Mai Nguyen, Academic Foundation Programme Trainee in Renal Medicine
What attracted you to the academic foundation programme?
Having enjoyed research as part of my previous degree and peer teaching at medical school, I wanted to continue gaining experience in research and teaching alongside developing myself as a clinician. The opportunity of a ‘full time’ academic role to pursue these interests was therefore attractive to me.
How is the Academic Foundation Programme helping you to achieve your academic goals?
I have had excellent support and guidance from my supervisor, Dr Banerjee, with weekly meetings and have thoroughly enjoyed the programme. I understood that 4 months, even with a full-time research role, is too short to complete a large project like a clinical trial. Therefore, after discussing with my supervisor, I decided to undertake one main project, and other smaller tasks designed to enrich my research skills.
I have had the experience of writing an original manuscript as a first author. I have learned to use statistics software to analyse data myself for this project, with helpful guidance from my supervisor and our statistician. I now feel more confident handling data, understanding the statistics and critically appraising the literature – skills that will continue to benefit me in my future career. I have also had experience of writing a research protocol, grant application and ethics application for a larger study.
Without ward and on-call commitments during this research block, I was able to spend more time teaching as a clinical skills tutor with the university. Having undertaken OSCE examiner training earlier in the year, I also participated as an examiner for MPharm exam and mock OSCE for final-year medical students.
It did take me some time to develop a structured timetable for myself; but I eventually learned to appreciate the flexibility of this research block as I was also able to attend conferences, and courses besides my research and teaching commitments.
What kind of research project have you been involved in?
I am currently doing Renal-themed AFP, which is also my clinical interest. My supervisor’s research focuses on cardiovascular burden in renal patients. My main project is to study the effectiveness of a new Kidney Failure – Heart Failure clinic in improving prescription of life-prolonging medications in a high-risk group of patients. I have submitted an abstract for American Society of Nephrology’s Kidney week and currently in the process of submitting my manuscript for publication.
I have also written a protocol and completed an ethics application for Progression of Arterial and Cardic disease in Kidney patients (PACK-Extended study). I also received a grant from St George’s Academic Training for a lab project (as part of PACK study) looking at cardiovascular biomarkers in CKD patients using Luminex assays.
What advice would you give to aspiring medical students regarding clinical academic training?
I would say definitely give it a try and see whether an academic career is for you. You have the power to really look into yourself, determine your career needs and aspirations, and decide which direction you would take these four months.
The application did require some organisation and time management, but really wasn’t that much additional work. Do reach out to AFP trainees in the region you are applying to; they can share their experience and give useful region-specific advice on applications and interviews.