30th October 2018, RCPCH London
Dr Chris Course
The RCPCH and the NIHR (National Institute for Health Research) held annual joint study day aimed at promoting and de-mystifying academic training careers. This free study day is fairly new on the RCPCH events calendar, having only been held for the past couple of years, but aims to tackle an area of training which is sometimes perceived as difficult to understand and undertake.
This was my first trip to RCPCH HQ in London, and it was great to actually see the place where its all run from. Despite not being as grand as the Royal College of Surgeons or GPs, it was a modern building with good meeting facilities. I was also a little worried that, not already been on an academic training pathway, I may be a little “out-of-it” or some of the subject matter may not be useful or attainable for me.
Thankfully, I was wrong! There was a really good mix of trainees in attendance with a wide range of backgrounds. Some were already undertaking PhDs, some were nearing the end of their training and looking to build a research career, some were already on an academic training fellowship. Meeting all these colleagues with different backgrounds in the “Networking” session during the morning helped me to put my own current aspirations and difficulties into context and to being finding some solutions to these problems.
The speakers for the day were an eminent bunch and gave some really useful and insightful talks. Professor Anne Greenough started the day with a broad introduction to academic career paths, and how the new progress curriculum is building research and academia into the training domains, aiming to improve our exposure to clinical research, as well as encouraging the Deaneries to facilitate more academic opportunities. Dr Chris Gale then gave his personal experience of his path into an academic career, giving a “how-to” guide too framing a research question, finding the supervisors and mentors to help develop your project and then how to find the grant money. It was encouraging to hear how perseverance is the key to obtaining the funding, and giving hope that somebody wold fund your project if you’ve had a good idea! The morning was rounded off by Professor Paul Dimitri trying to de-mystify the NIHR – not an easy task! It seems to be a very complex structure, and I can’t say I understand how they work completely, but I’ve definitely got a better idea of where to find more information now. There was also good formation on how to further an academic career as a trainee and consultant after completing your initial projects.
The afternoon included workshops from Dr Lauren Kier from the Wellcome trust, covering tips on grant application writing and how to secure that all-important funding, and balancing clinical and academic priorities through your training grades. Following this, there was a presentation covering developing a career in industry, and leaving clinical medicine. I can’t say this talk filled me with inspiration, but it was a interesting to hear the experiences of life outside of clinical medicine with a medical degree. The day was a rounded off with an entertaining talk from Professor Mike Levin, giving an overview of “A journey into research with no plan”, and how an inquisitive mind and a bit of serendipity can help forge an academic career. I’m not sure if the much more structured and formalised training career we have now, with portfolio and ARCP demands, would still allow such a career path, but it was interesting all the same.
I would recommend the Academic Trainees Day to anyone contemplating an academic training path or thinking about taking time out of training to do research. Also highlighted in the day was the RCPCH’s Academic Toolkit www.academictoolkit.org which is another useful resource for anyone wanting to know more about academic careers. The day highlighted the challenges and obstacles to an academic career, and how to start overcoming them, and was a good networking opportunity to learn of other peoples experiences. The day showed that an academic career can be a challenging one to start and maintain, but can be incredibly rewarding.
Dr Annabel Greenwood