ACF in Surgery - Paediatric
Dr Benjamin Allin (2013)
Pathway to an ACF position
I completed my undergraduate training at Imperial College London, where during my BSc I became involved in research to improve the systemic delivery of antisense oligonucleotides for the treatment of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. After graduation, my interest in paediatric conditions continued and I focussed my clinical work on pursuing a career in paediatric surgery. During my foundation training in North West Thames, I developed more of an interest in clinical research as opposed to laboratory research and, prior to starting the ACF, spent time looking at the merits of sub-specialisation within paediatric surgery and the role of laparoscopy in paediatric surgery. I applied for the ACF in paediatric surgery, as it provided me with an opportunity to both establish a secure training pathway and incorporate protected time for high-quality research into this pathway.
What does the work involve?
I am currently a CT2 (Core Surgical Training 2) in general surgery at the Royal Berkshire hospital, and split my time roughly 85% clinical to 15% academic. In general, I take one day per week for research and then supplement this with a week-long academic block every 5 weeks. My academic work is within the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, where I am looking at outcomes following surgical interventions for congenital anomalies. My main focus has been on oesophageal atresia, and the role of prophylactic anti-reflux medication for prevention of postoperative strictures.
As well as developing my research portfolio, the ACF program has helped me to develop my own personal skills. Both the post–graduate diploma in health research, and the courses provided by the medical sciences division have helped me to develop the tools that I will need to run my own clinical trials.
Within Oxford, I have found there are many opportunities to teach, something which I enjoy greatly. I have tutored groups of both fourth- and final-year students during their surgical attachments, as well as providing more informal teaching to students on their paediatric surgical placements. I hope to become more formally involved in college-based teaching over the next year.
Being an ACF offers excellent opportunities to integrate a high quality academic career into clinical training. However, there are also drawbacks to it. It is very difficult to balance both clinical and academic commitments, and it often feels like you are falling behind in both areas as you are essentially trying to do two jobs at the same time. This feeling is enhanced as clinicians often perceive academic trainees as being part-time. Despite this balancing act, I feel that the ACF program is an excellent one, and it has helped lead me down a path where I should one day be able to supplement my clinical career as a paediatric surgeon with involvement in large scale clinical trials, and a significant educational role.
I chose Oxford as it offers the ACF in paediatric surgery, allowing me the opportunity to formally incorporate research into a career path that will lead me into my chosen specialty. Oxford’s reputation as a great place to live, with an excellent social life, and easy access back to London were also significant draws.