Dr Mark Russell is an Academic Clinical Fellow in Rheumatology at St George's.
Why did you choose to apply for an ACF at St George’s?
"Having enjoyed both the clinical and academic aspects of my medical degree, I wanted to apply for a post that would give me protected research time during my clinical training. The NIHR-funded ACF post at St George’s allows me to spend 25 per cent of my time doing research across three years of my clinical training. This gives me the opportunity to learn new research skills and collect pilot data, which will be a big advantage when applying for fellowships and future academic posts.
"As a budding rheumatologist, St George’s is a great place to train, both clinically and academically. The Institute of Infection and Immunity provides me with access to a large number of research groups, facilities and training opportunities."
What had you done before applying for the post?
"As part of my medical degree, I gained some exposure to lab-based research in the form of a one year intercalated degree and a summer research project. During my Foundation programme training, I focused more on gaining experience in writing case reports, literature reviews and quality improvement projects, as well as teaching medical students.
"Although some experience in writing and presenting a paper is certainly a useful skill to have developed by the time of your application, I think it is important to state that having a large portfolio of publications and presentations is not a prerequisite when applying for ACFs, particularly for applicants at earlier stages of their training."
What were the application and interview process like?
"The ACF posts are advertised on the Oriel NHS website along with most other clinical training posts. Keep an eye out for specific ACF posts though, as they can easily be missed on the website.
"I found the NIHR website very useful in detailing the number of posts available and informing me on how to approach the application process. The application process itself was relatively straightforward. Most importantly, make yourself familiar with the relevant person specifications (on the NIHR website) several months in advance of your application. I had two 20 minute interviews, one of which focused on my academic achievements whilst the other was centred on clinical competency-type questions and ethical scenarios.
"Something else to note is that, should you be awarded an ACF post, you will still need to attend the corresponding national clinical interview process, to ensure that you meet the 'appointable' criteria."
How did you go about arranging your research placements?
"There is often a relatively long time period between when you are offered your ACF post and commencing research placement. In my case, this was around 18 months. When choosing a research topic, I think it is important to consider whether it is a field that you might like to specialise in subsequently, as well as considering how the topic fits in with your clinical interests. I decided to focus my academic placements on clinical trials-based research, as this is something I hope to do during my future career as an academic rheumatologist."
What has it been like balancing the academic and clinical aspects of the post?
"The ACF posts are designed such that they shouldn’t normally prolong the overall duration of your clinical training. You are still expected to meet the same clinical competencies as a non-academic trainee, however. As such, I have had to spend more time on ensuring that I meet the necessary ARCP requirements during my clinical placements than I would have done otherwise. It is very much achievable though, provided you don’t mind prompting your consultants and supervisors to fill in their ePortfolio tickets every now and then."
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Last Updated: Friday, 23 December 2016 09:49