GPs in training: Opportunity to lead in clinical research

Morgan Liotta

27/04/2022 3:11:30 PM

Applications for the 2023 AGPT Academic Post Program will open from 2 May, with the position offering an insight into life as an academic GP.

People studying
The academic post takes place at the same time as clinical study.

For GP in training Dr Karen Freilich, combining academia with clinical work was a long-sought goal – and one she was able to achieve by undertaking an Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) Academic Post.
‘The program provides a completely new way of managing day-to-day activities, and provides an excellent opportunity and insight into one way to embark on a career as an academic GP,’ Dr Freilich told newsGP.
‘Balancing the academia and clinical work is very symbiotic – they definitely enhance each other, and I love having the balance.’
With applications for the 2023 AGPT Academic Post Program set to open next week, the RACGP’s ongoing commitment to higher degree research provides GPs in training with the opportunity to complete a PhD or other project alongside their clinical work.
The academic post is undertaken part time over 12 months and is designed to teach academic skills using individualised learning plans alongside mentoring and support from training providers, universities and the RACGP.
Dr Freilich’s 2022 academic post project forms part of a PhD at Monash University and is the next step in the ORIENT Study: ‘Nurse-led models of care to improve LARC and medical abortion access in rural and remote general practice’.
While it is estimated that one in five Australian women will have an abortion in their lifetime, access to services – particularly in rural areas – and high out-of-pocket costs remain significant hurdles.
Dr Freilich hopes to improve access through ‘task shifting’ models in primary care, where nurses are upskilled and trained to provide long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) and early medical abortion, expanding on GPs mostly providing the services in city areas.
‘Women in rural and remote Australia are 1.4 times more likely to experience an unintended pregnancy,’ she said.
‘This is multifactorial, but we know that there is reduced access to LARC and medical abortion in rural and remote Australia.
‘Currently, around 10% of GPs in Australia are trained in early medical abortion, however most of them are located in urban settings.’

Dr Karen Freilich has found the Academic Post Program an ‘excellent introduction’ into working as a clinician–researcher in primary care.

Rural GPs and practice nurses can be a part of the study, which Dr Freilich said will seek to improve access to LARC and early medical abortion in rural and remote Australia through nurse-led models.
‘Nurse-led models of care are becoming increasingly prevalent and popular in multiple areas of medicine,’ she said.
‘This project will hopefully improve sexual and reproductive health outcomes in these areas. It will also aim to upskill the primary care nurse workforce.’ 
Dr Freilich said being a part of the 2022 academic post cohort has helped to enhance her clinical work.
‘I have loved the academic post – it is an innovative and comprehensive way to provide [GPs in training with] experience in research and teaching,’ she said.
‘I have loved being involved in teaching medical students in a supportive environment. It is also an excellent introduction into working as a clinician–researcher in primary care.
‘The program has ensured we have ongoing training, education, interactive modules, and an excellent cohort who can learn from each other.’
The academic post allows GPs in training to diversify their skillset, as well as support the development of a future workforce with the skills to undertake and lead general practice research.
‘I feel very lucky to be given this opportunity,’ Dr Freilich said.
‘I would recommend this program to anyone interested in either teaching, research, or both. It counts as general practice training time, which is a huge bonus.
‘It is a structured way to have a supportive experience in multiple facets of academia. My biggest advice: choose a topic you’re passionate about, as you will become a mini expert in it.’
The 2023 AGPT Academic Post Program runs for 12 months from January 2023 – January 2024. More information on how to apply is available on the RACGP website.
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