ACF in General Practice
Dr Rachel Brettell
Pathway to an ACF position
As a medical student, I really enjoyed the research project I undertook whilst training, and I’ve always been interested in medical education, so decided to apply to the academic foundation programme. I worked in the Department of Primary Care and Public Health at Imperial College for four months as an F2 and enjoyed developing my teaching skills. I also undertook a project looking at whether primary care factors influence hospital admissions for heart failure patients. This was a great experience, but very short, and I knew the ACF programme would give me time and support to pursue my interests further.
What does the work involve?
Currently I am working less than full-time after returning from maternity leave, and am a GP registrar.
I split my time between clinical work in a GP practice and academic work in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences. I am involved with several research projects, including looking at end of life care in the out-of-hours GP service and exploring Oxford medical students’ career choices and attitudes towards general practice.
The ACF has provided me with countless opportunities I would otherwise never have had: working with inspiring people, learning new skills and getting to answer questions I think are important. It has also provided me with extra skills and interests, particularly at a time when working full-time as a GP is increasingly tough.
I have, for instance, completed the Postgraduate Diploma in Health Research, which gave me a really good grounding in research techniques, and am also undertaking further formal training in qualitative research methods and completing the University’s Enhanced Teaching Programme this year.
I also really enjoyed attending the Cochrane event for ACFs and various national and international conferences where I have presented research. I also gained great experience organising the National GP ACF conference when it was held in Oxford.
Projects in which I have been involved as part of my ACF include: a systematic review and meta-analysis of data about smoking cessation in adults with diabetes, and a survey of career aspirations of GP ACFs.
Having trained in Oxford, I knew what a great place to live and work it is. I had enjoyed working in London, but the draw of family, friends and getting a foot on the property ladder was compelling! This, combined with the opportunity to join a dynamic department, that also happens to be ranked top in the UK for primary care research (!), was a great opportunity.
Oxford also offered the chance to work with a passionate, supportive and committed ACF supervisor (Dr Daniel Lasserson), as well as maintaining and developing rewarding teaching ties with my old college.
As an ACF, trying to combine clinical, academic and family life, and ideally do all three well, remains a constant challenge. I have no doubt that once I finish training this challenge will continue to stretch me, but I hope to keep juggling successfully!