ACF in Public Health
Dr Adam Briggs (2013)
Pathway to an ACF position
Adam applied to the ACF programme because he wants to be a clinical academic. He read natural sciences in Cambridge as an undergraduate before coming to Oxford to study graduate-entry medicine. Public health always interested him because both the day job and the research strive to improve the health of populations and not just the individual.
Having spent some of his final year looking at cardiovascular disease screening in Oxford as well as working on developing critical appraisal tools, he did a public health academic foundation job in North East London. There he ran a clinical study looking at Vitamin D metabolism and helped with a large London study looking at the impact of the Low Emission Zone on childhood respiratory health. He then took a year off before ST1 to go to Yale University’s Centre for Pediatric, Perinatal and Environmental Epidemiology to learn about systematic reviews and the relationship between the environment and neonatal health. From there he went into the ACF programme in order to continue both research and clinical work.
What does the work involve?
Since coming to Oxford, Adam has spent a year studying for an MSc in Global Health Science and now spends two days a week doing research and three days a week on placements. His research currently focuses on the interactions between nutrition, health, and sustainability. He has been using comparative risk assessment modelling to predict the impact which taxes on different foods have on health and has had the opportunity to present at various conferences and meetings. Along with colleagues in the group, he has written a report for the Irish government on the impact on obesity of a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks and will be working with the Faculty of Public Health on this issue.
Placements give opportunities too, as in the Thames Valley Health Protection Unit. Whilst there Adam took the opportunity to work with some colleagues who were looking at using spatio-temporal modelling to predict outbreaks of Cryptosporidium. He presented this work orally at the Health Protection Agency annual conference and plans to submit a paper on it shortly.
The advantages of being an ACF are that Adam has the time and freedom to get involved in new and on-going studies to develop his research skills, and to work towards a DPhil application. As an ACF, he has a larger study budget, meaning that there is little difficulty attending conferences and meetings. He also has the flexibility and time to teach. He works as a clinical tutor for Lady Margaret Hall and teaches a regular session on critical appraisal to 5th year medical students.
He feels there are very few drawbacks in being an ACF, although he says: ‘I am rapidly learning about the importance of being organised in order to balance both the clinical and academic work’.
Oxford is a fantastic place to be because of the options available. There are opportunities for research, training, teaching, and presenting, there is significant academic flexibility, and OUCAGS offers brilliant support and mentorship when required.
Being part of the University means that Adam can attend University courses and seminars in almost anything. He has had the opportunity to attend teaching skills courses as well as courses on management skills, computer skills, and media training. He also goes to seminars and talks across the University, ranging from hearing colleagues speak at OUCAGS seminars, to talks at the Business School or the Department of International Development. Also, whilst in Oxford, Adam has set up a charity working on the wider determinants of health. ‘It’s called Impact on Health – feel free to come and work with us!’
Adam plans to do a DPhil and feels that the ACF programme is enabling him to identify areas of research that he wants to take forward into it.