CL in Neurology
Dr Adam Handel (2018)
Pathway to a Clinical Lectureship
I studied medicine at the University of Oxford, specialising in neurosciences for my BA in medical sciences. During my final year, I spent a special study module in the Ebers group undertaking a research project in the genetic epidemiology of multiple sclerosis. This was an affiliation I continued throughout my Academic Foundation training. I then was an Academic Clinical Fellow in Neurology at University College London. After this I returned to Oxford to pursue a DPhil in functional genomics applications to neuroscience and immunology. Following the completion of my DPhil, I started a Clinical Lectureship in Neurology at Oxford.
What does the work involve?
My CL is split into four- to eight-month blocks of research interspersed with full-time clinical training (overall 50:50). On-call commitments continue throughout blocks of research but this has some advantages: it helps to prevent clinical deskilling and is a compelling argument for counting research time towards clinical training.
During my research blocks I have worked on exploring the relationship between thymic immunological tolerance and autoimmune diseases of the central nervous system through the application of bulk and single-cell functional genomics approaches. In parallel, research time has been invaluable in finishing off some projects initiated during my DPhil.
As for teaching, the clinical neurology teaching block has been dramatically redesigned over the past few years and this means that there is a considerable time commitment in terms of teaching medical students. I have also taught preclinical medical students neurophysiology at Wadham College for the past five years.
I find that being a CL gives unrivalled opportunities to integrate research and teaching with clinical training. The research blocks enable the generation of pilot data for further fellowship applications and for publications. The involvement of CLs with OUCAGS forums ensures that projects benefit from cross-fertilisation between CLs with different research interests. The fact that CLs try to integrate research with clinical training certainly generates challenges as there is a tendency for clinical work to intrude into research blocks and vice versa. It can be difficult to maintain research momentum during full-time clinical blocks; friendly, helpful lab-based collaborators are critical for this.
Oxford was an ideally sized city from my perspective, with great museums and cultural events as well as easy access to London. My wife was also employed by the Oxford University Press, so this was an additional incentive to live and work in Oxford. From the perspective of research, I already had multiple active collaborations around Oxford and so building upon these during my CL meant that I was able to generate research outputs more rapidly than would have been possible starting from scratch elsewhere.
Seeing my undergraduate college from the perspective of a tutor has been an enlightening experience.