Academic post applicants have ‘nothing to lose and much to gain’

Morgan Liotta

28/04/2023 1:33:15 PM

Previous participants say the experience positioned them ‘perfectly’ to balance all that encompasses being a GP.

University lecture
A combination of research and teaching with a clinical workload, there are only 20 academic post positions available across Australia each year.

When asked if she would recommend applying for an RACGP Academic Post, recent participant Dr Laxmi Iyengar does not hesitate.
‘If you’re like me and are a person that likes to take risks, learns from mistakes, thrives on learning new skills, are enthusiastic and committed – this is the perfect position for you,’ she said.
‘I am a very curious and opportunistic person by nature, and this was such a good opportunity.
‘Learning new things and advancing my skills is also something that really excites me, so this position was just perfect … I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity.’
A general practice registrar based in Melbourne, Dr Iyengar said she was ‘very fortunate’ to be awarded an academic post last year, as well as the specialised Australian Journal of General Practice (AJGP) Editorial Fellow position, which comprised a research project and also an editorial role with the journal.
With the post offering a year of full variety compared to just full-time clinical work, she applied as a way to experience the world of primary care research and a life in academia.
‘What I didn’t know was that this year was going to be so much more than that,’ she said.
‘There were opportunities to collaborate with other researchers, to be involved in departmental meetings, to contribute to medical education.
‘My advice to registrars is that even if you feel that research is not your thing, and you’re not interested in teaching at all, it is just a 12-month position and is such a wonderful opportunity that I would just do it anyway to get a taste for it.
‘Then you know you’ve tried it, and if you don’t like it, then that’s fine, you’ve got nothing to lose and so much to gain by applying for this position.’
The RACGP’s Academic Post Program offers a taster for general practice registrars to experience research and teaching alongside clinical work as part of their Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) Program term, with applications set to open in May.
There are two specialised posts within the program; the AIDA post offered to an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander general practice registrar, and the AJGP post Dr Iyengar completed, which incorporates a standard academic post with additional editing work.
Speaking to the RACGP’s Academic Post Coordinator about her experience, she said the academic post program primes participants ‘perfectly’ to balance all that encompasses being a GP.
‘It was the perfect eye opener to the breadth of primary care research, I really enjoyed it,’ she said.
‘Our role as GPs extends far beyond providing clinical care – it extends to leadership, research, education, and to critically review information and guide our patients in healthcare decision making, which this role enables.’
Split between research and teaching and a clinical workload, there are only 20 academic post positions available across Australia each year.
‘They are highly competitive … so it’s very good to do to get a taste of primary care research,’ Dr Iyengar said.
The AJGP editorial position replaces teaching responsibilities that usually form part of the academic posting, but Dr Iyengar nonetheless ‘strongly encourages’ registrars to still be involved in teaching.
‘I was actively involved in the department, which is a great way to get to know other academics as well as contribute back to the medical community,’ she said.
‘I taught as a volunteer with Monash Rural Health, as well as the department of general practice and was teaching approximately once every 3–4 weeks.
‘It was a busy but great year.’
The AJGP post involves using critical review skills and judgement to evaluate new knowledge, which is done alongside experienced senior medical educators, Dr Iyengar said, and participants play a key role in the peer review of manuscripts to improve the authors’ research and advance medical knowledge.
‘It is so important to understand what makes good research,’ she said.
‘There is a lot of research out there but not all research is good research, and it takes a lot of skill to know what makes it good.’
Based at Monash University, Dr Iyengar’s academic post research project was a collaboration with Monash Rural Health. She conducted a qualitative study exploring the barriers and enablers of older persons’ health assessments in Australian primary care.
‘It involved interviewing GPs on their views … I learnt so much from being involved in this project, about the methodology of qualitative research,’ she said.
‘I’m also very grateful to the RACGP for the research funding they provided, it’s very generous and appreciated. This includes personal development courses, and research purposes such as conducting research, conference attendance, etcetera.
‘There’s a lot of other support, including weekly meetings where you’re guided by a senior researcher who’s in charge of looking after the academic registrars.’
The RACGP Academic Post is a 12-month (0.5 FTE) training term on the AGPT Program, which has officially been taken over by the specialist medical colleges – the RACGP and ACRRM – since February this year. Successful academic post applicants will work half-time in clinical practice, and half-time within a university or rural clinical school.
Applications are open from 1 May until 17 July.
The 2024 Academic Post Program application guide and support webinars are available on the RACGP website.
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