Dr Sharaf Sheik-Ali
Academic Foundation Programme (2020)
Pathway to an AFP position
I graduated from Barts and The London School of Medicine with an interest in surgical research. I went on to intercalate in anatomy at King’s College London, which allowed me to foster further interest in research applied in and around surgical approaches and surgical anatomy. During medical school I began a project on congenital equinovarus and optimising management in low- and middle-income countries. The combination of the two naturally lead me down a path of research.
The AFP was a natural choice as it mixes academic research with clinical skill development.
What does the work involve?
The AFP provides ample opportunity to develop academic skills alongside clinical competencies. It provides dedicated academic time to allow focused research, project ideation and usually fulfilment.
My academic time was structured so that, during my FY1, I had 1 day release a week during my second clinical rotation. In my FY2, I had 4 months of academic research time sandwiched between two clinical rotations.
This suited me very well as it allowed me to utilise my day release to plan my academic block, meet various Oxford academic teams and enrol on the available Oxford statistics research courses.
My academic block was based mainly with NDORMS, alongside the global surgery team led by Chris Lavy. I also worked closely with the Tropical Medicine group, examining the role of virtual reality in surgical training. In addition, I thoroughly enjoyed teaching Oxford medical students anatomy during my academic block.
Oxford allows flexibility on designing a project that suits your interest. The AFP is also affiliated with OUCAGS, which is by far one of the most helpful academic groups out there. Further, there are world-leading scientists, researchers and academic clinicians all within reaching distance and all very approachable.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Oxford and working with esteemed colleagues has been a real eye opener.
What have been the pros and cons of the AFP?
The AFP provides a unique opportunity to develop as an academic clinician. The benefits are numerous, including research skill development, training in statistics and, importantly, designing your own project to suit your interests. The programme allowed me to complete a number of projects and form good links with various teams in Oxford.
An obvious con to enrolling onto any academic programme would be the reduced clinical time you would have in order to obtain the same competencies as your colleagues. However, good organisational skills and planning in advance should give you ample time to develop in both areas.
The AFP has provided me with a broad research skill base that I am keen to continue to develop. I am now continuing my surgical training in the Oxford Deanery.