Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Physician Faculty Scholars

Enhancing the ability of junior faculty to carry out research to improve health and health care

RWJF Physician Faculty Scholars provided 65 junior faculty with funding, protected research time, mentoring, and peer networking to enhance their ability to carry out research to improve health and health care. The goal was to nurture a group of physician leaders.

“The program provided support for research for faculty at a crucial time in their development when they were really basically pretty green.”—Harold Sox, MD, national advisory committee chair and emeritus professor of medicine, Dartmouth Medical School

Dates of Program: July 2006 through November 2012

Description: The program selected four cohorts of 15 scholars each from 2006 through 2009; five additional scholars participated through collaboration with the Veterans Affairs’ longstanding Research Career Development program. Scholars received the following support and benefits:

  • Three years of funding up to $300,000 to be used for part of their salary, research, or expenses
  • Fifty percent protected time for research, which the scholars’ sponsoring institutions had to guarantee

“Traditionally, if you are an academic surgeon, and you have no funding, 100 percent of your time is surgery. If you get a traditional research grant, you can protect a small amount of time—maybe 10 to 20 percent. In this program, my institution had to make a clear commitment to protect at least half of my time. It forces the institution to do something that it wouldn’t do otherwise.”—Carl Schulman, MD, MSPH, Former Scholar

  • Mentoring and networking from national advisory committee members and peers through an annual meeting and regular calls.

“As a junior faculty you are narrowly focused and usually working with just two or three people. Being part of a national community of researchers and having access to senior people across multiple institutions gives you a much broader, more nuanced perspective.”—Ashish Jha, MD, MPH, Former Scholar

“[My mentor] was most critical of my project, which made me know that he was on my side. He gave me the most challenging of critiques. He asked the hardest questions and he framed them in a national policy perspective.”—Nirav R. Shah, MD, MPH, Former Scholar

  • Support in finding a balance between one’s work and personal life.

“People in this program tell you that your family is as valuable as your career. You don’t necessarily have to have the family part of your life suffer while you are building you career as a researcher.”—Nefertiti Durant, MD, MPH, Former Scholar

Key Results

  • Some 67 percent of RWJF Physician Faculty Scholars were promoted from assistant professor to associate professor within 3.5 years compared to 50 percent of the finalists for the program.

  • Scholars wrote 1,629 published articles between 2006 and 2011 and received 90 grants from a variety of funding sources, including 42 from the National Institutes of Health, 20 from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and six from the Veterans Administration.

  • Some 23 of the 65 scholars have attained national or state leadership positions where they have the potential to influence health policy and the provision of health care in areas such as health service delivery, provision of Medicaid services, health disparities, obesity prevention, and health care decision-making.