How can we promote Academic GP careers? Exploring the experiences of academic GPs.

Talk Code: 
Zoe McElhinney
Catherine Kennedy, Lisi Gordon, Anita Laidlaw, Robert Scully, Calum McHale
Author institutions: 
University of Dundee, University of St Andrews


Academic general practice is vital to the development of the profession, in creating evidence, translating research into useable guidance for clinicians and policy makers, and educating the next generation of doctors. It does, however, remain largely invisible to many outside academic practice, and is not considered by many GPs until later in their careers, if at all. The need for clear academic career pathways for the next generation has been highlighted for many years. Although the Walport Report (2005) and the subsequent MMC career pathways led to the creation of academic career posts for GPs, concerns remain that career pathways are unclear, in particular for those GPs who wish to enter academic careers after completion of specialty training.

This sets out to answer the following questions:

• How do GPs experience the transition to academic careers?

• What are the enablers and barriers to developing an academic career?

• How does becoming an academic GP alter their professional status?

• What do academic GPs view as career success?


This study is a secondary analysis of data collected for two separate research projects investigating aspects of academic general practice carried out in 2019. The study takes a constructivist approach, analysing written narratives and semi-structured interviews with nine academic GPs involved in undergraduate education, and focus groups and individual interviews with 14 GPST s, 14 academic GPs involved in clinical and educational research, and five non-academic practising GPs. In line with the constructivist approach, this use of multiple data sources allows for the examination of the phenomenon from multiple viewpoints, enabling a more in-depth understanding.

Analysis of the data employs a framework based on Feldman and Ng’s (2007) perspectives influencing career mobility embeddedness, and success. NVivo software was used to code the data before a thematic analysis was conducted by the research team.


The analysis explores the enablers and barriers to becoming an academic GP and experiences of developing academic GP careers. The analysis explores this at multiple levels, including structural and occupational labour market factors; organisational and work group factors; alongside personal life and individual personality issues. Issues of professional identity and status in relation to the impact of dual careers are prominent. This work is in progress, and the completed analysis will be available for presentation at the conference in June.


Our research enhances understanding of what matters to GPs in developing academic careers, the enablers and barriers to developing academic careers, and challenges which might threaten sustainability of academic GP careers including perceptions of career success. It provides an important evidence base that can inform a review of academic GP career pathways currently being undertaken in Scotland with a view to developing a national pathway

Submitted by: 
Zoe McElhinney
Funding acknowledgement: 
No external funding received