Featured Doctor

THOMAS, Dr Claire Marie

UK - VDGM president elect

Claire Marie Thomas (UK) is President elect of the Vasco da Gama Movement (VDGM) for European young doctors

What work do you do now?

I am a qualified General Practitioner (MRCGP 2014) passionate about global health, primary care, medical leadership and social justice. I have always strived to focus my attention internationally as well as locally, engaging in student and professional activities that have taken me across Europe and around the Globe, giving me a breadth of insight into different cultures and health systems. Currently I am completing a year of volunteering as a family physician in rural Uganda at Bwindi Community Hospital. My work here has combined clinical in-patient and out-patient activities with quality improvement, education and capacity building. In August I will be retuning to the UK to work as a locum/salaried GP in Bristol, where I plan to engage with a local GP practice that serves the refugee/asylum seeker and homeless populations.

Other interesting things you have done (in brief)?

As an undergraduate I founded and chaired the Board of Trustees for the UK registered charity Students for Kids International Projects, in 2002. SKIP supports multi- professional teams of students to collaborate with local NGOs in resource poor settings. The aim is to empower communities to improve the health, welfare and education of vulnerable children, whilst simultaneously enhancing the personal and professional development of our student volunteers. After setting up our first project in Zambia, I spent 12 years working with a team of inspirational motivated individuals, building SKIP into a member-led democratic voluntary organisation, driven by seven core values of sustainability, working in partnership, respect for culture and traditions, empowerment, development, fun and enthusiasm. SKIP now has over 10 active projects in countries around the world. I retired from SKIP in 2014 and was honoured to later be elected as a lifelong patron.

My interest in global health led to me undertake a Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. I have subsequently volunteered in rural hospitals in Nepal (2011) and Uganda, where I am due to complete a year of service this July. This work has combined frontline family medicine with teaching, mentoring and capacity building local staff and leading projects to develop services for key primary care challenges such family planning, chronic disease and gender based violence. Whilst undertaking this work I have developed a keen interest in Gender Equity and undertaken further studies in Sexual and Reproductive Health. I lecture on request on the topic of Global Health Careers, a talk that is now an annual feature of the Keele Medical School Global Health Special Study Module.

Outside of global health I have gained further leadership, team working and advocacy experience within the International Federation of Medical Students Associations, the British Medical Association and the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management. I am a qualified life coach and have a Diploma in Neuro Linguistic Programming, enabling me to offer high quality mentoring and coaching.

In 2008, I co-founded Zero Generation, a non-profit foundation delivering regular training events to foster leadership and management skills amongst students and young professionals around the globe. Recently I also had the pleasure of working with Humans of Health as a trainer at their Healthcare Leadership Summer School, where amongst other things I focused on teaching the art of utilizing narrative as a tool for leadership, sharing values and motivating others to act.

And the Vasco da Gama Movement?

I have been an enthusiastic contributor to VdGM activities since first discovering the movement in 2012, facilitating pre-conference workshops, attending exchanges, engaging in various Working Parties and Theme Groups, presenting at Forums and WONCA Conferences, kick starting the #FMChangeMakers initiative, organising Flash Mobs and most recently being invited to act as European Co-Liaison for the ASPIRE Global Leader Program.

It was not until I first joined a VdGM preconference in 2012 in Vienna that I found what I had been looking for: A place full of like-minded individuals, whose dreams and ideals mirrored my own.

I see the role of President is not only to coordinate and promote the activities of VdGM, but also to embody it’s spirit. It is to inspire those around you to be their best version of themselves and to work with heart on the issues that matter to them. It is to dream big whilst delivering tangible outcomes and to approach VdGM as we would approach our patient care: with collaboration, empathy and passion.

I prefer instead to focus on the true essence of the Presidency which is the real reason we were all drawn to the Vasco Da Gama Movement and WONCA in the first instance: the heart, the narrative, the soul.

What are your interests outside work?

Outside of work I am a keen traveller and enjoy exploring the world with my husband Stuart, who works as a psychiatrist. We enjoy skiing, surfing, hiking and diving whenever we get the opportunity, rare as that may be in busy lives. In my spare time I play the ukulele (badly), read avidly and try my hand at cooking international cuisine (much to my husband’s delight and despair).