James Fullerton, MBChB, 2008 | Clinical Lecturer

James FullertonDr James Fullerton is an NIHR Clinical Lecturer at UCL.  James graduated from Birmingham in 2008 and was awarded the Arthur Thomson Gold Medal. 

What are your career experiences since graduating from the University of Birmingham?

After graduating in 2008 I embarked upon an Academic Foundation Programme, working clinically at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire for the full two years. During this time I undertook research with Prof Gavin Perkins (University of Warwick) into the identification of critical illness in the pre-hospital environment; work which subsequently won the Royal Society of Medicine emergency medicine section award.

In 2010 I moved down to London, to undertake my core medical training (CMT) as an Academic Clinical Fellow in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics (CPT) at University College London Hospital (UCLH). The post afforded six months of protected research time which I spent gathering preliminary data in the laboratory of Prof Derek Gilroy (UCL), and subsequently led to my winning a Wellcome Trust Research Training Fellowship.

Following completion of my CMT in 2012 I commenced my PhD at UCL exploring the role of prostaglandin E2 in critical illness-induced immune suppression, aiming to assess whether its antagonism or suppression would restore immune competence in selected intensive care patients.

I completed my degree in 2015 and embarked on a year abroad in Sydney, Australia, working with The George Institute for Global Health Critical Care and Trauma Division on clinical trial set-up academically, and as an intensive care registrar clinically.

I returned to the UK in September 2016 to continue my training in CPT and General Internal Medicine, being appointed an NIHR Academic Clinical Lecturer at UCL/UCLH.

What is your current role and what does it involve?

As an NIHR Academic Clinical Lecturer I spend 50% of my time working clinically in the NHS and 50% of my time undertaking research. In addition I have considerable involvement in the education of both undergraduate and post-graduate students at UCL.

Working as a clinical pharmacologist I am afforded considerable freedom to pursue my academic interests – latitude rarely experienced in the modern health service. Clinically, by not being limited to one organ system and also in managing a huge range of medical pathology, including many complex cases. Additionally I have input into local, regional and national policy and formulary decisions and have had exposure to higher-level management from an early stage.

What do you love the most about your job and what is the biggest challenge?

The answer to both is the diversity within the role. I’m involved in clinical care, research, education, management and policy-making. This means that no day is ever the same and (wonderfully) you are never bored. It also means that I get to meet and work with a diverse group of dynamic, driven people who keep you on your toes. The downside is that I am often time-conflicted and that my work-life balance is not as distinct as I would like.

How did your degree help prepare you for your career? What subjects/ modules/ experiences did you find the most valuable?

Undertaking the graduate-entry programme with its problem-based learning approach taught me to think laterally and to take responsibility for my own education: an invaluable skill set. Being an avowed medic from the off I have to say that I loved all my medical placements but perhaps the ARICM module the most. Early exposure to acute and emergency care and the rigour of intensive care has shaped my academic interests ever since and taught me to do the basics well in clinical practice – the rest tends to fall into place.

As a winner of the Sir Arthur Thompson Gold Medal, how do you feel it has helped your career?

I can only suspect that winning the medal has been instrumental to my achievements to date. Success begets success in the academic world and the award of such a distinguished honour at an early stage in my career has perpetually set me apart from my peers.

What attracted you to studying at Birmingham?

Academically, friends who had been at Birmingham recommended the University to me. Socially and culturally, Birmingham is a large, vibrant, well connected city undergoing significant rejuvenation and urban renewal – it was exciting to be part of that.

How would you sum up your time in Birmingham in three words?

Studying with friends

What inspired you most during your time at Birmingham?

I loved being in a group of interesting people (the graduate-entry students) drawn from alternate academic backgrounds and with different life experiences. We were exposed to passionate lecturers and teachers from an early stage and, as a whole, got to experience and see the full gamut of where a medical career can take you over the course of the degree. Most of all however I think it was the friendships forged across the year group as time went by which made all the hard work manageable and (almost) enjoyable.

What advice would you give to people who are considering studying medicine at Birmingham?

Don’t rule it out! Birmingham as a city is still associated with preconceptions, many of which don’t hold true today. Equally I have encountered a lot of intellectual snobbery in favour of Oxbridge and the London Universities with regards to where one should train. On graduation I felt as well equipped, if not better equipped, than many of my peers from other institutions to practice clinically and have never felt inferior. What really determines if you will get where you want to is you. Birmingham, with its world-leading scientists, range of hospitals and consequent experiences will equip you with the intellectual skills and tools to excel.

How would you advise people to make the most of their time on their course?  

Just enjoy it, don’t fight it. Make friends, undertake extra-curricular activities and remember that you only get to do it once.