CL in Infectious Diseases
Dr Oliver Koch (2009)
Early research experience
Oliver was educated in Germany and, whilst at medical school, he became interested in the genetic aspects of disease. After finishing his medical degree, he chose to take time out of his medical career to study for a Doctorate in Philosophy at Oxford University, having previously learned of opportunities while still a medical student to study the genetic susceptibility to infectious tropical diseases – an Oxford speciality. Oliver was proactive, and used an established contact already at Oxford to help him find the right contacts in his area of interest to ask if any research would be available to him.
After successfully completing his DPhil, Oliver chose to remain in England and continue with his medical pathway. He completed his house officer and senior house officer rotations, living in Nottingham and London, before returning to Oxford in his current position. He found himself five or six years older than his colleagues at that point, but has not felt it to be a disadvantage in any way. Oliver has an unusual CV, but this is helping him achieve top placements in top institutions, and he sees his background as an advantage.
Becoming a Clinical Lecturer
Oliver is currently employed as an NIHR Clinical Lecturer (CL) on a four-year contract. He considers himself to be lucky that his contract specifies a 50% split between research and clinical practice, and that this is arranged into two blocks, so that two years are spent as a Registrar in General Medicine and Infectious Diseases, working at the John Radcliffe Hospital, and a further two years are spent as a clinical researcher in his chosen field at Oxford University. Oliver sees this as a clear advantage over some colleagues, who may be attempting to combine their research with their clinical work, because it is often the research time that is lost at the expense of a clinical workload.
What is the attraction of academic medicine?
Oliver enjoys the intellectual challenges of academia; his own field is a developing branch of medicine and he now has opportunities to study new areas of genetics and tropical disease that no-one else is currently studying. Oliver is excited by research and says “research leads to new questions to answer, and you can find solutions to those questions in a way that you personally can take charge of!” Asked about studying at Oxford in particular, as he clearly has an affinity with the place, he says “Oxford attracts good people. It is compact and people are approachable. It is easy to knock on someone’s door and ask them a question. It is a stimulating environment”. Having experienced other British cities and comparing them to Oxford, he says ”Oxford remains close enough to London to be able to visit the large city, but living and working in Oxford is akin to being in a small town, it is easy to get out into the country and the environment is pretty, rather than metropolitan”.
So, where does he plan to go next? His passion is tropical medicine, but his clinics at Oxford are full of returning travellers rather than fresh cases. Oxford is giving him an opportunity to make contacts worldwide through international co-operative links, and he hopes to be able to develop one of these links and be able to study tropical medicine abroad.