National Program Overview

The Scholars in Health Policy Research Program, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is a two-year fellowship targeted to outstanding new PhDs in economics, political science, and sociology to advance their involvement in health policy research.

Through interaction and collaboration with faculty from the social sciences, medicine, public health, and public policy, the expectation is that Scholars will seek to make important research contributions to future health policy in the United States. Each year, the national program enables up to nine highly qualified individuals to undertake two-year fellowships at one of three program sites:

  • University of California, Berkeley/
    University of California, San Francisco
  • Harvard University
  • University of Michigan

Each site accepts approximately three Scholars each year, distributed across the three target disciplines. Participating Scholars undertake cutting-edge research relevant to health policy using the tools and perspectives of their discipline.

The Scholars in Health Policy Research Program is administered by a National Program Office, housed at Boston University and directed by Dr. Alan Cohen.

Program Description

The University of California at Berkeley (UCB) and San Francisco (UCSF) campuses are renowned for the quality of their teaching and research programs. Seven different units on the Berkeley and San Francisco campuses sponsor the Scholars Program: the UCB Departments of Economics, Political Science, and Sociology; the UCB Richard and Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy; the UCB School of Public Health; the UCSF Institute for Health Policy Studies; and the Institute for Health and Aging. The UCB Departments of Economics, Political Science, and Sociology are ranked among the five best in the nation. UCB's School of Public Health and the Goldman School of Public Policy are professional schools with nationally recognized academic programs. UCSF's Institute for Health Policy Studies and Institute for Health and Aging have national reputations for training and research in health policy. The UCSF institutes include more than 100 faculty and research staff dedicated to applying research findings to the solution of major health and social problems.

The Scholars Program is structured around three seminars and a dual mentor concept. The “Health and Social Sciences Seminar” focuses on the disciplines of economics, political science, and sociology with applications to health policy. The "American Health Care System Seminar” gives the Scholars an overview of the health services industry and current issues in health policy. The "Health Policy Research Seminar" allows Scholars an opportunity to invite guest speakers from their discipline, as well as provides a forum for Scholars to present their research to program participants and faculty. Scholars also have the opportunity to attend advanced graduate courses at UCB and UCSF. Each Scholar conducts health policy studies in conjunction with two Mentors, one from the Scholar's home discipline and another from a professional school at UCB or UCSF, with the mentors possessing extensive experience in health policy research. The dual mentor concept stems from recognition that health policy study requires the application of social science methodology and an in-depth understanding of health care.

The Program offers flexibility in recognition of the unique background of each Scholar. Over 70 faculty members have served as Mentors for the Scholars. The Program has organized input from health policy leaders such as chief executive officers of hospitals and insurance companies, medical society leaders, state and local government officials, and policymakers from the public and private sectors. Scholars determine their own research agendas after consulting with their Mentors and Program Faculty. There are opportunities for interaction with scholars from other postdoctoral training programs, including the RWJF Health and Society Scholars. Resources available at UCB and UCSF include outstanding libraries, a statistical laboratory, and computing facilities.


Field of Study

Program applicants must have received a doctoral degree in Economics, Political Science, or Sociology during the time period noted below. Preference will be given to applicants who have not previously worked extensively in the areas of health or health policy research.

Receipt of Degree

Applicants must have received a doctoral degree, as noted above, after January 1, 2006 but no later than July 15, 2012. For those expecting to receive degrees in 2012, all degree requirements must be completed by July 15, 2012.


All applicants must be citizens of the United States or its territories or have permanent residency status at the time of application to the program.