Dr Chris Paluch
Academic Foundation Programme (2015)
Pathway to an AFP position
It had long been my goal to pursue a career as a clinical academic, combining clinical work with translational research.
During my undergraduate training I completed an intercalated degree in pathology. This involved a lab project in immunology, which I thoroughly enjoyed and found very rewarding.
I then lost touch for a while with the academic world, distracted by the bright lights of clinical medicine. The AFP provided the perfect opportunity to re-immerse myself in a research environment and to explore what directions I could take towards a career as a clinical academic.
What does the work involve?
The structure of my AFP involved a dedicated four-month academic block during my FY2 year. I contacted a lab who were working on an area of immunology which interested me and arranged to spend my 4 months with them.
In advance of the placement I attended an Introduction to Medical Research course organised by OUCAGs, and other relevant training.
During the four-month block I was based at the Weatherall Institute for Molecular Medicine gaining experience in laboratory research techniques as well having access to the wealth of seminars, journal clubs and presentations that take place there.
I had no clinical commitments during that block and was able to commit myself to the project I was undertaking and, in parallel, to writing a project proposal for a DPhil which I will begin after FY2.
I chose Oxford for my foundation training because of the location, the beautiful city and the reputation of its hospitals and research institutions. As an Oxford trainee, I applied to the academic foundation programme during my FY1 year when the Deanery made available new academic posts for FY2. The time I had spent working with clinician scientists during my first placement in Oxford had reaffirmed my desire to incorporate research training into my clinical training. I was fortunate that Oxford offered the opportunity to join the AFP at a later stage than most other deaneries.
My AFP was a fantastic experience. I was so excited by the project I had joined that I applied to stay on in the lab after FY2 to undertake a DPhil in the same area. With the preliminary work I had done and the invaluable help of my academic supervisors, I was able to prepare a project proposal and obtain funding from the local Wellcome Trust Doctoral Training Fellowship Scheme for Clinicians.
For me the programme has opened up a pathway into a career as an academic clinician – a rare opportunity which I would recommend for anyone with an interest in research.