Dr Helen Blamey
Academic Foundation Programme (2021)
PATHWAY TO AN AFP POSITION
I trained at medical school in London, where I was involved with research with the King’s Centre for Military Health Research. This ignited my interest in applying for the Academic Foundation Programme as I was interested in:
- the opportunity to get a more thorough understanding of academic medicine,
- the experience of balancing this with clinical commitments, and
- engaging with a network of clinical academics with expertise in my field of interest.
WHAT DOES THE WORK INVOLVE?
My experience of the AFP programme at Oxford was fantastic.
I spent my FY1 academic day-release days applying for ethics for my research project (including completing the required courses, such as the NIHR GCP course). Additionally, I was able to attend two conferences to present work I had completed at medical school, and complete corrections on a paper. I did a NHSx Leadership course in Healthcare Leadership Foundations, completed the OUCAGS Introduction to Medical Research course, and was able to attend a few of the OUCAGS academic forums.
During my FY2 4-month research block, I worked with the Global Anaesthesia Group on my chosen research project. I was also able to complete some Medical Sciences Division and Bodleian iSkills courses to widen my academic skillset (e.g. writing a conference abstract, selecting a journal to submit to). I got involved with regular teaching for the Oxford University final-year medical students, including simulation and examining the OSCE examinations. I was also able to attend conferences both as a presenter and as an attendee using my OUCAGS study budget.
Finally, I completed the Green Templeton College Management in Medicine programme during my FY2 year, including shadowing the CEO of the Oxford Academic Health Science Network.
The AFP gives a fantastic grounding in academic medicine, and allows a viewpoint into the life of clinical academia. It enables networking within Oxford (and beyond!) to establish working relationships beyond the AFP programme, and with other academic trainees.
The downsides are few in my experience, but you must be well-organised and have good time management to ensure you meet your clinical training commitments alongside your academic commitments. You must also be motivated and driven to pursue your research project. This will not be handed to you and requires hard work to establish connections and relationships in the beginning.
I chose Oxford due to the flexibility and independence given to academic trainees to:
- select their own research project and
- determine the use of one’s own time during the academic block.
This enabled me to select a project and research group aligned with my research interests, establish long-lasting relationships and continue this work beyond the AFP programme.
In addition, OUCAGS offer a wide range of research courses to enhance your academic learning, and equip you with skills to use in your future academic work. The use of facilities at Oxford means you have access to world-class libraries and laboratories, and the small study budget enables you to access academic conferences that your NHS study budget would not cover.
Participating in the AFP programme has confirmed I wish to pursue specialty training in anaesthesia, and maintain a research interest in global anaesthesia with the Oxford Global Anaesthesia Group. It also helped me to develop a portfolio such that I was successful in securing an anaesthetic training job in the deanery.
I will be applying for an ACF position when the opportunity arises, and will not rule out a PhD in the future!