Embracing diversity in general practice
Publication date: 08 August 2023
My name is Dr Sahan Samaraweera, a GPST3 in North-Central London. Nationally elected RCGP AiT network Vice-Chair, and a man of Sri Lankan heritage. It is an honour to be part of this excellent initiative by the RCGP, to promote and celebrate diversity within our college. As we navigate the challenges of an increasingly varied patient population, it is essential to acknowledge that it takes a diverse workforce to truly meet their needs.
From school to GP trainee: a journey of determination and leadership
Reflecting on my journey from school to becoming a GP trainee, I am reminded that one of the main reasons I chose to take on leadership roles was to inspire people. By demonstrating that it is possible to overcome challenges and realise one's goals regardless of one's background.
During my time at primary and secondary school, I was not provided with the supportive environment I needed as a child of a minority background and humble beginnings. Regardless of my achievements I did not fit the ‘mould’ and was seen by teachers as a ‘troublemaker’. Despite this, I remained determined to pursue my dreams, thanks to the unwavering support from my parents and a few close friends. They instilled the importance of being proud of what makes me unique and never feeling inferior to anyone. Through this, I realised that no one should be put in this position in the first place.
At university, I was involved in the widening participation programme, which looked to reduce higher education access inequalities towards young individuals of lower socioeconomic and minority ethnic groups. I ran workshops at local primary and secondary schools in deprived areas of London. Inspired children to pursue healthcare related professions. Encouraging them that higher education was not out of their reach. Following this, I have taken up various leadership positions since becoming a doctor to provide a strong voice to help empower my colleagues.
Embracing differences and fostering inclusivity
The most valuable lesson I learned from my journey is to embrace our differences. Rather than feeling ‘ashamed’ or trying to ‘blend in’. We should be proud of our unique backgrounds and understand the challenges that come with them. Through this, we can leverage them to our advantage, seizing every opportunity that comes our way.
I want individuals from minority backgrounds to feel confident in speaking out and pursuing their dreams. Even if they were previously deemed unattainable. Regardless of our ethnicity, upbringing, or individual experiences, we all bring something valuable to the table.
Collaboration and cultural competence for enhanced patient care
South Asian communities face several health disparities that deserve attention and action. By tailoring preventive strategies, awareness campaigns to reduce stigma, and interventions specific to the needs of South Asian populations.
We can create stronger relationships, improve outcomes by collaborating with the patients. By appreciating patients' diverse health beliefs and cultural perspectives influencing treatment preferences.
South Asian Heritage Month serves as one of many platforms to celebrate this spirit of collaboration and cultural competence. As this month unfolds, I invite all my fellow trainees to celebrate the richness of diversity within our field. Let us inspire future leaders and create an inclusive healthcare environment where everyone's voice is heard and valued. Together, we can build a brighter and more inclusive future for all. My story is one of many. I look forward to reading yours.