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For more than three decades the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars program has fostered the development of physicians who are leading the transformation of health care in this country through positions in academic medicine, public health, and other leadership roles. Through the program, future leaders will learn to conduct innovative research and work with communities, organizations, practitioners and policy makers on issues important to the health and well-being of all Americans.

The goal of the program is to integrate Scholars’ clinical expertise with training in program development and research methods to help them find solutions for the challenges posed by the U.S. healthcare system, community health and health services research. The program offers a master’s degree graduate-level study and research in a university-based postresidency training program. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars program generally involves two years of study with generous protected time for research. Interested Scholars will be considered for a third year of support.

Scholars train in one of the following four participating institutions: the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of Michigan; the University of Pennsylvania; and Yale University. Although their programs vary in design and emphasis, each institution has developed a core structure that introduces Scholars to the methods used in health care research and each offers formal coursework, individual mentorship and guidance in project development.

Up to 29 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars may be selected in a given year. Twenty positions are funded annually by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs supports eight additional positions each year through VA Medical Centers affiliated with the participating universities.   Additionally, the American College of Surgeons supports one position each year for a deserving surgeon. The universities provide all participating Scholars with stipends that are comparable to stipends for similar research training positions at each institution. 

Scholars are expected to complete graduate-level research projects in an area of their interest. To date, Scholars have conducted studies in diverse health-related fields, such as problems of health care delivery and financing, clinical decision-making, biomedical ethics, medical history and health care policy. Two new aspects of the program include leadership training and learning about community-based participatory research. Each Scholar is supervised jointly by the director of the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars program at the participating university and by faculty preceptors from the Scholar’s chosen priority area. Up to 80 percent of a Scholar’s time is protected for scholarly work and 20 percent of a Scholar’s time should be spent on clinical activities.

Scholars also have the special opportunity to be mentored by one of the members of the program’s National Advisory Committee (NAC). The NAC is composed of national leaders from a range of disciplines. The program assigns each Scholar a NAC mentor, who will discuss career development and other issues, to complement the mentors at the participating university. The NAC mentors will meet with the Scholars in person at the program’s annual meetings, and will be available throughout the year as needed.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars program is part of RWJF’s rich history of programs and projects in the Human Capital portfolio that seek to build and maintain a strong and diverse leadership and workforce in health and health care, and to help develop specific fields. For 30 years, the program has trained more than 1,000 physicians from varied disciplines, many of whom have become national leaders in health and health care. Former Scholars are currently engaged in academic medicine, government and medical practice. Many serve as leaders of health care institutions and delivery systems in a variety of public and private settings; others are contributing to the formulation, conduct and evaluation of health-related public policy; many continue active research careers on important topics in health and health care.

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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation