Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are collaborating to foster the development of physicians who will lead the transformation of Americans’ health and health care through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars program. These future leaders will conduct innovative research and work with communities, organizations, practitioners, and policy-makers to address issues essential to the health and well-being of all Americans.

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 U.S. health and health care through positions in academic medicine, public health, and other leadership roles. The goal of the program is to integrate scholars’ clinical expertise with training in program development and research methods. This combination of skills can help them find solutions for the challenges posed by the U.S. health care system and the health of U.S. communities. The program offers master’s degree, graduate-level study and research in a university-based, post-residency training program. The Clinical Scholars program generally involves two years of study with generous protected time for research.

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. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) scholars also train at their affiliated VA medical centers. 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 20 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars will be selected. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will fund up to 10 positions. The VA will fund 10 additional positions each year through VA Medical Centers affiliated with the participating universities. The first-year scholar RWJF stipend is $69,500, with an increase the second year. Stipends are comparable to stipends for similar research training positions at each institution. In some cases, VA stipends may be higher. Financial support for research projects and professional travel is provided. Up to 80 percent of a scholar’s time is protected for scholarly work, while 20 percent must be spent on clinical activities.

We expect scholars to complete graduate-level projects in their area of interest. To date, scholars have conducted studies in diverse health-related fields, such as problems of health care delivery and financing, clinical decision-making, social determinants of health, biomedical ethics, medical history, and health policy. Two newer aspects of the program include leadership training and learning about community-based participatory research. Each scholar is supervised jointly by the directors of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars program at the participating university and by other faculty with expertise in the scholar’s chosen priority area. With approval by the national program office, the training site program director, the national advisory committee, and fellowship director, it may be possible for the time in Clinical Scholars to be credited as research time in another fellowship. This must be discussed at the time of application.

Scholars also have the special opportunity to be mentored by one of the members of the program’s distinguished national advisory committee (NAC). The NAC is composed of national leaders from a range of disciplines. The program assigns each scholar an NAC mentor, who will discuss career development and other issues, to complement the mentors at the participating university. NAC mentors meet with the scholars in person at the program’s annual meeting and are available throughout the year as needed. Scholars from the four participating universities attend an annual national meeting to foster networking and in-depth discussions of research and of change in health care systems.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars program is a core element of the Foundation’s rich history of Human Capital programs and projects. Our Human Capital Portfolio seeks to build and maintain a strong and diverse leadership and workforce in health and health care, and to help develop specific fields. For almost 40 years, the Foundation-funded Clinical Scholars program has trained more than 1,200 physicians from varied disciplines, many of whom have become national and international leaders in health and health care. The VA has provided financial and in-kind research support for over 30 years for this program. Former scholars are engaged in academic medicine, government service, 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; and many maintain active research careers on important topics in health and health care.


Beginning in 2014, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) will develop new programs that strive to increase the number of scholars/fellows/leaders we support annually. As part of this transition, we will wind down and conclude ten Human Capital programs, including RWJF Clinical Scholars.

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