Experiencing family medicine in Spain and Portugal, the joy of making new friends

Written by
Dr Rishi Caleyachetty

10 May 2023

10 May 2023 • by Dr Rishi Caleyachetty

The first time I walked into the RCGP building in 30 Euston Square, I was wrestling with a big question. It was January 2023 and just a couple of months after being elected Chair of the RCGP Junior International Committee. We were all meeting for the first time. The committee comprises of GP trainees and recently qualified GPs all passionate about advancing primary care globally. I wanted us to understand: What is global primary care?

What is global primary care?

Answering the question is just the beginning of the conversation on how we as GP trainees can help shape research, training and service. We have started to open this conversation through creating a special issue on global primary care in RCGP's journal, InnovAiT. It is still a work in progress, and it hasn't been easy; writing is so hard and time-consuming. Also, I cannot pretend this question is on the minds of many in general practice, but the moral of this story and with many things in life is find a way to climb a mountain against all extremities; push forward and believe in the mission.

Travelling to Spain and Portugal

Earlier this Spring, I travelled to cities in Spain (Barcelona, Madrid) and Portugal (Lisbon and Porto) to meet with family medicine doctors. I was determined to create a rich friendship network outside of home, especially with members of the European Young Family Doctors Movement (EYFDM). Many trainees may not know about EYFDM. This movement was created in 2005 as a grassroots movement by junior family medicine doctors and GPs throughout Europe. They promote family medicine/general practice in many ways including by encouraging foreign exchanges, supporting access to World Organization of Family Doctors (WONCA) international and regional conferences, developing junior doctor’s conferences, increasing opportunities to acquire new skills, creating a forum for support and information, and establishing a communication network. In the past, I have found going abroad to a new country can sometimes be challenging but, four cities across two countries in just over a week, was more challenging. I spent hours planning and, in the end, I listened to the voice in my head that said, "Go for it". So, I did. Ignoring my natural inclination to plan travel down to the minute, I booted up my travel apps and hit the road.

What did I find on my travels? The best hospitality and a genuine passion for family medicine/general practice. Given the increasing demands on general practice, sometimes I think it can be difficult for us to fully appreciate working in the NHS. Spending time with family medicine doctors and observing healthcare in other countries, was personally rewarding and refreshing. It gave me the time to begin to learn about a different culture and a different healthcare system, but it also gave me the opportunity to reflect on our own healthcare system, which sparked discussions around what can be improved and can lead to system change.

WONCA conference

Later in June, several members of the Junior International Committee and I are travelling to the WONCA Europe Conference in Belgium. I have a limited time slot at the conference to talk about global primary care, but I will make it work. I’m sure every story of change started from nothing, endures struggles and requires perseverance. We're ready.

About the writer

Dr Rishi Caleyachetty, Chair RCGP Junior International Committee