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ACF in Public Health

Dr Olaa Mohamed-Ahmed (2014)

Pathway to an ACF position

Whilst studying for my undergraduate medical degree at Cardiff University, my interests and extra-curricular activities were always related to women’s health. However, it was only after doing an intercalated BSc in Public Health and undertaking projects on maternal epidemiology in Sierra Leone and Sudan that I realised my interests were as much in the research questions related to these topics as the clinical concerns. 

During my foundation training in the Oxford Deanery, I came across an ACF in Public Health, linked to the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit (NPEU). Though I had always imagined I would continue my clinical career in medicine or obstetrics and gynaecology, I knew that this job offered exactly the kind of clinical and epidemiological research I was interested in. As I had thoroughly enjoyed my BSc in Public Health, I started researching what was involved in a career in public health instead of hospital medicine – and I haven’t looked back since!

What does the work involve?

My first year as an ACF in  Public Health involved a 2-month academic block at the NPEU, followed by a full-time MSc in Global Health Sciences at the Nuffield Department of Population Health (NDPH), University of Oxford. This allowed me the opportunity to undertake several projects focussing on maternal health and services in the UK, using data on maternal deaths, maternal morbidities, incident reviews and risk management strategies.

My second year is split between a placement in the Public Health Directorate of Oxfordshire County Council and further research at the NPEU. I’ll be using my academic time to further develop my research skills, prepare publications and PhD/DPhil applications. During my clinical placement, I get to work on projects that affect the health of the local Oxfordshire population. At the moment this involves collaborating with several NHS, local government, academic institutions and voluntary-sector organisations on topics as broad as improving mental wellbeing and preventing female genital mutilation in Oxfordshire.

During my ACF I’ve been able to focus on improving my research skills through the modules on epidemiology and statistics that were part of my MSc, and by completing an advanced course in epidemiological analysis at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. 

There have been many perks to being an ACF in Oxford. In particular, there is an emphasis on academic development and there are always opportunities to attend lectures, seminars, journal clubs, courses and conferences. OUCAGS have always been supportive and encouraging, which really helps when you’re new to Oxford and/or academia –  particularly as the only downfall to being in Oxford is that the vast number of university departments, research units and research streams can be difficult to navigate. Attending the OUCAGS events helps with this as you meet clinical academics from different departments and start to learn how everything works!

Why Oxford?

I chose the Oxford Deanery because I enjoyed my foundation training so much, loved living here and no other place offered the opportunity to undertake an ACF in Public Health with a focus on maternal epidemiology at an internationally reputable organisation. The research being undertaken at the NPEU is highly regarded worldwide and has a real impact on policy in the UK. 

November 2014