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Research Department of Primary Care and Population Health Blog



Experiencing the World of Academia as an FY2 Doctor

By Nathan Davies, on 18 July 2017

In this post Danielle Roberts describes her experience during her four-month academic placement with PCPH’s British Regional Heart Study (BRHS) research team. Danielle_Roberts

I am a foundation year 2 (FY2) doctor; this means I am in my second year of working as a doctor after finishing medical school. Foundation doctors undertake 4-monthly placements, rotating around different hospital departments, general practice or other community posts. The aim is to provide newly-qualified doctors with rich and varied experiences before we apply for speciality training posts.

I was fortunate enough to have secured a place on an academic foundation programme, which meant that one of my 4-month placements was designated to be a research post. With these bespoke academic placements, there is a lot of flexibility with what you can pursue depending on your areas of interest. My future career plans are to become an academic GP, with research interests in public health; and thus it was a great privilege for me to be able to spend my research placement within UCL’s PCPH department. With such a plethora of leading research groups within PCPH, I was spoilt for choice; however considering my main passion for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, I decided to join with the British Regional Heart Study (BRHS) research group.

The BRHS research group are a very friendly, helpful, supportive and fun team to work with. Not only was the placement overwhelmingly productive, but I had an enjoyable four months too. Whoever said research is boring……we had several social trips out for lunch, lots of food and lots of laughs!

The BRHS has a wealth of data from an original cohort of 7735 middle-aged men aged 40-59 years  from 24 British towns, initially recruited in 1978-1980. These men have been regularly followed-up  for morbidity and mortality since including a physical re-examination in 1998-2000 when aged 60-79 years.   My research project investigated the prospective association of individual socioeconomic position and neighbourhood-level socioeconomic deprivation with incident type 2 diabetes mellitus in older British men (60-79 years). We found that diabetes risk was higher in lower social classes and in areas of greater socioeconomic deprivation. For manual social class this was mostly explained by body mass index and triglycerides. For neighbourhood-level socioeconomic deprivation it was largely explained by body mass index and to a lesser extent, other lifestyle factors (smoking, alcohol, physical activity, diet etc.). Our results support the need for public health campaigns specifically targeting obesity as a fundamental means towards preventing type 2 diabetes and reducing socioeconomic inequalities in older adults.

Completing the project during the placement was a big achievement in itself, as I had never used sophisticated statistical software before; yet under the guidance of my supervisors, I was able to write and run my own codes by the end of the project. I also started to write up the first draft of my project as a scientific paper. This was my first experience of writing a research paper. Writing the draft enabled me to develop skills in literature searching and the ability to read and critically appraise evidence. By the end of the four months, I successfully submitted my abstract to an international Public Health conference in Canada, and so I will be presenting our work there in June 2017.

What I really liked about this placement was the flexibility. The BRHS team were very accommodating, so I was able to pursue various interests alongside my primary goal of completing the research project. For example, I wanted to develop my teaching skills, and so I attended a formal “Training to Teach” course and then used the skills I had learnt to teach 4th year UCL medical students together with GP trainees. Additionally, as my future career plans are towards general practice, I was able to arrange some GP taster sessions during my placement, which allowed me to gain further experience.

Believe it or not, this is just a highlight of some the things I was able to achieve during my 4-month placement with the BRHS team! This list could go on, but I want to just take this opportunity to say a massive thank you to all the members of the team who supported me and enabled me to make the most out of the time I had. For any future FY2 doctors, who are searching for a rich and varied academic placement, with a strong research focus, but with the flexibility to allow for the pursuit of other interests too, I cannot think of any group more suitable than PCPH’s British Regional Heart Study group.

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