Laboratory research is very different from clinical medicine and I am enjoying the new challenges that it presents, as well as how it complements my clinical practice

I currently work as an ST5/Academic Clinical Fellow in Haematology.  My training to date has been diverse and I think that this has served me well by providing me with a solid clinical base as well as enabling me to crystallize what I aim to get out of my training.

I spent my foundation and core medical training working in South Thames, in a mix of busy DGH and tertiary centres. I enjoyed the clinical variety that the different centres provided and have always been involved in a range of projects and teaching. I have also spent time working in low-resource countries in-between formal training, which has generated very different challenges. Whilst some people expressed concern that this time would be viewed negatively I have found that to not be the case and I think it has been helpful in numerous ways for my ongoing academic career. At university I undertook an intercalated degree and am now enjoying re-engaging with the science that underpins so much of what we do in haematology.

I am currently undertaking research at UCL. Day-to-day this involves benchside work, analysing results and keeping up to date with the literature. Laboratory research is very different from clinical medicine and I am enjoying the new challenges that it presents, as well as how it complements my clinical practice.  I’ve found the ACF to be invaluable in giving me an understanding of research and developing the skills required for a PhD.

A clear understanding of the career path of a clinical academic is key before undertaking research.  There are many positives to an academic career, such as being involved and ultimately leading scientific research, which aims to have a direct impact on patient care.  It’s an intellectually stimulating environment to work in, with the ability to generate new theories and piece together scientific evidence. There’s significantly more autonomy than in clinical work, which is both enjoyable and somewhat disquieting as a medic. Equally research can be tough; experiments working can take a considerable amount of time and persistence and the path to success is both long and requires a little bit of luck.

London is a real hub of academic development and it’s full of bright and motivated teams leading a huge range of world-class research.  For those undertaking clinical research there are established links with many hospitals and specialist centres.  Value is placed on academia and there is encouragement to be involved in a range of projects.  In my opinion the main downside to working in London as a clinical academic is the cost of living.  Clearly London is an expensive place to live and the path of a clinical academic, certainly initially, will result in slightly reduced earnings compared to colleagues in a purely clinical role (predominantly due to the longer period of time in training). However overall I think that the clinical variety and academic excellence that London offers to trainees is hard to beat.

I aim to embark upon a PhD next year and I would urge anyone who is interested in clinical research to apply for an ACF.