Paediatric neurosurgery and COVID-19 projects
Working with Mercy Ships and on lung ultrasound in intensive care for COVID-19 patients
Dr Sagar Kulkarni
Academic Foundation Doctor (2021)
Pathway to an AFP position
I got my first taste of research during my intercalated BSc in Imaging Sciences at King’s College London. There I investigated neurodevelopment in children with congenital heart disease under Professor Counsell. We discovered that poor oxygen delivery to the brain was linked to impaired brain development in these children. Our findings were published in Nature’s Scientific Reports. I enjoyed the experience and decided that I wanted to pursue a clinical-academic career. The AFP struck me as the perfect opportunity to combine my clinical training with development as an academic.
What does the work involve?
My academic time was taken in a 4-month block during FY2. During FY1, it was as academic day releases (although, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, some of these were cancelled in lieu of redeployment). I undertook several projects, publishing 11 papers during my AFP, some of which were COVID-19 related.
I also felt that the clinical training I received was excellent. I enjoyed all of my rotations. I particularly gained a lot from Acute Medicine and Intensive Care Medicine at Milton Keynes University Hospital (FY1) and Plastic Surgery at John Radcliffe Hospital (FY2). These placements shaped my clinical development and will be instructional in the future.
For teaching, as an FY1 I organised the teaching programme for Oxford medical students on placements at Milton Keynes University Hospital. This provided a welcome contrast to my clinical duties and I was awarded ‘Teacher of the Year’ by the Trust.
The pros of the AFP are that it provides protected time for academic development, which is absent from the conventional training pathway. The AFP also gives time to focus on much larger projects, which would not be possible on top of a busy clinical schedule. There are also cons: there is less clinical exposure and you can feel deskilled after time away from the clinical environment. Additionally, you have to achieve a balance between your clinical and academic lives.
Oxford is unique in allowing candidates free choice over their supervisor and project area. The University’s global standing ensures that candidates can excel in a field of their choice. Additionally, OUCAGS and the University conduct several courses and other activities (such as Introduction to Medical Research, Management in Medicine) to supplement the development of a budding academic.
Something I discovered later was that the OUCAGS staff are also very knowledge and can help make academic life much easier.
The AFP has continued by interest in a clinical-academic career and has also given me a realistic perspective on what it entails.