Meet the RWJF Clinical Scholars

Sep 16, 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 Clinical Scholars program develops physician leaders to improve health and health care in the United States while preserving a commitment to service and patients.

A number of university professors and deans, hospital CEOs, health commissioners, 45 members of the Institute of Medicine, and even RWJF’s president and CEO have one thing in common: their shared experience as alumni of RWJF’s oldest program, the Clinical Scholars.

“For anyone who wants to be a catalyst for change in the health and health care of our country, the Clinical Scholars program is an excellent opportunity to do so.”

- Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, president and CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Penn Clinical Scholars program ’83–’86)

Founded in 1969 and adopted by RWJF in 1972, the Clinical Scholars program was created to foster the development of physicians who are leading the transformation of U.S. health and health care through positions in academic medicine, public health, and other leadership roles.

Through this post-residency program which provides two years of master’s degree study, Clinical Scholars learn to conduct innovative research in health policy, health services research, and community-based participatory research (CBPR). In addition, scholars work with communities, organizations, practitioners, and policy-makers on issues important to the health and well-being of all Americans.

Clinical Scholars train at one of the following participating institutions: the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of Michigan; the University of Pennsylvania; and Yale University. Although the programs vary in design and emphasis, each institution has developed a core structure that introduces scholars to the methods used in health care research. Each site offers formal coursework, individual mentorship, and guidance in project development. Scholars and alumni at the four programs share their work and have the opportunity to learn and network at an annual research conference.

Through a long-standing collaboration with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), some scholars are provided stipends and clinical and research resources by the VA. The VA scholars also train at their affiliated VA medical centers.

In 2012, the Clinical Scholars program held the first meeting of its newly formed Diversity Committee, which seeks to recruit scholars to the program from ethnically and racially diverse and/or disadvantaged backgrounds. The curriculum continues to emphasize CBPR projects for each scholar. A policy elective allows scholars to spend one to three months with fellow physicians who are working to improve health policy in an office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, at a local or state public health department, with The Joint Commission, or at another organization influential in health policy.

For several years, the Clinical Scholars program has developed thematic supplements or special issues of major health care journals that utilize either current scholars or program alumni as authors. Special issues have so far been published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Health Services Research, and Pediatrics. Forthcoming special issues of Surgery and Annals of Internal Medicine will feature research conducted by current and former scholars.

Read more about the RWJF Clinical Scholars program.

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