ICAT programme overview

Academics looking at research and innovation data on a screen representing research at the School of Psychology at the University of Leeds

Funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) and in partnership with Health Education Yorkshire and Humber, the School of Medicine's Integrated Clinical Academic Training (ICAT) programme allows our medical and dental trainees to undertake research alongside their clinical training.

ICAT plays a critical role in the improvement of clinical practice and helps to ensure the best possible education is delivered to the doctors and dentists of tomorrow.

What is a clinical academic?

A clinical academic is someone qualified and trained in both medicine and science. As a medical clinical academic you will spend part of your time involved in direct clinical care (perhaps treating patients in the NHS), and the rest of your time undertaking original scientific research or educating the next generation of doctors or dental practitioners. This balance depends on you as an individual and will likely change throughout the course of your career.

As a clinical academic you have an important role to play, as your work will be key to improving patient care and ensuring the supply of high-quality medical and dental professionals.

How do I become a clinical academic in medicine?

The road to a clinical academic career is challenging but also extremely rewarding. This is an exciting time to get involved in clinical research as significant advances in technology are driving the development of treatments for a huge range of conditions.

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To become a doctor, as an MBChB graduate, you'll complete two years at Foundation School, followed by specialist training in your chosen clinical specialty. Completion of clinical training results in the award of a Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) and provides the opportunity to gain a clinical consultant post.

In the Integrated Clinical Academic Training (ICAT) pathway, opportunities for academic training run alongside clinical training at all stages:

  • As an MBChB student, you are able to undertake research by intercalating (BSc, MRes or PhD).
  • You can also get involved in the Academy of Medical Sciences INSPIRE programme.
  • Academic Foundation Programme training posts include a four-month research-orientated rotation.
  • During core and specialist training you can undertake an Academic Clinical Fellowship (ACF), typically for three years with time split between 75% clinical and 25% research activities.
  • As a clinical trainee, you can undertake an externally funded PhD or MD (typically for three or two years full-time).
  • Clinical trainees (ST3 or higher) holding a PhD or MD are eligible to apply for a Clinical Lectureship (CL), comprising a 50% clinical and 50% research split.

Clinical training continues alongside academic training to CCT, following which you can apply for a Tenure Track Fellowship or Intermediate/Clinician Scientist Fellowship. Both of these fellowships can lead to a tenured university clinical academic position.

How do I become a clinical academic in dentistry?

The best advice is to take any opportunities that comes your way. These include opportunities during your undergraduate studies such as:

  • Intercalating (BSc, MRes or PhD)
  • Attending education events (such as those run by the Academy of Medical Sciences INSPIRE programme)
  • Focusing on fifth year projects (available to all dental students at the University of Leeds)

Once qualifying as a dentist, there are further opportunities in the early years post qualification. These are supported by Health Education England and include specific posts which allow you to spend one day a week working with an established research group undertaking research, as well as completing a Postgraduate Certificate in Health Research Methods. To date we have offered these academic taster posts to dentists either in Dental Core Training or in General Dental Practice.

NIHR funds approximately two Academic Clinical Fellow posts in Leeds each year. These posts can be offered to dentists at different stages of the career. In each of these posts the Academic Clinical Fellow receives around a quarter of their timetable dedicated to research with the aim of applying for an externally funded PhD. In Leeds we have offered the following types of Academic Clinical Fellow posts:

  • Post 1 – Academic Clinical Fellow Dental Core Trainee. This is a three year post where the trainee rotates around different Dental Core Training posts. Applicants can be at DCT 1, 2 or 3 level. The nature of their clinical timetable is based on their clinical experience to date and their long-term clinical career goals.
  • Post 2 – Academic Clinical Fellow in Primary Dental Care. This is a three year post where the trainee wants to continue their career in primary dental care.  The nature of their clinical timetable is based on their clinical experience to date and their long-term plans of working either in the general dental service or the community dental service. The post will provide clinical rotations in both environments.
  • Post 3 – Academic Clinical Fellow in speciality training. This is a three year post where the trainee want to be a specialist in one of the 13 recognised specialities in dentistry. To date, we have offered posts in the following specialities (oral pathology, restorative dentistry, paediatric dentistry, oral surgery and dental public health). The clinical training will follow the clinical curriculum laid out for the specific clinical speciality.

Academic Clinical Fellow posts are normally advertise in the autumn each year and are often a mixture of posts 1, 2 or 3 above. A successful outcome for these posts is where the Academic Clinical Fellow secures an externally funded PhD and then undertakes the PhD as the next stage of their academic training.

NIHR also funds each year one Clinical Lecturer post in Leeds. This post is for a dentist who already has a PhD and wants to continue their clinical and academic training. The post provides 50% research time and 50% clinical training time. This allows the clinical lecturer to continue either in their specialist training or working in primary dental care. Clinical training continues alongside academic training with the expectation that clinical lecturers apply for a Tenure Track Fellowship or Intermediate/Clinician Scientist Fellowship. Both of these fellowships can lead to a tenured university clinical academic position.

About the programme

At Leeds, our NIHR-funded ICAT programme currently has 34 Academic Clinical Fellows and 14 Clinical Lecturers, with 12 trainees undertaking externally funded PhD fellowships. 

Academic Clinical Fellow posts are recruited through Health Education Yorkshire and Humber, with CL posts advertised on University of Leeds Job Search.

Programme structure

The ICAT programme at Leeds has one dental and five medical research strands, each overseen by a deputy Academic Training Programme Director (dATPD). The Programme spans 24 clinical and four dental specialties and has posts in four NIHR Research Priority themes:

  • Platform Science ("omics") & Bioinformatics
  • Therapeutics/Clinical Pharmacology
  • Acute Care
  • Older People & Complex Health Needs

Programme management

The medical strands are led by Professor Phil Quirke, Sub-Dean and Academic Training Programme Director for West Yorkshire.

Oversight of the programme's academic performance is undertaken by:

  • Professor Paul Stewart, Dean of Medicine
  • Professor David Wilkinson, Postgraduate Dean
  • Dr David Eadington, Deputy Postgraduate Dean

The dental strand is led by Associate Professor Peter Day.

Oversight of the programme's academic performance is undertaken by:

  • Professor Jenifer Kirkham, Dean of Dentistry
  • Mr. James Spencer, Postgraduate Dental Dean and Health Education Yorkshire and Humber

Day-to-day administration of the programme, including the Academic Clinical Fellow research training programme and the conference and travel bursary, is undertaken by Jo Bentley, ICAT Programme Manager, with the support of Karen Lawson, ICAT Programme Administrator.

For many of the generic research training events, dental academics join their medical counterparts. The faculty wide ICAT programme is overseen by Professor Phil Quirke, Sub-Dean and Academic Training Programme Director for West Yorkshire.

Outcomes for Leeds IAT

As of March 2018 the Leeds programme has been completed by 76 Academic Clinical Fellow and 34 Clinical Lecturer. Of these:

  • 49% of Leeds Academic Clinical Fellows move into externally funded PhD/MD fellowships
  • 8% of LeedsAcademic Clinical Fellow move directly into CL posts
  • 21% of Clinical Lecturers are awarded Clinician Scientist/Intermediate fellowships
  • A further 18% of Clinical Lecturers move to Clinical Academic/University-funded Associate Professor/tenure track posts

Athena SWAN

The School of Medicine holds an Athena SWAN Silver Award, recognising our significant record of activity and achievement in promoting gender equality.

Since 2006 the Leeds ICAT programme has had 158 trainees join the programme. Of these:

  • Of 110 Academic Clinical Fellows, 54% are male and 46% female.
  • Of 48 Clinical Lecturers, 62% are male and 38% female.
  • Of the 13 trainees who were awarded Clinician Scientist/Intermediate fellowships or who moved into University academic tenure track posts, 46% were male and 54% were female.

This proportion of women working in clinical academic training compares favourably with the national average of 28% (Medical Schools Council Clinical Academic Survey, 2014), but we recognise there is much work to do and remain committed to achieving our goals, which include reducing the gender pay gap to 5% and significantly increasing the number of female clinical professors with the School of Medicine.

Learn more about Athena SWAN and the Leeds Gender Framework.