Dr Laura Heath
Academic Foundation Programme (2017)
Pathway to an AFP position
During my time at medical school, I became involved with research projects at the UCL Institute of Women’s Health and at The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles. This introduced me to a whole new world of medical academia and I was encouraged by colleagues I met here to apply for the academic foundation programme. I never thought I would actually get the job (I thought they all went to people who had already done PhDs), so would really encourage others to apply regardless of previous academic experience.
What does the work involve?
I had day release on 2 of my four-month blocks (one in FY1 and the other in FY2) and a four-month academic block in FY2 with 2 weeks of clinical commitments. I had already arranged a project in public health before I came to Oxford, but during my first FY1 rotation I went to an OUCAGS Forum event and heard a dynamic lecture by a young academic GP. I approached her at the end of the session, shadowed her for a week and by the end of that had realised that academic primary care was a really diverse field to be involved in, that united a lot of my interests. Since then, I have been based at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences in the behavioural medicine team.
The academic foundation programme at Oxford is unique in the fact that it gives the trainee flexibility to choose their project and the department that they wish to work in. I came to Oxford with diverse interests in women’s health, sexual health, psychiatry and public health and being given the time and opportunities to consider the many fantastic research opportunities that are available in Oxford is a real bonus. Also, the Oxford programme gives you access to university courses and £1000 OUCAGS funding to go to conferences. I have had been on Stata/ NVivo/ statistics courses and travelled internationally to present work.
The academic component of the foundation programme has been fundamental in how much I have enjoyed the last two years. It reminds you that there is more to healthcare than being the FY1 on ward cover and brings welcome variety to the job. You have slightly less time to gain clinical competencies, so you have to be proactive with this. Also, academia is very self-directed, so you have to be disciplined, motivated and interested in your subject to be able to sustain this!