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Academic Medicine Pathways

Why Academic Medicine?

The Future Doctor Report (2020), recently commissioned and published by Health Education England, sees “Academic through clinical training”, “Translator of Knowledge” and “Leader” as three key characteristics of the future doctor. These are characteristics that are seen as crucial to ensuring the highest standards of patient care, to developing the ability of clinical teams to adapt and innovate and finally to harnessing the knowledge and enthusiasm of medics in training towards new treatments, approaches and medicines.

The field of academic medicine is extremely broad and has been defined as “the branch of medicine pursued by doctors who engage in a variety of scholarly activities” (BMJ 2008). These ‘scholarly activities’ are by definition inclusive, but most frequently they comprise research, teaching and leadership duties (UKFPO 2018). Previous involvement in research is not required and you can often pursue your own ideas to try out any element of academic medicine.

What are the pathways towards Academic Medicine?

At the top of this page, you can see the longer view picture of how you can develop as an academic through foundation training and beyond. You may choose to work towards an application to the Specialised Foundation Programme (SFP) during Foundation Training, which is a tailored programme offering time out of clinical training and other enhancements to support development in one or more of the three core strands. Alternatively, you may follow the standard Foundation Programme but then apply for the fellowships and lectureships shown in the purple pathway after AFP.

Finally, you may choose not to follow a formal academic pathway, but focus on developing experience in research, education and leadership alongside your clinical development for another very important reason. This will enhance your applications to GP and specialty training which do take into account the three core strands.

How can I develop academic medicine skills?

There are a broad range of research opportunities you can get involved in during your MBChB, both within the curriculum and outside of your formal studies. At WMS we encourage our medical students to develop as scholars as well as medics through offering opportunities to develop the three core strands within Academic Medicine; research, education and leadership. You may also be interested in our Integrated Academic Training programme, part of a nationwide initiative to develop the next generation of clinical academics. These pages also have lot more information about training pathways.

Also see this outline of training and support opportunities you can engage with develop skills and confidence in this area.

More about the three core strands of academic medicine…..

Research is the key to achieving the cutting edge in patient care. It is through research that new therapeutic treatments are tested and developed. Such advances in research have translated into medical care, and over recent years have dramatically improved patients outcomes and life expectancy. Without developing the future succession of researchers coming into Medicine, the profession faces significant challenges to sustainably continuing to excel in developing effective treatments.

Pressure on a limited number of researchers is likely to increase. Whilst much medical, biomedical and health research is undertaken by non-clinicians, the role of the clinical academic is acknowledged as critical. Critical both to the generation of hypotheses based on clinical exposure and expertise but also to maximise the full potential to translate research findings to improvement in patient care. Thus the concept of bench to bedside with clinical academics as a critical bridge.

Teaching is fundamental to preparing the next generation of doctors for the workforce. Excellent teaching not only induces deeper-level learning, but it engenders critical professional behaviours (curiosity, critical thinking etc.), in addition to inspiring and motivating learners. Many of our student peer-support teachers vouch for the beneficial effect that teaching others has on their own learning and exploration of medicine. Clinical educators are critical to the delivery of clinically focused teaching and also to ensuring context to other learning.

This ensures such context remains current and relevant. Importantly, clinician educators perform an important role of ensuring the values and attitudes of the profession are demonstrated throughout the student learning experience. Furthermore, with forecasted growth in student numbers (and schools), in addition to the increasing recognition of medical education as a specialty, the national pipeline of such individuals is likely to be lacking.

Leadership is imperative to ensure the future of the NHS. Literature suggests that due to the “inherent tension between costs and patient welfare” (Bohmer 2012:6), only medically qualified leaders should make those kinds of judgements (ibid). Promoting opportunities for developing exposure to these complexities is certainly of benefit to the future shape of the NHS and an important part of the skills needed to build on these systems. As the NHS emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic, the importance of leaders who understand all levels of patient care and management of resources will be crucial to the next stage of the service’s development.