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Careers in academic psychiatry

What is academic psychiatry? Academic psychiatrists are doctors who undertake research into the causes and treatments of mental illness, alongside their clinical work. They are the leaders of their profession, and make an important contribution to teaching and training

Why should you consider academic psychiatry?

Careers in academic psychiatry combine cutting edge neuroscience with clinical expertise and as such provide a high level of intellectual challenge. The development of new techniques for neuroimaging and genetic analysis makes this an exciting time to be studying brain diseases. Clinically informed research provides the chance to make discoveries about the brain which can improve the lives of patients.

What is the pathway for academic training?

Many deaneries, including Oxford, offer the chance to do an Academic Foundation Programme after graduation. This two-year programme focuses on developing clinical skills across a broad range of specialities, but also offers research training and time away from clinical practice to undertake a research project.

The next step is an Academic Clinical Fellowship (ACF) in psychiatry. This is a three-year programme with 25% research time and 75% clinical time. This allows doctors to gain further research experience and apply for research fellowships, at the same time as acquiring clinical skills in psychiatry and undertaking post-graduate membership exams for the Royal College of Psychiatrists. A limited number of ACF posts are funded by NIHR, this coming year, there will be an additional 4 ACF posts supported by the new Oxford Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC). The ideal outcome of an ACF is a research fellowship which enables doctors to take time out of clinical training to undertake a PhD/DPhil/MD.

We are delighted to announce a new DPhil (PhD) scheme for clinicians, dedicated to mental health, and funded by the Wellcome Trust. The usual point of entry will be after completion of core training and MRCPsych, but applicants at earlier or later career stages are also welcome. The deadline for applications is 10 January 2014, with the degree to start in October 2014. The scheme pays clinical salary at the appropriate rate, as well as fees and experimental costs. 3-4 places will be available. Further details and how to apply here!

On completion of a research degree, clinical training can be completed as an Academic Clinical Lecturer (ACL) in a range of specialities (e.g. general adult, old age, forensic or child and adolescent psychiatry). An ACL offers the change to undertake postdoctoral research and working time is divided equally between research and clinical practice.

Is this the only pathway for academic training?

No, whilst this is the most widely recognised way to an academic career, it is not the only way to become an academic psychiatrist. For example, it is not necessary to have an ACF appointment in order to get involved in research, and prepare a fellowship application to fund time out of a clinical training programme. All higher trainees (registrars) in psychiatry have a special interest day, and some people use this day to develop research interests. Finally many University departments offer Clinical Research Fellowships or Clinical Lecturer positions, and these can be alternative routes to developing an academic career.

Why choose Oxford?

The Department of Psychiatry in Oxford is keen to encourage prospective psychiatrists interested in research. Its research is internationally renowned and covers a wide range of conditions e.g. depression, dementia, bipolar disorder, suicide and eating disorder, using a variety of approaches including neuroimaging, epidemiology, clinical trials and experimental medicine. There are therefore many opportunities for trainees seeking research experience.

Research training and support for all academic trainees in the Oxford Deanery is co-ordinated through Oxford University Clinical Academic Graduate School (OUCAGS). Formal research training is available for ACFs through the (fully funded) Post-Graduate Diploma in Health Research, and through courses which are run by the Medical Sciences Division.

In addition to research excellence, the Oxford School of Psychiatry offers a high standard of clinical training. There are many opportunities for clinical – academic links through the MRCPsych course, professorial meetings, Journal Club, academic CPD Meetings and opportunities for teaching medical students. 

How to apply:

Applications for Academic Foundation and ACF posts are advertised nationally in the BMJ and via the Oxford Deanery website (usually in September – October). At this stage the focus is on applicants’ academic potential, and those with limited research experience are still encouraged to apply. ACL posts are advertised in the BMJ and via Oxford University (usually advertised in March – April), and Clinical Lecturer posts are advertised through the University, when available. Prospective applicants are very welcome to get in touch with members of the Department, including current academic trainees.

For further information:

Please contact Dr Jonathan Price (Department), Dr Denise Best (OUCAGS), or any of the current academic trainees. Further information about integrated academic training is available through the NIHR website and OUCAGS.