Meet the RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research Program

Jan 28, 2013, 9:00 AM

This is part of a series of blog posts introducing programs in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Human Capital Portfolio. The RWJF  Scholars in Health Policy Research program fosters the development of a new generation of creative thinkers in health policy research within the disciplines of economics, political science, and sociology.

Some of the nation’s most pressing health policy issues—such as the future of the Affordable Care Act, federal funding for medical research, and the health of underserved populations—are being addressed by a group of top scholars who make up the RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research program.

"The program has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to focus 100 percent on my research and to expand my research agenda to questions and topics I wouldn’t have considered otherwise."
- Brigham Frandsen, PhD, Cohort 17 Alumni, Economics

The program, initiated in 1992, was created to attract social scientists—economists, political scientists, and sociologists—to health policy research and analysis and to maintain their commitment to these fields in their future positions. Scholars in Health Policy Research frequently go on to careers in academia, government, and think tanks. By fostering a multidisciplinary approach to health policy, the program leads to innovative collaborations that can ultimately improve the health and health care of all Americans.

The field of health policy research offers exciting opportunities to help reform our health care system in ways that promote the health of our people, improve access to health care, and increase the quality, equity, and efficiency of care delivery. Clearly, any sector of the economy that is expanding to consume almost one-fifth of the gross domestic product deserves the attention of the most gifted scholars. The contributions of economists, political scientists, and sociologists are now increasingly sought out by policy-makers and the public. As the health sector has grown in size and complexity over the past three decades, so too has the need for high-quality research and analysis to guide development of health policy at the national, state, and local levels.

The Scholars in Health Policy Research program will celebrate its 20th anniversary at its annual meeting this spring as it welcomes its 20th cohort of scholars. The Boston University Health Policy Institute serves as the national program office (NPO), providing direction and technical assistance. Alan B. Cohen, ScD, is the program director, overseeing the three sites at Harvard University; the University of California at Berkeley and San Francisco; and the University of Michigan.

In 2012, the program held the first meeting of its newly formed Research Impact Advisory Council, composed of nine Scholars in Health Policy Research alumni. The Council, which will meet semiannually via conference call, is meant to assist current scholars and program alumni in becoming effective social change agents within the health policy field. In 2013, the program will continue to strengthen its growing network of Scholar alumni, and will also sponsor a field trip to Washington, D.C. for first-year Scholars to meet and interact with federal and national policy-makers.

Read more about the RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research program.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.