Dr Barney Gilbert
Academic Foundation Programme (2018)
Pathway to an AFP position
For me, variety and flexibility are key - this way, serving patients on the frontline remains stimulating.
As a Research Fellow in Economics at Harvard, I had worked with Amartya Sen on how to finance healthcare in low and middle income countries and on the effects of economic crises on population health outcomes. At the same time, I had worked as a medical doctor in Haiti, Swaziland and South Africa. The research and clinical work felt genuinely synergistic.
I now wanted to use this 2-year opportunity to develop computational & commercial skills beyond the scope of the clinical programme.
What does the work involve?
Early in the programme, I co-founded and built Forward - a mobile application that, for the first time, allows health and care workers to share secure, structured patient information on their own smartphones. By making sure the right care worker has the right information at their fingertips, wherever and whenever they need it, we began to connect care around a wide range of patient pathways. Crucially, we were doing this across siloed compartments of care: for a patient with an open limb fracture, not only could the relevant specialties in hospital be brought into the pathway earlier or more appropriately than before, the multidisciplinary teams and GPs in the community would have the insights they needed to provide ongoing care of a high quality.
Our research partnerships with universities and other software providers showed that Forward improved patient outcomes, saved manpower hours, and increased compliance versus existing methods. As Forward began to scale, we moved beyond pilots to commercial launches at NHS trusts in London, Leeds and Manchester.
I wanted to pursue the most flexible training programme available; this was it. For me, this control - and the ability to acquire as many skills as possible - is preferable to being locked into a specific research programme.
In studying medicine at Oxford, I had built strong friendships and connections at the university. Despite living in London, where Forward is based, the daily commute was worth it!
What have been the pros and cons of the AFP, and how has it shaped your future career plans?
The programme has been brilliant in providing access to world-class innovators and researchers, who are willing to collaborate on diverse projects. Perhaps the one caveat has been the weighting of the clinical work towards general, rather than specialty medicine. Overall, it’s a platform on which to tackle healthcare problems from virtually any level (whether in the lab, at the bedside, or through innovation and research).