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The ACF has given me the opportunity to do a wider clinical training, incorporating some neurophysiology in my clinical rotations, and should allow a more carefully planned PhD.

ACF in Neurology

Dr Alastair Webb (2009)

Pathway to an ACF position

Alastair has been interested in neurology research since completing his third preclinical year at Cambridge in a neurophysiology laboratory, where he explored motor cortex pathways with transcranial magnetic stimulation. Since this period, Alastair has made the most of every opportunity to gain additional experience in neurology. His elective at John Hopkins University was with the Acute Brain Injury Outcome Group. Applying for a neurophysiology ACF was a natural progression encompassing both his clinical and research aspirations. 

What does the work involve?

So far, Alastair’s ACF has consisted of clinical training, as his allocated research time is in the third year of the programme. Alastair has completed clinical training in general medicine and stroke and neurorehabilitation at Reading, followed by neurology and neurosurgery at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. Within the remit of his ACF, Alastair has been able to extend his clinical experience by doing additional neurophysiology clinics.

Alastair’s ACF will allow him to undertake research in addition to his clinical duties as it gives a clear structure with a devoted period of time in the third year of his post. In preparation, he has been able to start a meta-analysis looking at the relationship between blood pressure variability and stroke in collaboration with the Stroke Prevention Group, with further planned projects based upon the findings of this. This has meant a considerable commitment of free time, in addition to his clinical duties, but has enabled him to develop a strong foundation for future research.

Part of Alastair’s original drive to do an ACF was to be able to experience a greater variety of research environments, both basic science research and clinical research, before choosing a direction for a PhD. Unfortunately, as things panned out with all his research in the third year, without any time earlier than this, he has effectively made his decisions without broadening his experience.

However, the ACF has allowed him the opportunity to do some additional research during my clinical rotations, although with the sacrifice of a significant amount of free time. 

Why Oxford?

Alastair completed his clinical training in Oxford, therefore had a good knowledge of the neurology department, which currently has a very strong research interest in stroke. He found London-based alternatives were limited by the Medical Training Application Service, which only provided the choice of ‘a medical job’ in London without a guarantee of a decent neurology post, which he could be confident of in Oxford.