CL in Urology
Dr Sarah Howles
Pathway to a Clinical Lectureship
I had my first taste of laboratory-based scientific research during my final year as a medical student at Oxford University. I really enjoyed this experience and subsequently sought out opportunities to be involved in research. After graduation, I began on the training pathway to become a urological surgeon, holding academic FY2 and academic clinical fellow posts along the way. I joined Professor Thakker’s Academic Endocrine Unit as a Wellcome Trust Clinical Training Fellow to undertake a DPhil studying monogenetic causes of disorders of calcium homeostasis and was appointed as an NIHR Clinical Lecturer after completion of my DPhil.
What does the work involve?
Increased levels of urinary calcium are a major risk factor in kidney stone formation and half of all stone formers excrete high levels of urinary calcium without known underlying cause, a condition called idiopathic hypercalciuria (IH). My research is focused on trying to understand the mechanisms controlling urinary calcium excretion and the genetic factors underlying idiopathic hypercalciura.
I am an 80% trainee, meaning that I work 4 days a week with 1 day each week to spend at home with my small children. I organise my research time in six-month blocks, continuing on an on-call rota throughout. The protected research time that the clinical lecturer post provides me is crucial, allowing me to progress my research studies, secure funding and build my independence as a clinical academic. It is an incredible opportunity to progress research with a view to becoming an independent investigator. Holding this CL post has really given me a vision for the possibility of being an academic clinician in the long term. However, it does bring challenges in terms of progressing clinical training and balancing my clinical training needs with research commitments.
Oxford is a wonderful place to combine clinical and academic studies. There are fantastic research facilities and an outstanding network of research scientists to collaborate with. In addition, I have been able to work in the world-class laboratory of Raj Thakker, who is an expert in the field of calcium homeostasis. From the clinical side, there is a strong clinical training programme in urology.