I am David I Johnston, a current core medical trainee in the RVH. I completed my academic foundation job in 2017 in oncology. I decided to undertake the AFP as I developed an interest in research during my undergraduate studies and wanted to further my experience during my post graduate training. I knew there was scope to take part in teaching medical students during an AFP programme and was keen to pursue this opportunity also.
My 4-month placement was supervised by Professor Richard Kennedy. I undertook a laboratory-based project exploring cancer cell signalling pathways and possible future chemotherapy combination treatments. This project was completed in conjunction with a post graduate researcher which was of great benefit as there was always someone to give assistance in times of need. My project allowed me to gain experience in a number of basic laboratory techniques including; western blotting, PCR, cell culture, drug dosing regimes etc. I also increased my experience and confidence with literature reviews and statistical analysis. As part of my AFP I completed a ‘Certificate in Academic Medicine’ with QUB. With this qualification you complete an extended abstract outlining your work and also deliver presentations on your work. To date QUB is unique in offering this qualification.
Since my AFP, I have completed a clinical attachment in oncology also, and these opportunities have cemented my aim to pursue a career in oncology. My AFP opened doors with regards; contacts within oncology, poster presentations and possible publications.
The team organising AFP placements with QUB are very approachable and keen to help students out. Before applying to the programme, I had a number of questions answered by the team. The wonderful thing about the programme is the flexibility it offers trainees. This level of flexibility in not present during clinical attachments. You can explore teaching opportunities within QUB (this is expected of AFP trainees), you can manage your own time and can explore whatever project you want – in conjunction with your supervisor.
One aspect I was nervous about before applying was ‘being left to my own devices’ or being out of my depth in a research project given I had limited previous experience. In reality, the supervisors leading each project are keen to help trainees and will ensure you are equipped and trained adequately to complete your project.