Dr Bronwen Warner
Academic Foundation Programme (2018)
What interested you about the AFP?
I have always felt drawn to research and kept up projects alongside my medical school studies. During my F1 year in Oxford, I found that I was identifying more exciting areas to work on and had the challenge of balancing these with my ongoing projects and clinical responsibilities. The AFP offered me the opportunity for a protected period of research time during which I hoped to gain a specific set of skills and properly get my teeth into a project. I applied for one of the three AF2 posts that are offered each year during my F1 year.
Tell us about your experience on the AFP.
My research was based in the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism. I spent my academic rotation (which was the first rotation of my F2 year) in the lab and used the time to write a literature review as well as an audit in the same speciality. During this period, I made contact with two further groups to set up projects, which I worked on in my spare time for the rest of the year. I attended the twice weekly OCDEM seminars, which were a fantastic opportunity to see how my research fitted in with the bigger picture and to think about presentation skills.
Over the course of the year, I attended the Introduction to medical research: essential skills course, facilitated by OUCAGS.
I took up the role of clinical tutor to Jesus college 4th year medical students, and attended teaching courses (‘Developing learning and teaching’, ‘Unicorn’ training the trainer) available through OUH.
Why did you choose Oxford?
Oxford has an international reputation for scientific research, which you feel everywhere from high-ranking journal publications to clinicians’ awareness of current research and new developments when working on the wards. This is borne out by the enthusiasm and can-do attitude of researchers I met in a variety of fields: there is an energy to drive projects forward and the resources to make this happen. I knew that Oxford would be a great place to do academic training and be supported in my projects.
What have been the pros and cons of the AFP, and how has it shaped your future career plans?
My overall experience of the Oxford AFP programme has been excellent. The website is very accessible and the OUCAGS team respond quickly and helpfully to emails. Through bulletins, seminars and networking dinners, you feel part of an academic community. My educational supervisor was an academic and as such able and willing to provide relevant career and project advice. It was great to feel free to pursue projects and not be weighed down by paperwork. I didn’t find that my clinical commitments suffered as a result; if anything, I was more motivated to make both work.
The main con was access to funding as, although there is a lot available, it couldn’t be used towards computer software which was my main cost. Most of my projects will only come through after leaving Oxford, meaning that funding towards conferences is less useful.
As a result of my time on the Oxford AFP programme, I definitely feel that I have ‘ruled in’ academia. I still plan to pursue a clinical career, but my challenge now is how to combine the two!
Could you give an overview of any research projects which you have been involved in whilst on the programme?
I was keen to have my research time as a four month block so that I could properly tackle a project, and spent this working with an OCDEM group on endocrinology laboratory research (Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia type 1, Pseudohypoparathyroidism, pituitary tumours). Four months isn’t much time to complete a basic science study so that work is ongoing and, having submitted one abstract to a conference, I remain in contact with the lab for future publications. I was also keep to work on projects with more immediate output and in which I could develop a wider range of skills, so I wrote a literature review on hypocalcaemia with the group and got in touch with other teams, who were amazingly receptive. This has led to being involved with a blood pressure pilot study write up (and re-learning some stats!) and another clinical project looking at patients with Conn’s syndrome.