CL in Medical Microbiology and Virology
Dr Philippa Matthews (2012)
Pathway to a Clinical Lectureship
Philippa studied undergraduate medicine in Nottingham, followed by jobs in Nottingham and subsequently in an assortment of London teaching hospitals. She then moved to Liverpool to study for the Diploma of Tropical Medicine, which led on to a six-month trip to Malawi to experience at first hand some of the challenges of providing healthcare in tropical and developing countries. She returned to the UK to start a registrar post in Infectious Diseases and Microbiology in Oxford.
Philippa’s initial research interests were stimulated by a BSc Clinical Biochemistry project in Nottingham, studying protein tags involved in the apoptotic pathway. Since then she has been keen to engage in both clinical and academic research, and has enjoyed involvement in a variety of projects pertinent to her clinical roles within infectious diseases. She side-stepped from clinical medicine to do a DPhil project (funded by the Medical Research Council) to study the interplay between host and virus in HIV-1 infection with a particular interest in cohorts in Southern Africa. Following a return to the medical wards for a year, she has now taken up an NIHR Clinical Lectureship (CL) post to allow development of research interests in co-infection with HIV and other blood-borne viruses in African populations.
What does the work involve?
Philippa is in a four-year CL appointment, with time divided 50/50 between clinical and academic commitments. She is currently also working part-time to allow focus on her other important role as mum to a young family.
The allocation of clinical and research time within the post has been organised to allow uninterrupted blocks of each. This is to avoid being ‘spread too thinly’, especially given the natural constraints of working less than full time.
Philippa’s current areas of research interest include the interplay between HIV-1 in Southern African populations and three other blood-borne viruses – Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and PARV4. Initial projects will focus on characterising the epidemiology of co-infection in both adult and paediatric populations, with plans to begin studies of viral phylogeny and host immune responses.
Philippa’s teaching commitments have included contributions to undergraduate medical teaching at St. John’s College, lectures to undergraduate and graduate medical courses within the infection and immunity curriculum, and contributing to the SpR teaching and academic programme in Infectious Diseases / Microbiology.
From Philippa’s perspective, CL schemes offer a post-doctoral opportunity to pursue research and academic interests, potentially bridging the gap between PhD funding and the next rung on the career ladder of intermediate Research Fellowships. This allows the initial development of independent research, and the chance to gather data prior to formative grant applications. However, the scheme is not for anyone who feels in a hurry to reach a consultant post, as the appointment must be completed prior to CCT. In addition, you need to be prepared to look for independent funding to cover non-salary costs (e.g. laboratory consumables, travel expenses).
Oxford is a fantastic hub for anyone with an interest in infection and immunity. There is a wealth of expertise in these areas within both clinical and academic communities. There are enormous opportunities to develop collaborative links with other teams in Oxford – whether you need a statistician, a virologist or an epidemiologist – as well as with eminent research groups internationally.
In addition, infection training in Oxford offers flexibility to choose between combining Infectious Diseases with either General Medicine or Microbiology, with a broad training encompassing a multitude of clinical areas and disciplines. The department supports and encourages academic and research development, and is accommodating in fitting in out-of-programme experience and catering for career-development opportunities, as well as supporting trainees who wish to work less than full time.
Finally, Oxford is a unique, interesting and beautiful city, and an all-round great place to live!