Balancing leadership and clinical responsibilities is a perpetual challenge for doctors. As academic foundation doctors we ‘psych ourselves up’ for leadership during the application and interview process. By the end of final year we start explaining why we were so excited about going to Leicester. Suddenly FY1 starts, it’s all night shifts and weekends, and the promised research does not immediately materialize. As an AFY2 I know that this can be tricky, but it is possible to keep your eye in.
One approach is to try to write something small like an abstract or a letter. Along with my intercalation supervisor, I wrote a letter to Lancet Psychiatry. Medication policies for people living with HIV had been the topic of my dissertation and I noticed a paper in Lancet Psychiatry had made some common mistakes. I already had a working knowledge of the subject so I didn’t have to do too much reading. It was a short piece so it did not take too long to write. And letters to the Lancet have to arrive within 2 weeks of publication, so I could not let it drag on.
In some ways I was lucky. It could be frustrating if your supervisor is too busy to get on board. It would also be difficult if you find a paper to write about but you’re not sure what you want to say.
But on the whole I would recommend it. Writing a letter refreshed my knowledge of the core issues in HIV policy. It keeps your academic writing sharp. And it also helps to maintain your relationship with that tutor which is particularly valuable if you see them as a potential mentor.
Another way to do this is to write a letter with somebody who you hope will supervise you next year. This gives you chance to sound them out: do they have the same interests as you? Are they serious about supervising you? It also gives you a chance to show them that you are keen.
We’ll be posting more thoughts on being a Leadership AFY1 soon. If you are a leadership AFY1 and you’re trying something original, drop me an email.