Dr Stephen Hibbs
Academic Foundation Programme (2014)
Pathway to an AFP position
Prior to joining the AFP, I had a small amount of research experience from my intercalated degree, where I joined a therapeutic HIV vaccine research group for my placement. As a clinical student, I compared two surveillance modalities in age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which gave me a taste of clinical research. Aside from these projects, I also was involved in teaching undergraduate medical students in immunology and microbiology.
An older friend who was on the AFP while I was a student recommended that I considered applying. Although I did not have a clear idea of the specialty I wanted to train in, I enjoyed teaching and wanted to get further experience in clinical research.
What does the work involve?
My particular AFP involved 2 four-month blocks of academic day release and a further four-month block of research time.
The majority of my research has been in transfusion medicine. Supervised by Professor Mike Murphy, I have led a systematic review and two clinical research projects. The review and first research project assessed the impact of electronic decision support in transfusion; the second project involved developing a system to monitor for undertransfusion. My other research has included an economic analysis of a new ambulatory care centre and a retrospective study of the management of coagulopathy in intensive care prior to interventional radiological procedures.
I was appointed a College Lecturer in Medicine at St Peter’s College during my F1 year and have provided tutorials for graduate-entry, pre-clinical and clinical students, been an admissions interviewer for new students, and organised collections (college examinations).
To support these activities, I have taken several courses. These have included a one-week accredited course in systematic review methodology, a one-week statistics course and an eight-month teaching course leading to accreditation with the Higher Education Academy.
The AFP has many advantages: gaining skills in clinical research; excellent research supervision in transfusion medicine; research training provided through the Medical Sciences Division; ample opportunity to publish and present work (including funding from OUCAGS to do so); and more time to commit to teaching.
Having said this, there are also disadvantages to the AFP. Not having one definite project and supervisor from the beginning meant that it was difficult to get started. However, OUCAGS helped point me in the direction of potential research groups. It is also the case that losing a clinical job has made my experience more narrow, which makes career decisions more difficult.
Nevertheless, overall the AFP has been excellent and I am much more positive about pursuing more substantial clinical research in the future.
In reality, my main reason for choosing Oxford was that my wife is a medical student in Oxford! In addition, the Oxford AFP gave me an opportunity to be involved in several different research and teaching projects through the two years, rather than immediately committing to one project. I also particularly enjoy the opportunities of tutorial-based teaching.
I hope to pursue an academic clinical fellowship following core training.