Clinical academic doctors combine teaching, research and treating patients. This enables them to stay at the forefront of clinical knowledge while training the next generation of doctors.
The decision to embark on a clinical academic career does not need to be made while still in the medical degree. There are various stages of training in which a career in clinical academia can be considered. If starting early, however, then this will be with an intercalated degree.
An intercalated degree in medicine is an opportunity to combine a regular medical degree with an additional year of studies in a related field. This might include research or teaching, and typically revolves around a research project of the student’s choice. It is therefore an opportunity to both engage in original research while still at undergraduate level and to get a sense of academic medicine.
Intercalation is applied for during the medical degree and will require the completion of two or three years of the degree before it can be undertaken. Specific intercalation courses are offered at different universities around the UK, so intercalation will likely take place at a different university from where the medical degree is studied.
On completion of the intercalated year, the student returns for the final two or three years of the medical degree. The result will be the awarding of both a medical degree and an additional degree, often a BSc or MSc. This opens up the possibility of later studying for a PhD.
Intercalation offers the chance to pursue topics from a broad range of fields. This includes many areas of biomedical research such as microbiology or genomics, medical humanities such as history or philosophy, or crossover subjects with veterinary sciences such as zoology or veterinary epidemiology. The list of intercalation courses is available at intercalate.co.uk, which is run by Hull York Medical School.
Academic Foundation Programme
The Academic Foundation Programme is an opportunity to engage in the workplace training offered by the regular Foundation Programme while also gaining experience in academic, teaching and leadership work. The main difference is the potential to pursue a research project.
The areas of academic work which can be engaged in differ between the foundation schools. In balancing their roles, those on the Academic Foundation Programme have more responsibility in managing their own time.
It is not necessary to enter academia after the Academic Foundation Programme, nor is it necessary to take the Academic Foundation Programme in order to enter academia. Equally, it is not necessary to have taken an intercalated medical degree in order to access the Academic Foundation Programme. Doctors may of course seek different things at different points in their training, so the routes are flexible.
After the Academic Foundation Programme, doctors usually enter the training pathways of the National Institute for Health Research while continuing to work in both clinical and academic roles.
Routes to academic medicine
The Medical Research Council has an interactive career framework which can be used to explore career and funding options in more detail.
The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) offers a large range of training and career development awards, available at different levels and accessible by different professional backgrounds.