WHAT IS THE AFP?
The AFP is a type of Foundation Programme that provides a dedicated time for foundation doctors to get involved in either academic research, education, management, leadership and other areas such as health informatics and quality improvement projects. It includes either a 4-month block in your FY2 year or it can be integrated into your second year, for example as a day release (1-2 days a week) throughout FY2.
There are a minority of AFPs that are integrated into the two years. It is dependent on the ‘Academic Unit of Application.’ These are a group of foundation schools that have joined together for the purpose of AFP application. For example North West Thames, North Central, East London and South Thames are the London AUoA.
You will be required to work on a project that either you have formulated yourself, or a predetermined project, or joining a team on an ongoing project. The level of autonomy and flexibility is AUoA and project dependent. The post comes with an academic supervisor who will oversee your work and there is usually a local university affiliated to your Foundation school that will support your learning during your academic post. Some AFP posts come with an element of clinical work such as on calls or a half day in a clinic that allows you to maintain and update your clinical knowledge. Whilst some may have no clinical commitments in the 4-month academic block.
People choose to do an AFP instead of the FP for various reasons, such as:-
As a route into academia for people that already know they want to go into academic medicine. However It is important to know that you do not have to do an AFP to be able to get into academic medicine.
As an opportunity to explore whether an academic career is desired.
As an avenue for networking, teaching, CV building, some AFPs (especially those with educational and leadership involvement) come with the opportunity to complete a PGCert which can either be fully or partly funded by the Trust.
For some, it is a way to guarantee being in a location and or getting desired job rotations.
HOW DO YOU APPLY FOR AFP?
The application process is done via Oriel similar to standard foundation programme application just with the addition of one extra section on the form. You will be required to rank the academic jobs within the AUoA that you are applying to (you are not required to rank all of them). You can apply to a maximum of two out of 15 AUoAs. The application allows you to add more achievements (e.g. publications, presentations) compared to the standard FP. Once you apply, shortlisting is carried out by the AUoA who then invites you to an interview. AFP shortlisting score is determined by adding academic decile score to the AUoA score. The shortlisting process varies across different AUoA and the achievement may be weighted differently according to the AUoA.
Point based- used by all AUoA
Ways to score points include:-
Other degrees- up to two additional degrees (compared to the standard FP which only allows one additional degree).
Presentations (National and International)- up to ten. A poster only counts once i.e if you present the same poster at several conferences, it will only get 1 point.
Academic publication- up to ten
Prizes- up to ten
The London AFP selection includes longlisting, based on your decile score (between 38-42). Followed by shortlisting which is based on the points above and then an interview.
White space- used by some AUoA
Some AFPs require you to answer six open-ended questions on why you want to take part in the AFP. These questions are unique to AUoA, and are released when applications open. They are usually centred around your academic experience, pertaining to the AFP that you are applying for as well as determining soft skills such as teamwork, organisational and leadership skills. It is best to approach these questions in the same way you would write a personal statement using the ‘STAR’ framework.
Shortlisting is either based on the points or by a combination of points and white space answer scores. If you are shortlisted, you will be required to attend an interview.
Interview styles vary across AUoA and deaneries. I had interviews for London and EBH/East Anglia so I will talk a bit more about them.
London splits the interview into two parts - clinical and academic - each lasting 10 minutes. You will be provided with a brief for the clinical case and academic abstract shortly before the interview starts. The clinical part is usually centred around an emergency case for you to talk through the management options while taking into consideration other ethical and safeguarding issues that might come into play. The academic part, however, may be based on an abstract of a peer reviewed paper or your personal research/publication. You might be required to do a quick critical appraisal of said paper or answer specific questions about the paper. Regardless of the interview structure, the key point is that it is a chance for you to show your passion for academia, demonstrate your competence in clinical medicine and show off your breath of experiences.
The EBH/East Anglia AUoA introduced a new interview style in 2020. This interview consisted of three stations with 1-2 questions per station. You might be asked to prepare a plan on how you might approach one of the modules of the AFP. This would also form one of the stations.
It is advisable to research the interview style of your AUoA ahead of time and ensure you get lots of interview practice.
Candidates find out the outcome of their applications from mid-January, at which point you will have 48 hours to either accept or reject the offer. There are usually multiple cascades for offers, so if you did not get an offer in the first cascade, there might still be a chance with the second or third cascades.
The Academic Foundation Programme is competitive as spaces are very limited. If your AFP application is unsuccessful, then you will be automatically included in the FP application for that year. So, if you are considering applying for an AFP but you are worried that you will not get in - apply anyway as you have nothing to lose! Nevertheless, it is important to remember that there are also other ways to get involved with academic medicine besides the AFP.
Firstly, make sure the AFP is for you. Would it meet your goals? Will you enjoy it? Does it come with job rotations that you like? Is there a level of flexibility in the projects (if desired)? etc.
Do your research. Try to get into contact with anyone who has done or is doing the AFP that you are interested in. They will usually be able to give you more details about what the job entails. You can also contact the assigned supervisor for any questions prior to your application.
Prepare for you interviews- VERY IMPORTANT. It is useful for a small group of peers for interview preparations.
Ask for help- Reach out to friends/mentors/academic tutors to proofread your white space questions if applicable or help you with interview prep.
I need to have published lots of papers to be able to get in.
You do not! There are many ways to score points for your application. Seek and take up opportunities to get involved in research as a student but if you have not published a paper by the application time, do not let it stop you from applying if you really want to do an AFP. Remember there are other ways to score points:
Presentations (National and International)
Academic publication- must have a PUBMED ID
2. The AFP is my way out of doing the SJT exam
Every applicant must take the SJT. Technically, it is not used in the allocation process for AFP but if you have a very low score, you might lose your AFP.
Written by Dr Ekelemnna Obiejesie MBBS BSc AICSM, Academic Foundation Doctor at Brighton and Sussex University Trust
Cover Image ref: USA Today. Osose Obah. https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2020/06/26/u-s-doctor-shortage-worsens-especially-black-and-latino-groups/3262561001/