How Academic Posts can offer ‘enormous benefits’

Morgan Liotta

20/02/2024 3:33:39 PM

Ahead of applications for the next round of the program, past and present academic registrars share highlights and expectations.

Sonia Srinivasan, Shaddy Hanna, Jasmine Lau
(L–R) Dr Sonia Srinivasan, 2023 participant of the RACGP’s Academic Post Program; Dr Shaddy Hanna and Dr Jasmine Lau who both commenced their posts this year.

When asked, Dr Sonia Srinivasan has nothing but positive words to say about the RACGP’s Academic Post Program.
A member of the 2023 cohort, Dr Sonia has many highlights from what was a ‘wonderful’ year of personal and professional development.
‘I learnt how to manage three roles, all of which complement one another: clinical general practice, medical student teaching and primary care research,’ she told newsGP.
‘I had the opportunity to independently lead small group tutorials for medical students covering a variety of topics, attend research meetings, present at conferences and contribute to the preparation of grant applications.’
Throughout the working week of her post undertaken last year with Monash University, Dr Srinivasan found the variety motivating, with teaching students offering ‘enormous benefits’ for her own Fellowship exam preparation and clinical practice.
But Dr Srinivasan’s greatest highlight was travelling across Australia to attend conferences with other registrars.
‘This was both professionally rewarding and also just great fun,’ she said.
‘One of the best parts of the program is meeting a network of like-minded general practice registrars with varied interests in research, medical education and leadership.
‘My cohort network are all colleagues who I deeply admire and look forward to following their different career trajectories across Australia and internationally after the Academic Post.’
The Academic Post is a part-time, 12-month Australian General Practice Training term which enables registrars to develop research, teaching, project management and critical evaluation skills, completed alongside clinical training, with mentoring and support from training providers, universities and the RACGP.
Two of the program’s latest participants are Dr Shaddy Hanna and Dr Jasmine Lau, who commenced this month.
Dr Hanna told newsGP he sees it as ‘a wonderful opportunity’ to be introduced to the world of general practice academia, research, and medical education.
‘I have always had an interest in [these fields], and the Academic Post seemed like a unique opportunity to see this interest integrated with my clinical work during my training as a general practice registrar,’ he said.
‘The opportunity to balance a few days of clinical work alongside a few days in a university academic general practice department has felt like a dream come true.’
Meanwhile, Dr Lau was inspired to apply by her supervisors, who during her first term as a general practice registrar had one foot in clinical work and the other in medical education and research.
‘My supervisors encouraged me to take opportunities to teach medical students where possible and get involved in near-peer teaching and learning, which I enjoyed more than I expected,’ she told newsGP.
‘They also showed me it was possible to explore a combination of clinical and non-clinical work even at this stage of my career.’
All Academic Post participants undertake a research project, and Dr Hanna’s is ‘Understanding how Australian GPs make decisions about utilising coronary artery calcium scoring in cardiovascular disease [CVD] risk assessment’.
Dr Hanna has a personal interest in CVD prevention, given it remains a significant cause of morbidity and mortality.
‘My experience in clinical general practice has helped me appreciate the significant role Australian GPs continue to play in preventing CVD,’ he said.
‘With guidelines and technologies constantly changing, I am keen to understand how Australian GPs have been navigating one of the more recent changes, namely the use of coronary artery calcium scoring as a tool GPs can consider utilising in cardiovascular disease risk assessment.’
At the University of Sydney’s General Practice Clinical School, Dr Lau’s project focuses on ‘GPs’ attitudes towards prescribing psychostimulant medication for management of ADHD in adults’.
‘There is a growing conversation around the barriers to accessing quality ADHD care in Australia, which I have seen firsthand among my patients, who have resorted to rationing their medication until they can next see their psychiatrist for a prescription,’ she said.
‘One proposed solution is expanding GPs’ role to include diagnosing ADHD and initiating psychostimulants, but there hasn’t been any recent qualitative research about what GPs in Australia think about their role in ADHD care, so I’m really interested to hear what they have to say about this proposal, particularly as we wait for the Scope of Practice Review to report its findings.’
Dr Sonia Srinivasan receiving her 2023 RACGP Foundation Charles Bridges Webb Memorial Award.
Next month, Dr Srinivasan will join other members of her Academic Post cohort in presenting at an RACGP webinar showcasing the previous year’s research.
Her project involved analysing an online community of practice, the Australian Contraception and Abortion Primary Care Practitioner Support (AusCAPPS) Network, which helps GPs, nurses and pharmacists to deliver essential reproductive health services in the community.
‘Long-acting reversible contraception such as intrauterine device insertion and medication abortion can both be delivered in primary care, and we wanted to understand what kind of support and resources are needed to facilitate more GPs and other primary care clinicians to provide these services,’ she said.
The college is a supporter of the AusCAPPS Network, and recently provided Dr Srinivasan with an RACGP Foundation Charles Bridges Webb Memorial Award to fund the project.
Having now completed her general practice training, she has decided to continue the ‘combined career life’, working three days in general practice and two days as a Research Fellow in the department where she did her Academic Post.
‘I highly recommend the Academic Post to any registrars with an interest in “creative careers” in medicine – those who combine traditional Fellowship pathways with other professional interests,’ she said.
‘It exposes you to the huge variety of career opportunities that are possible with RACGP Fellowship, and the split clinical and academic time allows you to develop specific skill sets that give you the confidence to pursue these pathways further.’
Meanwhile, Dr Lau is hoping to get a ‘close-up look’ at how to build a creative and varied career on a foundation of general practice during her time on the post.
‘In shaping the next generation of doctors in medical education, in addressing gaps in our health system through general practice research, or even branching into other special interests in primary healthcare, like addiction medicine or adolescent health,’ she said.
‘I’m also hoping to find answers to my research question … and feel very privileged to be surrounded by a team of GP researchers and medical educators.’
For Dr Hanna, he is excited to be involved in medical education with a special focus on general practice.
‘I was so lucky to have wonderful GP educators as a student when I was in medical school and that was so formative in developing my interest in general practice,’ he said.
‘I’m looking forward to helping partner with students in our university general practice clinical school to help them see the value and wonder of general practice as a career in medicine … [as well as] working with GPs in my research project to understand their perspectives and partner alongside them to be a part of research that improves clinical practice and guidelines.’
Applications for the RACGP’s 2025 Academic Post Program are from open 6 May until 15 July. More information, including the application guide and registration for the 6 March research showcase webinar, is available on the RACGP website.
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