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Becoming a Fellow

Her recent nomination for an RCGP Fellowship showed
Dr Lucia Gannon that awards need not necessarily be reserved for the extraordinary

I have always been uncomfortable with awards, believing that for every person who receives one, there are many others who do better, or equally good work, and are not getting the deserved recognition.

I believe that it is important to do the right thing, simply because it is the right thing to do and I think that most of my GP colleagues are the same. Most of us would not have chosen to be doctors, if we did not believe and live by this dictum. In general practice there is no-one looking over our shoulders, no-one except ourselves to evaluate the work that we do.

As with most doctors, we are guided by an internal compass and knowing that we have done the best we can do in the circumstances is usually reward enough. So, I admit that I was conflicted when I received an email from a colleague last year, to say that he had nominated me for the award of Fellowship of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP).

It’s all very well to have views about something that has never been of much relevance, but now that it was, I wondered how was I going to reconcile this generous offer and honour with my value system and view of the world.

My husband put an end to my deliberations when he said, “Lucia, when someone offers you a gift, you say thank you and graciously accept it.”
I did just that and am glad that I did. The process taught me that awards need not necessarily be reserved for the extraordinary, for those who stand out among their peers and achieve what most of us consider unachievable. I learned that there is something commendable in doing the ordinary things, day after day, and doing them well. That this, in itself, is worthy of recognition and that perhaps, we should have more awards for those who go quietly about their day while making the world a better place.

From the moment I arrived at the headquarters of the RCGP in Euston Square, London, I got a sense of being part of something bigger than an award ceremony. None of the nominees present spoke of their achievements, but in the snatched conversations with spouses and grown-up children, it became apparent that these were doctors who cared deeply about the past, present and future of general practice and I had to admit that I was one of those doctors and that alone qualified me to be there.

The presentation room was occupied by doctors of all ages and nationalities. There were assistants, principals and sessional doctors, who worked part-time or full-time in rural and urban deprived and wealthy areas, while also applying their expertise to projects as diverse as education, research, advocacy, volunteering, care co-ordination, and the development of general practice subspecialties.

Some were members of hospital boards, GP trainers, programme directors, university lecturers or associate professors. Others worked full-time in practice with no other commitments. This was not about comparing the contributions or work practices of one person to those of another. This was a way of acknowledging the unique and individual contribution of all the GPs present, and in doing so, appreciating and valuing the unique contribution of all GPs.

In the James Mackenzie Lecture, delivered on the day, Prof Chris Salisbury, Centre for Academic Primary Care, University of Bristol, reminded us that as GPs, we work in “the swampy lowlands where situations are confusing messes, incapable of technical solution and usually involve problems of greatest human concern (Schon 1983). And we are privileged to do so.”
But he also said that before anything can be implemented, it must be conceptualised. We are a huge part of the conceptualisation of general practice. How we think, feel and talk about what we do is every bit as important as the actual work. There is so much that we cannot control in our work environment, but we can decide to acknowledge privately and publicly, all that is good and worthwhile, while still being aware of the challenges.

I left Euston Square with a sense of hope, but not complacency. There is a lot of work to be done to ensure that general practice persists into the future. We are the only ones who can conceptualise this. Our input, our knowledge of what works and what does not, is important in order to ensure that general practice remains relevant to patients and workable for doctors in the future. My own personal lesson, however, was that there is nothing wrong with accepting an external award while remaining intrinsically motivated to do good work and I am grateful for that.

I would like to thank my colleagues John Cox for the nomination, John Farrell and Bernadine Rochford for seconding it, and Eamonn Shanahan for his kindness and generosity on the day of the ceremony.

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