Intended for healthcare professionals


Top five attributes for survival in academic medicine

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: (Published 27 January 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i520
  1. Hannah Jacob, academic clinical fellow
  1. 1Institute of Child Health, University College London
  1. hcjacob{at}


Having completed a nine month academic clinical fellowship in education research, Hannah Jacob reflected on the skills she needed that never made it into the job description

1 Self motivation

Life without a bleep or a list of patients was a shock to the system at first, but I got used to having to make my own day happen. It was exciting, but daunting, to know that I would reap the benefits of the effort I put in and that how and when I did it was largely up to me.

2 Resilience

It was hard to withstand what felt like continual criticisms of my methods and findings and even the purpose of my research. I developed a thick skin and tried to be open to challenging questions or suggestions. I realised that criticism that felt personal was often born out of frustration with local services and training and that I was an outlet for these feelings.

3. Patience

The rate of progress felt frustratingly slow at times, when as a clinician I was used to quick fix solutions. I realised how reliant I was on the feedback I got from the immediate response of the person in front of me in clinic. Setting longer term goals helped me celebrate my successes and enjoy the process as well as the final outcome.

4 Flexibility

It was heartbreaking at times when aspects of my research did not work, especially after all the time and energy I had invested in it. Similarly, it was frustrating when some people were less receptive to my ideas than I had hoped. I became better at admitting defeat when I needed to and then coming at the problem a different way.

5 Sociability

It was lonely at times during my research. Not having the readymade team set-up of clinical work was hard to adjust to. I took every opportunity to meet others and found that, just as in clinical work, sharing ideas and frustrations provided strength, perspective, and ways to improve.


  • Competing interests: I am the academic officer of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s paediatric educators special interest group.

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