Perspectives from Current Academic Foundation Doctors on the Benefits and Challenges of the AFP
Applying to the AFP Part 2: In Part 2 of our blog series on the Academic Foundation Programme, we hear from some current Academic Foundation doctors on their application experiences, hits and tips. Let us know what else about the AFP you’d like us to cover by tweeting us @MedicsAcademy or getting in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to download this article to read later, click here for the PDF version.
The benefits of the AFP
Academic jobs only make up 5% of the total posts available for newly qualified doctors, and so are necessarily competitive jobs, requiring extra application steps to the standard programme. What are the benefits of taking on an academic post early in your career?
“I applied for AFP because I’m really keen on a career in clinical research and the experience I have so far in this area (SSCs, intercalated degree) had encouraged me to pursue it further.” – Jess
“[The AFP] allows you to have that time to dip your toes into the world of academia but withdraw from it if you realize it’s not your cup of tea.” – Giulia
“I plan on pursuing a career in academic plastic surgery and saw the AFP as the ideal opportunity to pursue my current research interests alongside clinical work in a supported environment. I believe that the programme offers an immersive academic experience through first-hand experience conducting research during the academic block, extracurricular skills courses and opportunities to network with academics in related fields.” – Luke
“I wanted to apply for the AFP because I knew it would be an excellent opportunity for myself to have 4 months during my foundation years which I could dedicate to my specialty of interest, Dermatology. There are extremely few Dermatology clinical foundation rotations and I really did not want to detach myself from the world of Dermatology for 2 whole years.” – Giulia
Academic posts can also focus on medical education or leadership and management, as well as research.
“Undertaking an academic foundation post will channel my drive to integrate managerial and leadership roles into my career as it will be invaluable to my personal development and enrichment, instilling within me the confidence that comes from knowing that anything is possible if one has the right frame of mind, clear goals and a positive attitude.” – Shreya
White space questions
Most deaneries (with the notable exception of London) require applicants to answer white space questions covering skills and experience in research, leadership, teamwork and other non-technical aspects of practicing medicine. White space questions have strict word limits – take a look at our recent blog post for some guidance on how to make the best use of every word.
“The application for the Academic Foundation Programme requires dedicated time to complete as it requires putting a portfolio together of all your publications, presentations, and awards.” – Shreya
“I found it difficult to strike a balance between selling myself and sounding arrogant, particularly as all answers are limited to between 150-250 words. I would definitely recommend having peers and mentors (both academic and non-academic) to critique your answers.” – Luke
“Try to think of what kind of things they would look for in a future researcher/leader/teacher to invest in – evidence of you carrying through projects and getting results, genuine passion for the field you’re interested in, and well rounded character as a doctor” – Jess
Preparing for interview
Below is selected from chapter 8 of our course, How to Get into the Academic Foundation Programme by George Millar.
Unlike the standard Foundation programme, academic posts require an interview. Some who apply may not have attended a formal interview since they applied to medical school – what advice can you give to those preparing for interview?
“My greatest advice is that preparation is key. The more you prepare your general structure of your answers for both your clinical and academic interview, the more prepared you will seem on the day. You want to reach the stage where you are no longer thinking about the structure of your answers, but you are so prepared that they just roll off your tongue.” – Guilia
“I found preparing for the interview to be the most challenging aspect of applying for the AFP. I initially felt lost and didn’t know where to begin. I got together with a few other friends who were applying, and we devised a group revision schedule whereby we presented papers each week (similar to a mini-journal club), discussed any landmark trials and quizzed each other on the management of common emergencies” – Luke
“Always pause and think before you answer any question.” – Guilia
Coping with the process
AFP applications coincide with other stress points in the final year of medical school – the SJT, PSA and, for some, medical school finals.
“The application was pretty stressful but it’s mostly pressure I put on myself because I was so keen to get a place.” – Jess
“It was stressful because it was something that meant a lot to me, therefore, I spent a lot of time preparing for my interview for the two months prior.” – Giulia
What advice would you give to finalists who are juggling their AFP application with other medical school and personal commitments?
“Start preparing for your application early on, speak to current AFP trainees and gain feedback for your application.” – Shreya
“Final year can be a nightmare as the shift from medical student to doctor becomes ever more apparent. Having said that, I found revising for the clinical interview to be the perfect introduction into finals revision I needed as it provided a solid foundation for the management of common medical and surgical emergencies.” – Luke
“I just set aside blocks of time to work on my answers when I could clear my head and think about it.” – Jess
We’ve written about coping with stressful situations before.
Pearls of wisdom
“Make sure you don’t neglect the clinical side – you need to firstly pass finals, but also an academic foundation doctor is still a foundation doctor and you need to be good (and extra organised) at that side too!” – Jess
“I would highlight the importance of remaining calm” – Giulia
“Getting or not getting an AFP post will not make or break your academic career – there are plenty of opportunities to engage with academia throughout clinical training.” – Luke
How can Medics.Academy help me apply for the AFP?
Medics.Academy is dedicated to improving healthcare education. Helping the coming generation of doctors to succeed is a big part of our vision.
One of the original HLA Scholars, Dr George Miller, created a course for the Medics.Academy platform to help you apply for the AFP. George’s AFP application was ranked in the top 10% nationally. With his training, you can strengthen your written application and better prepare for interviews.
Look out for our next article in the AFP series, in which we’ll hear from Dr Miller about how to approach writing answers for white space questions.
About the Author
Anna Harvey is a final year medical student and Medics.Academy Fellow. She is interested in women’s health, education and journalism. You can find her tweeting about writing, music and running at @a_c_harvey.