Sam Finnikin - Senior Clinical Tutor

Sam talks about his research as part of the Research Engagement Hub.

I have worked in the same practice since I completed my training in 2015. I started as a salaried doctor and am now an associated partner with a view to signing up as a partner next year.

I work 5 clinical sessions a week and am fortunate that my practice, Sutton Coldfield Group Practice, are very supportive of my academic work.

They have been very flexible about my clinical sessions allowing me to take advantage of opportunities that arise in my academic time. They also appreciate the knowledge and experience I bring from my academic work. I am the research lead for the practice and take an active part in quality improvement.

As a clinical academic, the clinical bit comes first for a reason. I enjoy the non-academic part of my job and feel it is very important to be a good clinician first and foremost.

My patients directly influence my academic work; they keep me grounded and inspire me to focus on research that is relevant to them. But the clinical work is hard.

The hours are long and clinical days are cognitively exhausting. When you do two jobs part time, it is difficult to compartmentalise them. So invariably, I will finish a clinical day with a long list of emails to read and possibly respond to which I find difficult at times.

I didn’t see myself as an academic. I’d been involved in writing a couple of case reports as a foundation doctor, and enjoyed learning, but further academic pursuits had never really crossed my mind.

My research background

What made me apply for this opportunity?

One of the contributing factors was that I lived 10 minutes’ walk from the University and the academic job would involve a lot less commuting, as well as another year of being a trainee (and I enjoyed being a trainee). On top of this, I was soon to be the proud father of twins, so I thought being closer to home with some longer-term certainty would be a good idea.

It was quite difficult to find out what the academic training programme would involve, so I decided to contact the programme lead at the University of Birmingham; one Helen Stokes-Lampard.

Of course, Helen is now well known to most GPs as a past chair of the RCGP (amongst other things), but at that time I didn’t know Helen. I soon found out; however, she was very friendly and welcoming and incredibly enthusiastic about academic general practice. She answered my questions about the academic programme to the point where any reservations I had were quashed.

I met Helen in person at my interview panel and she was soon to be a great source of support and inspiration to me, before she went on to bigger things with the RCGP.

The interview for the academic programme could have been daunting. My CV wasn’t much to speak of, and my motivation was perhaps a little dubious. But I soon relaxed when I found I was the only applicant (for three places!). The lack of competition, and me not completely bombing at interview, resulted in me starting as an academic trainee at the University of Birmingham in 2011.

I’ve never looked back, and it is no understatement to say that Helen was instrumental in the direction my life took.

Research advice

My advice for those considering a career in academia is always plan for the next step early. Have one eye on the long-term plan, as difficult as this can be at the time. The successful clinical academics (a group I do not count myself in) have a clear path punctuated by smaller, achievable projects.

About the writer

After medical school, Sam Finnikin spent some time as a general duties medical officer with the Royal Army Medical Corps. He left the army in 2011 and started his GP training as a civilian in a standard (non-academic) training position.

In Sam's second year as a trainee, an academic training post was advertised locally. Sam decided to apply and was successful. Sam now holds the position of Senior Clinical Tutor at the University of Birmingham and is Associate partner at Sutton Coldfield Group Practice.

To read more research case studies, visit the Research Engagement Hub.