For Dr Valerie Vaughan-Dick MBE (BSc Hons Economics, 1983), the Queen’s Jubilee was an extra special occasion as she was recognised in The Queen’s Birthday Honours with an MBE for services to General Practice and to Ethnic Minority Communities. We talked to Valerie about the work that led to her recognition.
“I am delighted,” Dr Valerie Vaughan-Dick MBE says when we first connect after the announcement that she is receiving an MBE for services to General Practice and to Ethnic Minority Communities.
Valerie is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and the most senior member of staff for the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), the professional membership body for family doctors in the UK and abroad.
“I have been recognised for my achievements supporting GPs, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. Also, for my voluntary work with ethnic minority communities, particularly with the African-Caribbean community.”
Valerie joined the RCGP in 2014 and became COO in 2017. She is motivated by the knowledge that our health impacts every aspect of our lives.
“Everyone having good health is directly related to leading a productive life. To obtain healthcare in the UK, this is usually accessed via a GP,” she says.
According to Valerie, GPs see approximately one million patients every day, and with 54,000 members, the RCGP is the largest Medical Royal College in the UK.
“The objective of the RCGP is to put the needs of their members at the centre of everything they do. With well-equipped and supported GPs, this should lead to improved care for patients.”
Valerie’s passion for supporting and working with ethnic minority communities goes back much further.
“I have been a passionate volunteer since I was 16 years old,” Valerie says, giving examples of the activities she’s been involved in over the years. “Delivering Black History lessons as a volunteer to children living in council-run care homes, working on anti-apartheid activities, being a mentor to university students, and a trustee in a charity assisting individuals overcoming mental illness find employment.”
The Royal College of General Practitioners has also benefitted from Valerie’s knowledge and passion.
“I became Co-chair of the GP Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic members (BAME) group at their request, and in the following Royal College of General Practitioners Council elections, BAME representation increased.”
When asked about the challenges Valerie may have faced in her career, her answer reflects the continued need for change.
“The biggest challenge in my work has been experiencing unconscious bias and microaggression in previous jobs,” she says. “I have been confident to ‘call out’ such instances.”
Valerie studied an undergraduate degree in Economics at City because she knew it would give her a wide base to build on.
“I chose to read Economics as it is a subject that covers a whole spectrum of topics from international to labour economics. It would also prepare me for a career that required numerical and problem-solving skills. I went on to qualify as an accountant,” Valerie says.
“I selected City University because of its academic excellence, location close to the City of London – the world’s leading financial capital at the time – and the student clubs were extensive.”
Valerie continued her education at the University of London by completing an MSc in Management Science and a PhD in Management, and began to build on her now impressive CV.
“At the National Audit Office, I undertook financial and value for money audits worth billions of pounds for health, social services, housing, local government and overseas services. I left the National Audit Office and held senior roles in the Housing Corporation, which funded and regulated housing associations,” she says.
Valerie continued in the housing sector until joining the civil service with the Group Director of Finance and Resources, working with agencies in the Home Office, Ministry of Justice, and Department for Transport. After Whitehall came the Royal College of General Practitioners, where she is now.
What does Valerie consider her most significant professional success so far?
“The biggest success in my career has been my leadership skills of steering the RCGP through the unprecedented threat to its operation from Covid-19, including a projected 30% drop in income. This meant tough decisions and major uncertainty for staff with a quarter furloughed.”
According to Valerie, economics and health can be a meaningful combination when looking at career options.
“For someone interested in economics, a career in health should be considered as it is a key way in which one can make a difference to the lives of others. Whether as a manager, economist, administrator, or clinical staff, one will be contributing to creating a healthier society.”
Asked what advice she has for those who would like to achieve similar goals to her own, Valerie breaks it down into a list of seven points:
- Do something you believe in – this is a great motivator.
- Focus on important tasks – do you need to learn a skill/undertake a course to achieve your goal?
- Write it down – document options and possible actions to achieve the goal.
- Break the required actions down into smaller tasks.
- Make a calendar of activities that need to be done and by when.
- Get support and views from friends, family, mentors, and a networking circle.
- Describe what success looks like – your goal may not be a career one but could be personal or socially driven.
Looking toward the future, Valerie has her own list of things she would like to achieve, both in her personal and professional life. These include continuing to do voluntary work, being in a job she enjoys, and doing more international work. She also wants to develop a more active lifestyle, read a new book every month, and become fluent in another language. It all seems to boil down to one of Valerie’s wishes:
“In the future I want to continue a good work-life balance and the variety of work I have encountered to date.”
A big congratulations to Dr Valerie Vaughan-Dick on receiving her MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2022. We thank her for sharing her story.
A full list of City and Bayes alumni recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2022 can be found here.