Brief Encounters: RCGP chair-elect, Dr Maureen Baker
Dr Maureen Baker talks about growing up in Lanarkshire, names the health expert who inspires her most, and shares the best tip she got from her GP trainer
Name: Dr Maureen Baker
Location: London and Lincoln
Role: Chair-elect, RCGP, and GP
What’s the worst thing a patient’s ever said to you?
‘You don’t understand what it’s like to be poor’: not true. I am the eldest of six children and our family is from Wishaw, a fairly deprived area in Lanarkshire. Money was always tight. I started life in a ‘room and kitchen’ in Craigneuk with no inside toilet or bath. We lived there till I was six, and on several council estates thereafter. I’ve earned my own money since I was 14 - I couldn’t have gone to medical school otherwise.
What’s the best thing about your role?
Feeling that I can really make a difference for GPs and patients
What’s the hardest thing about combining your role with a career in general practice?
Carving out enough time for clinical work.
What’s the most common assumption GPs make about your role?
That I exist in an ‘ivory tower’ and don’t understand ‘grassroots general practice’. My response is that if I’m in an ivory tower its because I’ve shot the elephants, poached the ivory and constructed the tower all by myself. I’ve always worked as a GP, both as a partner and as a non-principal and feel I have a good grasp of what’s going on.
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
Being elected as the next chair of RCGP. I previously stood in the national ballot with a pledge to stand for College Chair if elected, so I feel I first had a mandate from the membership before standing.
How would your patients describe you?
Kind and competent (I hope).
What’s your worst habit?
According to my husband, I think it takes five minutes to get anywhere.
What have you given up to have a career as a GP?
More time with my children when they were small.
What one trait do you most deplore in your colleagues?
Name one living person who inspires you.
Professor James Reason: godfather of the patient safety movement and my personal guru.
What keeps you up at night?
Worrying about my daughters.
What’s the best piece of advice your GP trainer gave you?
Apply to be the VTS course organiser (when I was still a trainee).
If you weren’t a medic, what would you like to do for a living?
Research and/or policy.
How much are you motivated by money?
Partly – I need to earn my living - but it’s not the top priority in my career.
At work, when are you happiest?
During a good consultation, and afterwards when the patient is pleased with the outcome.
What makes you angry?
People who pay lip service to patient safety but don’t take it seriously.
What’s the best thing about being a GP?
The variety of work, and the difference you can make to patients’ lives.
What’s the worst thing about being a GP?
Feelings of frustration when there is little one can do to ease suffering or distress.