JIC because everyone has such a can-do attitude. “Not a problem.” “Let’s do this.” “Where are we going to run it?” London was too expensive. It had to be somewhere of cultural importance, good access, cheap and somewhere where the JIC had a support network. It had to be Edinburgh. It is the second most popular tourist destination in the UK after London and we have strong representation within the committee from Scotland as well as the former Chair, Robin, and ex-JIC member, David, both located north of the border.
Next stop was Seoul, where Stuart and I were going anyway for the biennial WONCA World conference at the end of October. This was going to be a great opportunity to connect one-on-one with some members of VdGM’s governing Council, to scope out whether or not the UK would be a popular destination from a European perspective. I think we forget that we are an expensive country compared to the rest of Europe and this could put many people off. Also, given that English is the international language but the second language for most Europeans, I imagine that it must be quite daunting to go to a conference in a country where English is the native language and where the language level may be perceived as too high. And don’t even mention Brexit 😭.
We felt good vibes from the members of VdGM Council that were there and we came home determined to submit this proposal to host the 7th VDGM Forum in Edinburgh in January 2021.
The meeting with Steve the Treasurer was hilarious, mainly because my maths is pretty terrible and I was terribly underprepared (I know that I should be trying to project an image of supreme ability and competence as Chair but that would be false advertising!!). I normally have to get Cemal to check anything numerical but for various disorganised reasons, I didn’t have time to show him my beautiful last-minute budget literally on the back of an envelope which I took to the meeting which got broken down by Mike (Vice Chair of the College) and Steve. Having survived that by the skin of my teeth, we were promised a small subsidy (as long as we involved Steve in the budget along the way) and full access to all the RCGP media and meetings.
Another big decision we had to make was whether we were going to use a Professional Conference Organiser (PCO) or not. The easiest way I can describe a PCO is that they’re like a wedding planner for conferences – they take a cut but they make your conference admin easier. We were put in touch with a great guy in the Czech Republic, Tomas, who specialises in large-scale medical conferences but after several meetings, we realised that it was just going to be too expensive. Rather teary-eyed, we had to say goodbye. We know this means more elbow grease from us but there wasn’t much choice really….
As the submission deadline loomed, we needed a written bid and a video or powerpoint presentation for the pan-European VdGM Council, who would be voting upon which country got to host the next Forum. I love a little video edit on iMovie, so whilst Stuart and Cemal continued to beaver away on the written bid, I got my directorial debut. It was very lucky that I had been invited to the November meeting of RCGP Council, where I managed to convince Greg Irving (former VdGM rep and academic GP extraordinaire) that he wanted to be part of the Scientific Committee if we won and to squeeze footage out of him, Amit (RCGP AiT Committee Chair) and Jodie (RCGP First5 Committee Chair) for the video. (A tip to everyone – it’s so much harder to say no to someone in person than over the phone/email so I recommend face-to-face badgering if you really need something.) Stuart and Cemal also sent me videos of themselves recorded on their phones that I was going to cut and paste to make said awesome video. I’m not going to lie, I probably went to the edge of my mental health and wellbeing with this five-minute promotional video but I’ve managed to return to normal sanity with minimal long-term effects. Click here to watch the fruits of my labour yourself!
The final and easiest hurdle was to propose this bid to RCGP’s International Programme Board (IPB) which is a board of GPs and managers who deal with the international affairs of the College, in order to get their blessing. They endorsed us with a lot of positivity and support, for which I am very grateful.
And then it all got submitted on the 13th December 2018. Izmir in Turkey was the other candidate city, which is such a beautiful place with such amazing food and culture. We were pretty zen when we submitted because all of us would have been as happy to attend the 7th Forum there and support our Turkish colleagues if we had lost!
And then we could relax.
Until the 22nd January 2019.
WHEN WE FOUND OUT THAT WE WON!!!!!
Our three-month whirl-wind campaign to secure this bid was successful and we will be hosting the 7th VdGM Forum in Edinburgh in January 2021!!! Which means that we will be bringing the VdGM family to our shores!! This is huge and super exciting for the UK, the JIC and VdGM as it means that we can raise the profile of VdGM, WONCA and international primary care to UK GPs early in their career!
So what happens now?!
We’ve got two years to work on this and we’re still in the processes of organising how we are going to deliver the best forum ever. We’d love it if you could spread the word and I will keep you updated on our progress. Our proposed theme is ‘Perspectives in Primary Healthcare’… so watch this space!
A few thanks
Thanks to Turkey for submitting an awesome bid at the same time. We would have loved to have visited you too in beautiful Izmir!
Thanks to RCGP International including Mike, Mark and Steve as well as Amit and Jodie for their support. Thanks to David and Robin in Scotland for your support and future help! Thank you to Mike, Greg, and Jodie for your cameos in the video.
And finally thank you to Stuart and Cemal who, collectively, pulled this entire thing together outside our salaried GP jobs and Stuart’s A&E rota and wedding planning. You guys are stars and I couldn’t imagine a better team to run this with.