Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars

An RWJF National Program

Dates of Program: 1972––present

Field of Work: Post-residency training for young physicians in health services and health policy research

"The first 25 years of the program are responsible for the legitimacy of health services research and health policy research as major disciplines in the country. The program and its investments have created a national base of physician leadership in academic medicine and in health care delivery," says Gary Gottlieb, MD, MBA, president and CEO of Partners HealthCare, Boston

Problem Synopsis: The health care system in the United States has grown increasingly complex. The creation of federal programs such as Medicaid and Medicare in the 1960s, the advent of managed care in the 1980s, and the 2010 passage of major health care reform requires physician leaders with a broad perspective on health, health care, and medicine.

Physicians who are researchers and academicians need to be trained as thoroughly as subspecialists in other disciplines, but with a focus on such issues as:

  • The organization and financing of health services
  • The contribution of medical care to overall population health
  • The impact on health care of economic, social, and demographic forces—and the relationships among them

Synopsis of the Work: The program offers graduate-level study and research in a university-based, post-residency training program leading to a master’s degree. The core curriculum introduces Scholars to nonbiological disciplines and methods used in health services research and community-based participatory research.

Since 2002, these four schools have trained Clinical Scholars:

  • University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), School of Medicine
  • University of Michigan Medical School
  • University of Pennsylvania Health System
  • Yale University School of Medicine

The Clinical Scholars program fosters the development of physicians who are equipped to lead the transformation of U.S. health and health care through positions in academic medicine, public health, and other leadership roles.

Key Results

  • As of August 2012, the program had produced 1,176 scholars. In 2012, some 52 Scholars were participating in the program.

    The impact of the program can be tracked, in part, by the ascendency of Scholars to positions of leadership, their impact on health services and health policy research, including community-based participatory research, and their influence within specialty areas of health care, including pediatrics and emergency medicine.

    • Graduates have become directors of major federal, state, and local health agencies and departments; hospital CEOs; leaders in the fields of health services research and health economics; foundation executives; and leaders in academic medicine.
    • When the Clinical Scholars program began, health services and health policy research were new ideas. By making a long-term commitment to training hundreds of clinicians in these fields, the program helped legitimize and institutionalize them within academic medicine.
    • Clinical Scholars lead five of the seven Pediatric Quality Measures Program Centers of Excellence created by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in 2009.
    • Scholars helped to “propel emergency medicine into the mainstream of health care, especially in the academic world,” according to an article in the April 2010 issue of Academic Emergency Medicine.
    • Since 2005, Clinical Scholars have taken the lead in community-based participatory research. A supplement to the December 2009 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showcases community-based participatory research conducted by current and former Scholars.

As of August 2012, the Clinical Scholars program had graduated 1,176 Scholars. Many have moved into leadership positions in academia—some 179 are full professors, 140 are department chairs, more than 100 are vice chairs and division chiefs, and seven are deans of schools of public health or medical schools.

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