Profile: David Michaels

A Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow describes how his experience in the program has been transformational, in more ways than one.

    • December 27, 2012

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellows program offers mid-career health professionals exclusive, hands-on policy experience with the most influential congressional and executive offices in the nation’s capital. For David Michaels, PhD, MPH, who became a Health Policy Fellow in 1994, the experience was transformational.

“Being an RWJF Health Policy Fellow dramatically changed the trajectory of my career,” says Michaels, who is now Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In 1997, after completing his fellowship, he received a call from President Bill Clinton's White House inviting him to become the Department of Energy's assistant secretary for Environment, Safety and Health. Though reluctant to move to Washington, Michaels had become “absolutely smitten with health policy” while a Fellow and accepted the offer. He developed a policy solution that Congress enacted as the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program, which provided more than $6 billion to workers and their families who were sickened or died from radiation exposure caused by the government’s nuclear weapons program.

The Health Policy Fellows program changed David Michael’s life … and the lives of thousands of Americans.

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Profile of a Leader

RWJF Health Policy Fellow alum David Michaels has used health policy to improve public health and change lives.

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