Sheldon Oliver Watts, program officer, joined the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) in 2019, bringing his expertise in academic and community settings to his work with the Foundation’s Research, Evaluation, and Learning (REL) unit. Through his work he weds his interest and experience in population/community health and well-being with RWJF’s goal of advancing health equity and promoting a Culture of Health. He views his role as contributing to the Foundation’s multi-pronged approach to health, furthering its respect for diversity and inclusion, and supporting its resolve in tackling health inequities. As he puts it: ‘We are tapping into complicated and sealed systems using novel collaborative strategies; focusing on equity; and reducing inequity in health and well-being across the lifespan.”
Previously, Watts was the national director of the Council on Black Health (formerly the African American Collaborative Obesity Research Network (AACORN)), and a clinical research professor at the Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health, Department of Community Health and Prevention. He also served as the director of undergraduate studies and assistant professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Temple University, Philadelphia. In this position, he was instrumental in instituting an undergraduate intensive 4+1 Master of Public Health option that enabled exceptional public health students to earn a graduate degree in Public Health in five years rather than six.
Watts also served as research coordinator for the New York University FAITH (Faith-Based Approaches in the Treatment of Hypertension), a research study on the feasibility and efficacy of a therapeutic blood pressure reduction program. In addition, he has held other teaching positions at New York University in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health. He earned his PhD in nutrition from New York University; his MPH from Boston University; and his BS from Cornell University.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y, he spent his formative years in Houston before settling back in the Northeast. He presently lives just outside of Philadelphia, in Wynnewood, Pa.
Watts enjoys reading, listening to a broad range of music, cooking, landscaping, and spending time with his family. On family holidays, he and his wife make it a point to expose their children to new spaces, cultures, or ideas that are intellectualy stimulating, exciting, and enjoyable.