Dr Tom Grew
Academic Foundation Programme (2016)
Pathway to an AFP position
My initial interest in research began at medical school. I had applied to study medicine as a result of my own experience as a patient, having had lymphoma at the age of 18. I was able to represent teenage and young adult cancer patients on a local, national, and international basis. This allowed me to gain an interest in research from the perspective of the patient, understanding the crucial role that both patients and the public have to play. The AFP is allowing me to gain further experience of research, this time from the perspective of the clinician.
What does the work involve?
I was able to arrange my AFP research project after seeing an article on the BBC news website. I researched the original paper in The Lancet and then contacted the author, a Professor at the University of Oxford, Department of Psychiatry. I was allowed to join their team, Psychological Medicine Research, for the entirety of the AFP. Initially this was one day per week during my second attachment of FY1. The research complemented that placement well, as I would spend the rest of the week on General Adult Psychiatry in hospital. In FY2 my final placement allowed me 4 months with the team. I was able to keep in touch between these times, which became easier once I had moved to Oxford for FY2.
The group I worked with was a mix of doctors, researchers, and academics – a great way of being immersed into an active and vibrant dynamic. I have been involved in various projects and gained experience of working in a multidisciplinary research team. I have:
- contributed to a grant application for clinical research funding (depression in palliative care)
- acquired experience in applying for ethical approval and in protocol writing for a clinical study (Implementation of Symptom Monitoring Service and Depression Care for People with Cancer in the Oxford Cancer Centre), and
- taken part in the qualitative analysis of data (about problems experienced by patients with lung cancer and depression).
In addition to this I was able to gain experience in writing academic papers, and had a paper published from previous work, in Psycho-Oncology (January 2016). This looked at the feasibility of using social media as a research method and went on to examine how young people describe the impact of living with and beyond a cancer diagnosis.
I also presented at an Oxford Academic Health Science Network meeting (October 2015), which highlighted the psychological aspects of care for oncology clinicians, and at the Pancare Childhood and Adolescent Cancer Survivor Care and Follow-up Studies conference (Brussels, May 2016).
I chose Oxford as I wanted a range of jobs that included psychiatry, as well as being able to arrange my research in a field that I was interested in. Additionally, this enabled me to work with a group who I thought I could contribute to, as well as gain from for my own personal development. Access to the resources of the University, a world-leading centre of learning, teaching and research, further widened the appeal of Oxford.
The main positive of the AFP has been that I have been able to sample academic life at an early stage of my career. One drawback would be that the job is unbanded. However, this can be a nice change after all those on-calls! I have applied directly to core psychiatry training, and I will begin this next phase of my career immediately after the AFP ends. I look forward to continuing some of the projects that are ongoing from my time as an academic foundation doctor, while beginning to specialise in an area that I am so passionate about.