Meet the Health Policy Fellows Program

Jul 23, 2013, 9:00 AM

This is part of a series introducing programs in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Human Capital Portfolio.

The RWJF Health Policy Fellows program will celebrate its 40th anniversary this year. The program supports exceptional midcareer health professionals and behavioral and social scientists to actively participate in health policy processes at the federal level and gain exclusive, hands-on policy experience. Heralded as the “nation’s most prestigious fellowship at the nexus of health science, policy, and politics,” the Health Policy Fellows program provides health professionals the opportunity to work on Capitol Hill and in the Executive Branch, gaining front-line experience in federal health policy-making and an insider’s perspective on our country’s political process.

Founded in 1973, the program is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and sponsored by the Institute of Medicine within the National Academies of Science.

Health Policy Fellows have become some of the nation’s most influential leaders in the health care field. As professors, deans, and presidents at major academic institutions, directors of voluntary health organizations and health professional societies, leaders in state and federal government, and experts at think tank and advocacy organizations, the Fellows are transforming the nation’s health care policy and practice.

“The RWJF Health Policy Fellowship provides firsthand experience in the legislative process to shape federal policy to improve public health and health care,” said Marie E. Michnich, DrPH, director and alumna of the program. “As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the program this year, we recognize its legacy in attracting some this nation’s most talented leaders in health and health care.”

The recent accomplishments of former fellows include the selection of Robert G. Frank, PhD (1991-1992 fellow) as the 21st president of the University of New Mexico (UNM). Before his appointment Frank held the posts at UNM of provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, and dean. In 2011, he was appointed by the United States Department of Defense to the Defense Health Board, a federal advisory committee to the Secretary of Defense. He is past president of the Division of Rehabilitation Psychology of the American Psychological Association. 

In June, Richard Rieselbach, MD (1985-1986 fellow) received this year’s Richard Neubauer Advocate for Internal Medicine Award from the American College of Physicians. Rieselbach is an advocate for health care reform, and professor and associate chair of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical School. As a fellow, he worked for the late Senator Ted Kennedy as a health policy adviser; he has continued to support Kennedy’s legacy by advocating for community health centers, which the senator enthusiastically supported. One of Rieselbach's goals is to support the growth of partnerships between academic medical centers and community health centers. “We must rejuvenate internal medicine if we’re going to be successful in implementing the Affordable Care Act,” Rieselbach said. “Education through community health centers will create a significant increase in primary care physicians who are devoted to caring for the underserved.”

These are only two examples of the many recent accomplishments by Health Policy Fellows that reflect the program’s tradition of grooming the nation’s most formative leaders in health policy. The 2013-2014 cohort of Health Policy Fellows will arrive in Washington, D.C. in September. “Our 2013–2014 fellows continue to raise the bar,” Michnich said, “and as with past fellows, their experience on the Hill and in the Administration will enhance their leadership roles at the local, state, and federal levels.”

Read about the 2013-2014 RWJF Health Policy Fellows.

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