Garth Funston, one of the NSAMR Founding Patron, has written an article on BMJCareers on clinical academic career. To find out more, read his article, 'The road to a clinical academic career' now.
There is now a structured clinical academic training pathway in the United Kingdom. It has been implemented to encourage and aid trainees hoping to develop a career as a clinical academic. Trainees can enter the pathway at various points and can leave, and return to purely clinical work if they wish. Remember, not doing an academic foundation programme does not preclude an academic career!
An academic foundation program allows you to achieve the clinical competencies of the foundation program while undertaking training and gaining experience in research or medical education. The structure of these programs varies between deaneries but most have a four month dedicated academic rotation during the second year and provide a variety of taught courses in research methodology and statistics.
Academic Clinical Fellowship
NIHR Academic Clinical Fellows spend 75% of their time undertaking clinical training and 25% undertaking research or training in medical education. Posts are funded for up to three years (four for general practice trainees). They can encompass core medical or surgical training, or can be started at ST3 level. The aim of these programmes is to continue clinical academic training while obtaining funding to undertake a period of dedicated research (clinical research fellowship), working towards an MD or PhD. These posts usually attract an academic national training number in the given specialty (NTN(a)).
NIHR Clinical Lectureships are specialty training posts that incorporate academic training. Clinical lecturers spend 50% of their time undertaking specialist clinical training and 50% undertaking research or educationalist training. Posts are funded for up to four years and are aimed at candidates who are a few years into their specialty training, have completed an MD or PhD and show outstanding potential for continuing a career in academic medicine.
Academic Foundation Program
An academic foundation program allows you to achieve the clinical competencies of the foundation program while undertaking training and experience in research or medical education. The structure of these programs varies between deaneries but most have a four month dedicated academic rotation during the second year and provide a variety of taught courses on topics related research methodology and statistics.
It is important to note that the academic foundation recruitment process has changed from last year and runs in parallel to the regular foundation program, with applicants completing the national FP application form and choosing to apply for an AFP on FPAS .
Please note that the information provided is only intended to provide helpful tips and guidance from those who have been through the AFP application system, it is not official information and we cannot be held responsible for errors. For full, up to date information please visit the Foundation Program website.
Important information about applying for an academic foundation programme
- The local recruitment process differs between UoA’s. Most UoA’s have a ‘white space questions’ application form followed by interview. A few UoA’s rely solely on an application form to select candidates while one UoA selects candidates on the basis of oral presentations on themselves.
- The level of competition varies greatly from UoA to UoA and even varies from job to job within the UoA. In 2011, North Western Foundation School received 153 applications, with 60 applicants interviewed for 25 places. Some UoA’s are much less competitive and sometimes have places left after the AFP process is complete. Do not discount less prestigious UoA’s, many of them have some excellent programmes.
- Lastly, think carefully about why you are applying for an AFP. Are you passionate about research and set on an academic career? Do you want to get some research experience to see if it is right for you? Are you simply applying because it is prestigious? Remember that the academic job in the AFP is often (but not always) unbanded, so you may get paid less than for some clinical posts.
For more information please see Academic Foundation Program
These vary between UoA’s. Some simply require a personal statement and CV while others have lengthy white space answer sections.
- For white space answers, read the personal specification carefully and try to demonstrate how you meet as many of the criteria as possible, relating this to experiences in the hospital and or lab. Try and demonstrate your strengths and why you are good for the job but make sure you answer the question posed!
- Make sure you ask someone else to review your CV. Perhaps get one of your referees to give his opinion.
- Be honest in your white space answers - you may get asked about these in more depth in interview!
- If you get called for interview, congratulations! This is the first hurdle over and it is an achievement in its self.
- Interview format varies widely from UoA to UoA. However, a common format is a mini interview about your attributes etc and research and a separate viva on clinical cases.
- Make sure you know exactly what you have written in your CV and application and try to anticipate what questions might be asked. For example, if you are an author on a research paper, be prepared to explain methods used, importance, next step etc. Remember, the interviewers may be experts in one field of medicine but know nothing about the area you have worked in so be careful to pitch it right- comprehensible but not patronising. Don’t worry if the interviewer knows nothing about you- some UoA’s don’t give the application forms to the interviewers.
- Learn the emergency sections of the oxford handbook and make sure you have a systematic approach to discussing the management of common clinical scenarios. This can really pay off.
- Don’t be afraid to sell yourself. The other candidates won’t be.
- Research the program you are applying for and try to contact current post holders or potential supervisors in advance of your interview to discuss possible projects/research themes. This shows commitment and will impress. If you have not done this, be prepared to explain your reasoning e.g. interested in a number of research areas.
- Be familiar with GMC good medical practice.
- Be prepared to critically discuss a paper you have read recently.
- You will undoubtedly get a question you have no idea how to answer. Do not worry about this, take your time and think about the question. Even if your answer is not perfect don’t let it affect the rest of the interview - it is only one of many questions!