ACF in Neurology
Dr Sophie Binks (2018)
Pathway to an ACF position
Sophie has remained focussed on academic neurology since her undergraduate studies at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS). Neuroscience projects during this time included: a Wellcome Trust biomedical vacation scholarship; studying cognitive and neuropsychiatric profiles in patients with neuro-inflammatory conditions in pre-clinical years; and, as a clinical student, a two-month medical elective at Montreal Neurological Institute and a laboratory-based project - “The role of microRNAs in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)”.
It was the natural extension of these interests to apply for an Academic Foundation Programme (AFP) in neurology post-qualification. This came highly recommended as an opportunity to develop research exposure and skills, gain publications, and demonstrate commitment to speciality, as well as being a valuable asset when applying for an Academic Clinical Fellowship (ACF).
What does the work involve?
In Oxford the ACF programme is arranged as two clinical years (years one and three), with the second year being devoted to research. This is a key benefit of the programme, as the full year of protected research time offers an excellent chance to become deeply involved in a project and generate results. In Sophie’s case, she recruited and performed detailed cognitive and neuropsychiatric profiling and genetic studies on patients with autoimmune encephalitis within the Irani lab, Oxford Autoimmune Neurology Group. This led to an original research paper now in submission and has provided pilot data to underpin DPhil applications – exactly what Sophie hoped to achieve from the ACF.
In 2011, Sophie was the winner of the inaugural Encephalitis Society national undergraduate medical student essay prize, which prompted her interest in these conditions. Subsequently, as part of her AFP in Brighton, she was fortunate to spend some time in the Oxford Autoimmune Neurology Group. She was attracted by this group’s cutting-edge science, high academic standard and demonstrable and rapid impact on patient care. Oxford’s reputation in the field of antibody-mediated neurology is world-leading, and therefore the personal, intellectual and career development opportunities of joining such a group are second to none.
Sophie has recently started neurology higher training in Oxford and obtained Wellcome Trust/BRC funding for a DPhil in the Irani group, with whom she completed the ACF.