Featured Network: VdGM

Here in the Vasco da Gama Movement we are a community that learns from and supports each other. We are always willing to adapt to new situations - anything to allow us to continue our good work as an organisation and as family doctors.

Over the last few months, we have risen to the challenges we have been given. From using messaging services to update each other on the COVID pandemic, to updating and modifying organisational policies for online use, holding online sessions to explore and discuss the work of the organisation, organising online meditation and support group sessions...we even elected our New Executive Group over video conference!

Messaging service - we set up a group chat through which we could discuss and share research articles about the pandemic; share practices in different countries, looking at each country’s public health response, as well as how we as family doctors have been adapting our practice to continue providing a safe and effective service for our patients.

Meditation and Sharing group sessions - we recognised that this was going to be a challenging time for family doctors, and therefore organised weekly online sessions, including sharing sessions to talk about the challenges we have been facing, as well as meditation sessions guided by experienced meditators.

We would also like to take this opportunity to announce our 2020 VdGM Exchange Award Winners:

It is with great pleasure that we announce the winners of the 2020 VdGM Exchange Awards.

Hippokrates Prize: Radhika Khanna (UK), shadowing Raluca Zoitanu (Romania).
Carosino Prize: Emilie Couchman (UK), shadowing Herman Van Enter (The Netherlands).

We hope that they will be able to join us and speak about their experiences at an event in the near future!


Looking to the future, we intend to continue innovating and adapting effectively to the challenges presented by the COVID pandemic. One such example of how we will continue to achieve our vision as VdGM is the online Yoga session that our Wellbeing SIG will be running for the CardioPrevent 2020 Virtual Congress in October, organised by the Portuguese Foundation of Cardiology.

Executive Group Elections

One of the biggest challenges for us this year, was the issue of our Elections.

The Vasco da Gama Movement was due to hold elections for new Executive Officers during the WONCA Europe Berlin Pre-Conference in June 2020, with seven officers’ terms at an end.
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resultant cancellation of the WONCA Europe Conference, this was not possible. Therefore, following extensive discussion and an online vote, the VdGM Council and Executive Group decided to hold our elections online.

We wanted to ensure that the Elections were fair and of a quality expected from an organisation such as ours, as well as ensuring that the great work of the organisation can continue. For this reason, we asked the Good Governance Committee (GGC) to review and appropriately modify the recently council-approved Elections Organisational Policy for online use (as these were originally written for face-to-face elections). This modified Organisational Policy was then reviewed and approved by our Council.

Prior to the elections we had a widespread Online Information Campaign with posters and reminders, in which we introduced our members to all the roles that were up for election, as well as the previous officers in those roles, who wrote about their experience and why people should get involved.

We held two Open Sessions using video-conferencing software, where people could meet and hear from the Executive Group about the work we have been doing, and had the opportunity to ask any questions they had. This also served as a great opportunity to interest members in taking on Executive roles.

Before the elections we made sure that Council members understood and knew all the rules for the meeting. We provided them with a video explaining some of the details required, and at the beginning of the Extraordinary Online Council Meeting we took some time to explain the process carefully, answer any questions, as well as holding a demo vote. We used the OPAVOTE platform for secret ballot voting and the Zoom platform to conduct the meeting.

We invited two independent observers who had direct and independent access to all the results and were observing the whole process of the election. We also created a team consisting of the VdGM Secretary, the chair of the Good Governance Committee and myself to verify the results before their announcement.

All the candidates were treated equally and fairly with equal time for presentation as well as answering questions. Candidates also had the opportunity to send in pre-recorded videos in case of connectivity issues. No technical problems were faced.

We made sure that the elections were held with due diligence and the highest transparency. The council members’ and candidates’ feedback has been very positive.

We believe that for the continuity of the organization it is essential to create an executive team which represents the members’ common vision and fulfills organization’s goals, and that this will help our organisation to be robust and functional. Due to the challenging times that all family doctors are facing, this is needed now more than ever.

We are certain that we have an Executive Group with experience, ideas but also heart and energy, ready to work on our members’ behalf.

We would like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to our Outgoing Executive Officers for their dedication and hard work throughout their term:

Vera Pires da Silva - Awards and Fundraising Officer
Nina Monteiro - Exchange Officer
Kristina Ziuteliene - Image Officer
Elena Klusova - Events Officer
Berk Gero─člu - Secretary
Claire Marie Thomas - President/Immediate Past President

Joining Katarzyna Nessler (President), Julien Artigny (Policy Officer), Sonia Tsukagoshi (VdGM Liaison to WONCA Europe) and Nick Mamo (who has completed his term as Treasurer and is now taking on the role of President-Elect) will be:

Secretary - Kerry Greenan UK
Treasurer - Nadia Toumi Netherlands
Awards and fundraising Officer - Marta Kurdzielewicz Poland
Events Officer - Alessio Platania Italy
Exchange Officer - Rocío García-Gutiérrez Gómez Spain
Image Officer - Christian Rechtenwald Germany

We welcome our new Executive Officers with congratulations for their new role. We are certain that our new team will continue and strengthen the great work of our last team!

On behalf of the VdGM Executive
Katarzyna Nessler
Sonia Tsukagoshi
Nick Mamo