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A new destination for clinical academic training and careers

Published: 20 December 2021


Earlier this year, the Clinical Academic Training Forum (CATF) launched a new website to promote the role of clinical academics and support health professionals beginning their clinical academic journey. Called CATCH, the Clinical Academic Training & Careers Hub, aims to be a one stop shop for information on academic careers. 

A resource for both current clinical academics and clinicians that are considering taking steps towards roles in academia, CATCH will hope to promote opportunities and inspire talented individuals to embark on academic careers.  

Here at St George’s, University of London, where clinical academic roles are key, we have already established the St George’s Academic Training (GAT) programme, which will complement this new, national tool. We spoke with Professor Nidhi Sofat, who heads up the programme, to find out more about clinical academic training at St George’s, and how trainees will benefit from both GAT and CATCH.  

What clinical academic training is run at St George’s? 

Through GAT, we offer training for clinical academics at St George’s, with the majority of the posts funded by the National Institute for Health Research.  

We called it GAT because we wanted it to have an identity and badging so people who come to do jobs with us can feel that they are part of something.  

We created a website, which features testimonials from people who have done projects with us and the amazing things a lot of them have gone on to achieve. The website allows us to have a forum for our trainees to do workshops. The GAT handbook is also on the website and gives information about practical things like setting up contracts and approaching mentors in particular areas someone might be interested in.  

Because GAT has become recognised, we have been able to set up a postgraduate certificate in research skills and methods, which is a newly launched course and has been running the last two years.  

We’ve attracted many of our trainees and academic foundation year doctors to do this diploma, which increases their research skills, so they can build a project idea and hopefully get funding for an MD or PhD and do their research training with us.  

We also have the free ResearchAware lecture series. These cover common topics like how to read a paper, how to do statistical analyses, and how to do systematic reviews. These have been very well attended and since we’ve gone online, it’s been even better. We’ve opened it up to Trust staff, and through the Translational and Clinical Research Institute (TACRI), we’ve been able to reach more and more people who need to know about research that are clinically qualified, but might not be as confident in the area.  

We’re trying to cover the whole remit from early career development to established academics who may need updates on certain things. We’ve been able to put various clinical academics in touch with trainees who want to do projects with them. 

What will CATCH add? 

CATCH will give a more national perspective, particularly on providing information on funding streams, national opportunities and conferences. It’s endorsed by big funders such as the Medical Research Council and Wellcome Trust, which shows it’s had significant investment to meet its aims of being the place for information on clinical academic careers. 

On the website, they provide advice about different career options and across the four home nations. There are differences between GPs, surgeons and other medics, and the site will help to tease that apart. As well as that, it will highlight the industry perspective as well, giving the option of going into or collaborating with industry on clinical trials or other studies.  

Why is training important? 

The pandemic has shown why it’s important to keep on training. It’s shown if a new disease comes along you need clinicians who are research aware who can help deliver the trials and new treatments. 

It says on the CATCH website that a lot of academic trainees were redeployed and got involved in recruiting to trials during the pandemic. If you don’t have a medical workforce that is up to date on how to do research and carry out studies, then we won’t necessarily be able to improve medical care. The two go hand in hand. With new technologies that are constantly evolving, such as digital technology, artificial intelligence and new treatments, there’s never been a more important time to have clinical academics.  

Academic Clinical Fellow roles at St George’s are currently advertised on ORIEL, which is a national system where clinicians can apply for jobs.  

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