In Memory of Dr Yvonne van Leeuwen

We have been saddened to hear of the death of Yvonne van Leeuwen who was a committed member of EURACT and an important contributor to the development of Family Medicine teaching in Europe. Yvonne was The Netherlands' representative on the EURACT Council from 2008 until 2013 and also one of Vasco da Gama Movement’s senior advisor.

Below is a collection of memories from EURACT council members and VdGM:

" The new generations of family doctors will hopefully enjoy their work as a GP as much as I have done.  I hope that future Vasco da Gama GPs and trainees will promote general practice as the jewel of health care in front of political and social audiences."
Yvonne van Leeuwen, GP, PhD – the Netherlands

The month of May came with a sad message – our friend and colleague Yvonne van Leeuwen passed away. Almost three years after Fons Sips´ death our souls are in tears. Together with Fons and Justin Allen, Yvonne was one of Vasco da Gama Movement’s senior advisor. She was there since the beginning witnessing and supporting her junior colleagues creating a unique organization from a shared dream.

We always think our heroes are immortal. And they are. Their physical departure is mourned but at the same time we celebrate the life of a prodigious human being with a strange happiness. In every moment Yvonne had a right thought to share, a bright idea to move on and a special word of inspiration. She was an exceptional person with a great soul. We will always remember her smile and wisdom inviting all of us to reflect before acting. Her knowledge and friendship made VdGM journey happier and fruitful. And made each of us better persons and family physicians.

She was a prodigious teacher with a strong motto – “Education should be passion based”. Yvonne started her academic pathway at Groningen University where she studied Medicine. In 1981 she started working at the Educational Department of Maastricht University, the youngest medical faculty in the Netherlands and started her GP vocational training. In 1995 Yvonne successfully defended her PhD thesis “Growth in knowledge of trainees in general practice: figures on facts”, thereby introducing the first knowledge test for GP trainees in the Netherlands and building the foundation for the knowledge tests that still exist nowadays. For more than 30 years she combined working at the University with running a General Practice.

In the period of VdGM foundation, Yvonne was head of the Maastricht GP training department standing at that position from 1998 to 2005. She was a strong supporter for exchange of ideas and knowledge across borders. For many years she was a dedicated group facilitator during VdGM preconferences and she was a reliable and inspirational mentor to the movement. Yvonne strongly urged GP trainees to become active members and advocates of the communities they served. In WONCA, she also joined EURACT to contribute to the improvement of GP training standards in Europe.

Yvonne was very eager to learn, not just in Medicine. She had also studied Theology and Cultural Sciences. She gave lessons on Ethics. She was a true, inspirational teacher and even at her own memorial service she provided a take home message: “the purpose of life is to add value to that of others”. She sure did. Yvonne, we already miss you but your bright knowledge is eternal and will always be part of us. Our sympathy is with her beloved sister Ingrid, her nieces and family, friends and colleagues.

May 2019
Ingrid van der Heijden (the Netherlands)
Joao Sequeira Carlos (Portugal)
VdGM founder members


From Esra Saatci:

I am so sorry to hear this sad news.

I joined EURACT in 2010 and we (Janko (RIP), Filipe, Adam) worked with Yvonne (RIP) in the Member Services Committee with great harmony and warm friendship. After she had stepped down, we still kept in touch.

She was a very nice person, rest in peace.

From Dimitrios Karanasios:

It was 2005 that I met Yvonne van Leeuwen in Maastricht's University School of Medicine. It was the year of Vasco da Gama Movement formation, and I was one of the participants there. I will never forget her inspiring and strong personality, and the love that she was giving to youngsters. ''Don't stick in the present. Think what are the challenges for GP in the future. Think at least for the next 20 years!''

I last saw her in the Tirana meeting October 2013. It was her last presence in EURACT council. We had a very fruitful coffee – time, conversation, talking about the development of VdGm and EURACT. She really motivated me on how to attract more GP's in EURACT. I can say that after so many years, her advice was crucial for me....

I will never forget her smile.

From Adam Windak:

So sad message again! I am deeply sorry for this terrible loss. One of the Polish poets, and at the same time a priest, once wrote: "Let's hurry to love people. They are leaving so quickly".

From Ruth Kalda:

I will remember Yvonne always as a cordial and warm person. 

Friendship is invaluable. 

From Filipe Gomez:

Yvonne was a very good friend of mine, and I feel deeply her passing.

She combined intelligence and spirit with humanity and kindness in a way that very rarely is seen.

We talked about our mutual health problems - but I was not expecting this to happen - so soon...

It's always soon, I know. But Yvonne was really special, and I - together with many, I'm sure - will miss her a lot.

From Francesco Carelli

Dear all. I am so sad for her . We worked in EURACT for some years and I know she left because of long severe ill. She was a nice person always at disposal and always simple being well prepared.

She acted for the best of all.

God bless Her

From Mario Sammut:

Thank you for sharing this sad, sad news about Yvonne van Leeuwen's passing.

I last received an email from Yvonne on 26 December 2018, in reply to the electronic Christmas card I send out every year, thanking me for my best wishes and I sending "them ‘back’ ... with much warmth and feeling of friendship". 

She informed me that at the end of a "bad year" for her due to personal loss and serious illness, she was feeling better and that "life is liveable again" and was keeping "busy with all kinds of projects with societal impact".

Yvonne went on to write: "Many friends visit me, nearly two visits per day 6 days a week. They are my umbilicus to the world. I have the impression that they like to come and have a talk with me concerning the world. That motivates me to ‘have something to tell’ ...  So life is still worthwhile for me ... There is so much to hear and to do. Perhaps in the near future also to see, at least for some time."

She finished her email with the message "Friendship is invaluable".

Dear friends, let us always remember this important message from dear Yvonne, while keeping her in our hearts and prayers.


It is clear from the above messages that Yvonne contributed significantly to the work of EURACT and VdGM and made many friends. We send our condolences to her family.

With best wishes

Jo Buchanan

EURACT President