ACF in Paediatrics
Dr Mimi Hou
Pathway to an ACF position
During my pre-clinical studies, I undertook a lab-based research project for my BSc. I enjoyed learning about basic science in more depth and the practical aspects of lab-based research. After medical school, I completed an Academic Foundation post in London but was still undecided between paediatrics and adult medicine. I spent a year working as a clinical fellow in paediatrics and subsequently started specialty training, initially in Yorkshire. I became more interested in infectious diseases and wanted to continue combining clinical with research training. I therefore applied for the paediatric ACF programme and moved to Oxford in my ST2 year.
What does the work involve?
I was given some flexibility in how I wanted to take my research time and decided to take mine as a continuous block of 9 months (6 months in ST3, 3 months in ST4). This fitted well with my intentions to undertake lab research. My project is on HIV, looking at virus evolution in infants and in mother-to-child transmission. I am looking to see if there is any evidence of a functional immune response in early infancy to drive virus evolution and if there are any specific viral characteristics that favour mother-to-child transmission.
During the ACF we are also able to undertake a part-time postgraduate diploma in health research. I have found this very useful as it provides a good grounding on different research methodologies and modules can be chosen to fit with your interests.
The advantages of the ACF post are the dedicated research time allocated and the support provided as part of the programme (from OUCAGS and through teaching such as the diploma in health research). The paediatric ACF programme allows me to have dedicated research time without extending my clinical training. This does mean significantly less time for clinical work and for completing assessments to get signed off for ARCP.
There is a wealth of world-renowned research in infectious diseases and global health carried out in Oxford, so it’s a great choice for anyone with an interest in these areas. Oxford has a stimulating academic environment, which you have the opportunity to access when becoming an ACF. Oxford was also one of a few deaneries that accepted paediatric ACFs at ST2 level.
The ACF programme has confirmed my plan to pursue a career in academic medicine and I will apply for PhD funding with a view to starting at the end of ST5.