Written By Dr James Booker
@BecomingaDr AFP Team
First published: 8 July 2020
For the next article in our AFP Series, we have been chatting to Dr James Booker, incoming Academic Foundation Doctor in Southampton. Read on to hear James tell us about his AFP application and provide tips on making a strong application.
Hi! I’m James, a Southampton medical school grad and incoming AFP at Southampton General Hospital in Surgery & Oncology.
Throughout medical school I have been interested in neurology and neurosurgery which led me to undertake a BMedSc in neuroscience and an MSc in Clinical Neurology for my intercalation. Following this I set up an education company specialising in the teaching of neuroanatomy to medical students and other healthcare professionals. Alongside this I have been a key member of the near-peer teaching society based in Southampton and I have had a pivotal role in organising and writing questions for the National Neuroanatomy Competition.
These experiences have fostered a passion for teaching and medical education, which I hope to build on as a Module Lead for Becoming a Doctor’s upcoming AFP course.
Why did you apply to the AFP?
The highlight of my time at medical school was presenting the thesis of my master’s degree at an international conference in Toronto, Canada. During the conference I was able to witness the generation of new treatment guidelines based on the latest evidence from bench-to-bedside. This experience allowed me to appreciate the wide-reaching difference a clinical academic can make and was the motivation for me to apply to the AFP.
Why did you choose to apply to your particular Units of Application?
I aspire to be an academic neurosurgeon, and as a result, my choices were based on the neurosurgical units I wanted to work in during my research block. In addition, I looked at my application critically and only applied to UoAs that I felt I had a strong chance of getting an interview at. Subsequently, I applied to North West England and Wessex deaneries ranking their surgery/neurology jobs.
What went into preparing your application?
I started preparing my application in my 4th year of medical school. This involved contacting any supervisors that I had done projects with to try and bring them to completion. In addition, I submitted completed projects for publication and presentation at both local and national conferences. My mantra in all of this was to get the maximum output from any work I did outside of my medical studies.
Additionally, I attended two AFP courses and read the book AFP secrets by A. Khajuria, which I feel really helped in my preparation. I wrote my answers to the white space questions as soon as the questions were released to allow me time to send them to doctors for feedback.
How did you prepare for interviews?
I contacted supervisors that I wanted to work with during my AFP. This allowed me to show my interviewers that I was serious about doing the AFP on their programme and that I had a plan to make the most out of the opportunity. Speaking to current AFP doctors who had been through the same interview process for advice was also invaluable. I would also highly recommend practising interview scenarios with fellow AFPs applicants from your medical school. This allows you to look confident and slick at interview, especially in the clinical scenario station where the A-E can become an extended monologue.
I am under no illusion that juggling preparation of interviews with commitments at clinical placement and revision for final exams is challenging. However, I found that preparing for AFP interviews massively helped in my preparation for finals, so it’s worth it
How were your interviews?
The interviews had a similar feel to medical school interviews; many highly impressive applicants piled into a waiting room, all wanting the same job, which can be quite intimidating. However, the interviewers firstly want to ensure that you are a safe doctor, and secondly that you are as passionate about the AFP as your application says you are. Despite some tricky questions, there was a remarkable amount of overlap between interview stations from previous years and consequently, I felt my preparation really paid dividends.
What do you wish you had known before I applied?
That the interview station that carries the most weight is always the clinical scenario. Focus on acing this station before spending too much time perfecting your critical appraisal technique or memorising the abstract of recent papers you’ve read.
Resources you recommend
- YouTube series by Ali Abdaal on the Academic Foundation Programme
- Academic foundation programme secrets by A. Khajuria
- Critical appraisal for the AFP by A. Shah.
- Medical Interviews by O. Picard
Here at Becoming a Dr we have several exciting upcoming activities coming up to support YOU prepare for YOUR AFP applications! These include:
- The rest of our AFP blog series, covering the application process and what you can do to make a competitive application
- An online panel discussion featuring our team of AFP doctors with a Q&As on preparing for your AFP applications
- The official launch of the Becoming a doctor AFP programme, featuring an innovative series of e-modules to help you get your AFP jobs