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others in related specialties

Dr Richard Colling, ACF in Histopathology

ACF in Histopathology

Dr Philip Macklin

Pathway to an ACF position

My interest in an academic career began when I completed an intercalated degree at medical school. I found that I enjoyed understanding the scientific basis of the diseases that I was seeing on a daily basis. I then completed an Academic Foundation Programme and subsequently spent a year demonstrating anatomy. These experiences confirmed my desire to have a job that combined clinical, research and teaching commitments. I feel that the clinical academic is in the uniquely privileged position of being able to identify clinical questions, undertake basic research to investigate the area and then translate the findings into improvements in patient care. I was attracted by the structured nature of the ACF programme, which provides simultaneous training in both clinical and research skills, and thought that it would help me to achieve my full potential. 

What does the work involve?

The ACF programme means that you can have a very varied job that can encompass clinical, academic, teaching, leadership and management roles. An ACF position offers many privileges including mentorship from experienced clinical academics, a place on the Postgraduate Diploma in Health Research and regular networking opportunities. 

I have just completed the first year of my ACF position and spent all of this time in clinical training based at Wycombe Hospital. Although I have yet to have any protected academic time, I was able to take study leave to complete two modules from the Postgraduate Diploma in Health Research and OUCAGS also kindly funded my attendance at a week-long Wellcome Trust Advanced Course on the Molecular Pathology and Diagnosis of Cancer which took place at the Sanger Institute in Cambridgeshire. I also attended OUCAGS’ Academic Medical Forum and Academic Opportunities Seminars as and when possible.

Towards the middle of my first year I started to make contact with potential academic supervisors to arrange meetings to discuss potential projects. I have decided to conduct my research in molecular oncology and will begin later this year. In addition, I will also be involved in teaching medical students on the Year 2 ‘Principles of Pathology’ and Year 4 ‘Laboratory Medicine’ courses.  

Although the ACF programme has many advantages, it can be difficult to combine the clinical and academic training without neglecting one or the other. It can be tricky to stay up-to-date and at a comparable level of expertise to your colleagues, who are often in purely clinical or research posts. Of course, this often impinges on work/life balance and work probably comes home more often than it should! 

Why Oxford?

I completed an Academic Foundation Programme in Oxford and was really pleased by the quality of both the clinical and academic training that I received. It goes without saying that the University is world leading in medical sciences but I have been greatly impressed by the role played by OUCAGS. The staff really make an effort to get to know the trainees and to make your training as easy as possible! Furthermore, Oxford is a fantastic city to live in and is in a great location with good transport links, easy access to several nearby cities and lovely surrounding countryside. 


August 2014