“Plan, plan, plan, plan.” This was the crux of the advice given to over 30 new clinical academic trainees, who met in Senate House on 3 December 2018.

At “How to survive and thrive as a clinical academic trainee in London,” a new event jointly organised by Health Education England and London Medicine & Healthcare, clinical academic trainees from London’s medical and dental schools learned what it took to make a success of this unique role spanning research and practice.

The first half of this launch event focussed on the perspectives from four trainees nearing or at the end of their Academic Clinical Fellowship (ACF) and Clinical Lecturer (CL) programmes. Planning, support, networking and conviction arose as common themes, with emphasis given to establishing milestones and realistic timeframes, linking with a supportive supervisor and making best use of the resources available to ACFs and CLs. Dr Craig Stiles, Queen Mary University London, also highlighted the advantage of being based near world-leading institutions, such as the Wellcome Trust and the Francis Crick Institute, and encouraged delegates to “have the front to talk to them”.

The four speakers similarly stressed the importance of work-life balance, resilience and maintaining an open mind. Dr Zeinab Abdi, Royal Free Hospital, explained how she managed to sustain her neurology training after giving birth to two children, partly by doggedly pursing the opportunities she needed upon returning from leave. Dr Alison Berner of Barts Cancer Institute, prompted trainees to “learn to motivate yourself and give yourself praise for what you have done” while Dr Weijia Zhang, University College London, encouraged trainees to “have an open mind, have a broad approach”.

The second half of the event opened with an introduction to the Clinical Academic Starter Checklist, a resource developed by HEE and London Medicine & Healthcare in partnership with current trainees. This was followed by media skills and communication training, and finished with a session from Training Programme Director Dr Maria Barnard, Whittington Health Trust and Dr Jeremy Levy, Director of the Clinical Academic Training Office, Imperial College London. Dr Levy echoed Dr Stiles’ view that delegates should take advantage of “the most research-rich environment probably in the world, and definitely in the UK.” Both training directors reiterated the importance of forward-planning, but, as Dr Barnard put it, also “taking the time to reflect on an amazing opportunity.”

The event concluded with a networking lunch, giving delegates the opportunity to connect with their peers as well as with event speakers. Following positive feedback, London Medicine & Healthcare and Health Education England will explore the possibility of running this event annually.

This event forms part of Vital Signs, a flagship initiative from London Medicine & Healthcare which addresses a range of challenges pertaining to both health and higher education. This event was hosted jointly by Dr Stephanie Baldeweg, Associate Academic Dean, Health Education England Integrated Academic Training Team and Professor Deborah Gill, Director UCL Medical School and Chair of London Medicine. More information on how HEE can support CLs and ACFs can be found by contacting Academictraining.lase@hee.nhs.uk.