The Health Policy Fellowships Program

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellowships Program is one of the Foundation's oldest programs, spanning nearly three decades. It provides one-year fellowships for physicians and other health care professionals to work on health policy issues in Washington, D.C., generally on Capitol Hill.

Only two other major Foundation initiatives can match the longevity of the Health Policy Fellowships Program: The Clinical Scholars Program, the Foundation's postdoctoral training program for young physicians interested in careers in health services research, and the National Health Policy Forum, a Capitol Hill seminar series, co-funded with a number of foundations, which enables Congressional staff members to discuss health policy topics with a range of experts.

The Health Policy Fellowships Program illustrates a primary Foundation strategy of investing in people who are then expected to play leadership roles improving health care, health policy, and public health. Over its history, the program has had other goals, such as increasing the ability of academic medical centers—the professional homes of many of the fellows—to negotiate the world of public policy and to tap the expertise of bright young medical professionals to improve public policy itself.

In this chapter, Richard Frank, the former editor of the National Journal, offers a historical overview of the Health Policy Fellowships Program from its inception through the spring of 2001. In the process, he describes how the program works, how it has changed over the years, and how some of the Fellows view their experience.