GPs from the ‘Class of Covid’ win RCGP all-Ireland awards

The next generation of Irish GPs have penned their thoughts for the 2020 Sheppard Memorial Prize essay competition. Every university on the island of Ireland was represented in what RCGP Republic of Ireland Chairman Dr Diarmuid Quinlan described as “a fantastic response in this most challenging of years”.

He continued: “The panel were impressed by the high standard of the essays entered into this year’s competition. The topics addressed will not just form a part of that student’s education but are also thought-provoking to even the most experienced in our profession.”

The undergraduate prize was awarded to Anita Lucey from the University College Cork for her essay “My Girl Friday: How can GPs protect their secretarial staff from an increasingly demanding public?”. The surgery receptionist is a vital part of the general practice team and this essay highlights how the workload for secretarial staff is increasing exponentially. Anita worked as a secretary in a GP practice during the university holidays and her insight from that experience shines through in her writing. This essay does not seek to glorify the role of the GP secretary but rather to recognise an issue which may seem inconsequential at the minute but has the potential to become a catalyst for more serious challenges if not addressed.

The postgraduate prize was awarded to Dr John Travers from University College Dublin. Dr Travers is currently researching reversing frailty and building resilience. His essay “The Longest March” is a reflective essay from a primary-care doctor during the early days of the pandemic. John describes how every aspect of life was affected – from work in a Dublin general practice to family life to a society in lock-down. The narrative touches on themes of coping in a time of uncertainty and the strength of resilience to be found in individuals and communities. It is a snapshot of a moment in time that will live long in the memory, in the humble knowledge that hope and the relentless energy of life surge on.

The Sheppard Memorial Prize has been awarded each year since 1995. The prize is named in honour of Dr. Jack Sheppard. Dr Sheppard was a well known GP in Dublin during the first half of the 20th century and a great beneficiary to the RCGP in Ireland. Both awards were presented at RCGP Republic of Ireland’s Winter Meeting on Saturday 28 November which, for the first time, was held virtually to abide by COVID-19 restrictions.

Dr Quinlan said:

“Of course, we all look forward to a time when we can all meet again in person, but actually when one reads the essays submitted this year it becomes apparent that we are capturing a moment in time. I’m grateful to every entrant for sharing their work and we plan to publish many of the essays in an electronic collection shortly. I can only imagine that in years to come medical historians will look back at this collection from the ‘class of Covid’. It will provide a vivid first-hand reflection of the challenges of 2020.”

Further information

RCGP Press office – 020 3188 7633/7494/7574

Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.