Alison Ward, Director of Oxford University's Postgraduate Certificate in International Primary Care Research Leadership, explores the origins of the new Postgraduate Certificate, which is now open to applications.
Primary care research plays an essential role in developing innovating ways to improve patient care at frontline services. However, despite a large growth over the last 10 years, primary care research is still in its early stages of development compared to other research specialties. There remains a disproportionate amount of research funding on uncommon problems compared to that spent on the common problems seen more often in primary care. To improve the health of populations a strong primary care research system is essential. Training in primary care research has advanced considerably in the last decade including Masters and DPhil programmes in primary care research ensuring that high quality rigorous research is being conducted internationally. However, there is still a need for international leadership in primary care research.
This was recognized in 2002 by a small group of heads of departments of primary care from 8 countries (England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, The Netherlands, Germany, Australia, USA and Canada). The group met in Brisbane (the Brisbane Initiative (BI)), Australia with the aim of developing an initiative to improve the quality and capacity of primary care research internationally. The BI operates under the aegis of the World Health Organisation of Family Doctors (WONCA). Amongst the various activities proposed by the BI was a leadership training programme in primary care research, which was then taken forward and funded by the Department of Primary Care at the University of Oxford. Aimed at post-doctoral primary care researchers, the new leadership programme began with a pilot in 2006 consisting of a five day residential in Oxford for 14 participants from England, Scotland, Netherlands, Germany, Australia and Belgium. It aimed to foster and develop future leaders in primary care research, and in the long-term establish a critical mass of current and future leaders in primary care research internationally.
By 2009 the leadership programme was expanded from one residential in Oxford to a two year part-time programme consisting of a total of three residential meetings in Oxford spread over the course of two years. Based on its outstanding success it was decided to develop the programme into a Postgraduate Certificate course at Oxford University from 2018 with a formal curriculum. The course uses structured and supported experiential learning to enable participants to integrate theory, evidence, personal cognitive and emotional styles, and specific skills to become effective leaders equipped for current contexts and for further professional development. Participants are supported to identify their own development needs, form peer learning sets and establish a two-year follow up programme. They are provided with access to current leaders in primary care research, experts in strategic leadership and one-to-one coaching.
To date, over 100 primary care researchers from nearly 50 universities worldwide have participated in Oxford University’s primary care research leadership programme, and we have now held 23 residential meetings in Oxford. Participants have found the programme inspirational, influential and a career defining experience. They incorporate what they learn on the programme into their research, clinical and educational work.
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