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ACF in Histopathology

Dr Richard Colling

Pathway to an ACF position

I became interested in basic science, pathology and research at an early stage as a student at Peninsula medical school. I later went on to complete an intercalated BSc in biological sciences, during which time I had my first significant exposure to working in the lab. After completing the foundation programme I moved to Bristol to take up run-through training in histopathology. While I was able to carry out some research in my spare time, I realised that I wanted to explore my interests further and so joined the academic training program in Oxford. 

What does the work involve?

The program has given me the time and space to develop project ideas and to spend time again in the lab. Coming to Oxford has also opened up many connections and opportunities for me and has allowed me to get more involved in teaching than I have been able to before.   

When I first came to Oxford my clinical training continued seamlessly on from where I was and I was made to feel very welcome in my new department. I spent quite a bit of time getting to know people in the university, the groups and research going on. I have had protected time (25%) to carry out research and have taken most of this in a block away from clinical duties. 

The close links and proximity between the cellular pathology department and NDCLS (Nuffield Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences) have allowed me to carry out my research whilst keeping myself grounded in the clinical relevance of my work. It’s very important to me that research complements clinical practice and vice versa and I really feel like I have been able to get that experience in Oxford. I have participated in teaching medical students, taken part in journal clubs, attended the OUCAGS Academic Medical Forum as well as attended in-house university training courses. As an ACF student I have also been able to take the Diploma in Health Research for free, which has been a really useful experience.

Being an ACF gives me the flexibility, time and unchallenged (by consultants) freedom to peruse my research interests, learn new skills and experience a different professional way of life which I could never have had as a non-academic trainee. I am lucky that I can still keep my hand in with the diagnostic department and not lose touch with my clinical training. 

The task of managing my time effectively and planning and carrying out research in my protected time away from clinical duties, while still meeting the demands of a clinical training curriculum with ARCP targets, is extremely challenging. However, this reflects the true working life in an academic medical career and I have found the challenge brings me great satisfaction.  The post has cemented my desire to continue with a career with both clinical and research aspects. 

Why Oxford?

Oxford has a great reputation for research and clinical training alike but also has one of the largest cohorts of academic medical trainees in the UK. The city is ideally located for access to other parts of the UK, airports and London. The facilities and wealth of experienced researchers available to me is vast; any technique I need to learn or any piece of equipment I need to use – someone somewhere inside the city’s ring road will be able to help! There are also the huge electronic resources and library access to publications, which I find indispensable now.

August 2014

Where is Dr Colling now?

After his ACF post, Richard successfully secured a fellowship with the Oxford Molecular Diagnostics Centre. Here he worked on the Genomics England 100K genomes project and other internal whole-genome sequencing projects. He was also involved in researching the utility of digital pathology. 

In addition, Richard decided to progress from the Diploma to complete a full MSc at Kellogg College and also completed an MD. He is currently a Clinical Lecturer in Histopathology at the University of Oxford. 


May 2017