Broadening my concept of a career in general practice

Dr Tim Monaghan on undertaking an academic post
Undertaking an academic post has undoubtedly been one of the highlights of my medical career and I strongly recommend it for any registrars who have an interest in research or medical education.

My academic post broadened my concept of what a career in general practice can entail, provided me with incredible training opportunities and allowed me to make a great group of friends with whom I remain in close contact.

Prior to undertaking medicine I had worked as a solicitor at a corporate law firm for a number of years and I had always been considering different ways to be able to combine skills learnt during my previous career with medicine, and the academic post proved an ideal program for this.

The use of general practice data for research and the associated privacy implications was of interest for me, and I was able to link in with a supervisor, Associate Professor Jo-Anne Manski-Nankervis at the Department of General Practice at the University of Melbourne, who is a leading researcher in this area.

What is an academic post?

An academic post is a 12-month, part-time (0.5FTE) Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) term involving both teaching and research which is undertaken concurrently with clinical work.

To apply for an academic post you need to link in with a university involved in the program, this is often via your Regional Training Organisation (RTO), discuss your research interests and then find a supervisor to collaborate with to develop your research proposal for the application. The process of drafting your research proposal for the application is quite involved, so I recommend starting early.

What my academic post looked like

The training in research and teaching I received through both the Department of General Practice at the University of Melbourne and the national academic post program was extremely beneficial, both for the academic post and for my ongoing career.

At the Department of General Practice, I received structured training in quantitative and qualitative research methods and medical student education, as well as regular informal mentorship coffee catch-ups and career guidance.

In addition, we were able to meet up with registrars from around Australia completing the academic post during workshops involving training, a chance to present our work and social activities. Further, using the professional development funding you receive as part of the academic post I was able to undertake additional external training courses relevant to my research and attend the GP19 and the Australian Association for Academic Primary Care (AAAPC) conferences in Adelaide.

Whilst it does take some time initially to get used to juggling part-time clinical work with the teaching and research responsibilities as part of the academic post, it is definitely manageable and gets easier as the year progresses (I sat my RACGP fellowship exams and welcomed a new baby to my family during the term!)

My work week involved two days working in the clinic (there is a minimum of 14.5 hours of clinical work per week), two and a half days conducting my research and teaching activities and then a morning off (which I typically used to study for exams and looking after the new bub).

During the term, I presented my research, a qualitative study examining the attitudes of general practitioners, practice nurses and practice managers to providing de-identified patient health data from electronic medical records to researchers, at the AAPC conference and then published the project in the Australian Journal of Primary Health.

What I am doing after my academic post

Since completing the term I have continued to work at the Department of General Practice at the University of Melbourne, initially as a Research Fellow in Antimicrobial Stewardship in 2020 and now as a Clinical Informatician with ongoing research into the use of primary care data.

I have also kept up my teaching, tutoring 1st-year medical students at the University of Melbourne, and continue to regularly catch up with the other Academic Registrars from the Department who have gone onto diverse roles such as lecturing in primary care, undertaking a PhD and working on the COVID-19 response at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Dr Tim Monaghan graduated from the University of Melbourne in 2013 and worked at St Vincent’s Hospital, Monash Health and a variety of rural hospitals around Victoria gaining experience in a breadth of disciplines prior to taking up General Practice. In addition to his role as a GP at Mackie Road Clinic, Tim is currently working part-time in a teaching and research capacity at the Department of General Practice at the University of Melbourne.