In this blog, RCP president Sir Andrew Goddard reflects on his time as a fellow and why he urges physicians to propose younger colleagues for FRCP.
My relationship with the RCP has been a long one, but not always a happy one. Like almost all members it started with doing the MRCP(UK) exam, a stressful and difficult period of my training. I declined the offer of collegiate membership after passing the exam, as I struggled to see how it was relevant to me and – if I’m honest – I felt it was all a bit of a ‘closed shop’ and a London club. I know that many trainees may still have such feelings, even though I know now this image is not an accurate one.
As I progressed through training and understood more about the RCP’s wider work, I decided to become a member and got engaged in activities as a trainee and then consultant, including as an associate college tutor and then college tutor. Both of these roles allowed me an insight into the impact the RCP has on training and that, without colleges, training would be left to others who may not have the trainees’ interests at heart; or worse, no experience of what it means to work in a clinical service.
I became a fellow in 2005 and was taken out for dinner by the fellows in my trust as a celebration. I had been proposed by them and their support made me feel highly valued and also encouraged me that as a physician I was actually doing OK. Obviously since then I have taken on other roles in the RCP, but given most people who we could propose for fellowship are at a similar stage I was at in 2005, reflecting on the difference it can make to an individual is important.
'Being nominated for fellowship is as bold a statement as there can be that an individual physician is both excellent at what they do and valued by their peers.'
Starting a new consultant career is tough and, arguably, with the changes to a predominantly consultant-delivered service over the years is a tougher step up than it has been. Most of us suffer from a form of imposter syndrome: doubting that we are good enough at our jobs or have the respect of our peers. Being nominated for fellowship is as bold a statement as there can be that an individual physician is both excellent at what they do and valued by their peers.
Not all colleges rely on colleagues proposing their peers for fellowship after a few years as a consultant, and instead offer fellowship to everyone almost as soon as they become a consultant – or indeed when they pass an exam as a trainee. The FRCP needs to be seen as something a bit special. It is not a right of passage, but a kite mark of excellence as a physician – be it as a consultant or as an SAS doctor. The processes of election have changed over the years to ensure it is fair, transparent and inclusive – a long way from the ‘closed shop’ of my youth. FRCP is not offered to all, but things of value are not, and fellowship is all the stronger for it.
I have been lucky to be present at many FRCP ceremonies over the years. They are joyous occasions – something that is a rarity in the current NHS and wider health services. The new fellows and their families that come to support them remind me of all that is good in medicine, and attending such ceremonies is my favourite part of the PRCP job. There are not many times we can stop and celebrate what it means to be a physician with our peers once we have MRCP(UK). It is easy to underestimate the restorative effect of such moments.
'The processes of election have changed over the years to ensure it is fair, transparent and inclusive – a long way from the ‘closed shop’ of my youth. FRCP is not offered to all, but things of value are not, and fellowship is all the stronger for it.'
The pandemic has shown physicians in their best light and I think has demonstrated to the public what makes physicians unique, as well as the relevance of the RCP. Fellows have a big say in how the RCP works regionally, nationally and internationally and I think we have an opportunity to build on this momentum and strengthen the RCP further. Looking at the confusion that lies ahead with respect to a lack of political stability and big changes in the fabric of our society, I think the RCP will need to be an even stronger voice on health and social care as well as climate change, research and societal inequalities.
I will stop being PRCP soon and go back to being FRCP again. I don’t see that as a demotion and I will be proud to wear the FRCP postnominal. If I look at all my colleagues and forebears that are/were FRCP, I am in brilliant company. I can also see many colleagues (most younger, but not all) who are as deserving, if not more so than I to be FRCP. I will be proposing them and think the RCP will be very much strengthened by their being fellows.
Don’t miss this final opportunity of 2022
Celebrate your achievements by self-proposing, or celebrate your colleagues’ achievements by proposing them, for RCP fellowship.
In order to be considered for fellowship in 2022, applications must be completed and received via the Fellowship Portal by Monday 5 September 2022.
More information, including guidance documents, on proposals and self-proposals can be found on our Become a fellow webpage.