RWJF Chief Clarifies Clinical Scholar Program Changes

RWJF Chief Clarifies Clinical Scholar Program Changes

Will Not Close But Will Become 'Very Different'

RWJF Clinical Scholar Loren Robinson, MD, (left) interviews RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey about the future of the clinical scholars program.

Also see: Risa Lavizzo-Mourey: Building a Culture of Health

In an interview with University of Pennsylvania Robert Wood Johnson Foundation clinical scholar Loren Robinson, RWJF chief Risa Lavizzo-Mourey clarified her organization's earlier announcement that the clinical scholars program would be closed in 2017.

Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, was on the Penn campus to give a presentation on "Building a Culture of Health" at a policy seminar co-sponsored by Penn's Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics (LDI) and Center for Public Health Initiatives (CPHI). Afterward, she met for an hour with Penn's current crop of RWJF clinical scholars and was interviewed by one of them for the RWJF Clinical Scholars video podcast series.

February closing announcement
In February, Lavizzo-Mourey announced that as a result of a year-long analysis and strategic planning process, the Foundation had decided to move in a "bold new direction." As part of that change, she said then, the Foundation's ten "RWJF Human Capital" programs would be closed down, including the 40-year-old clinical scholars program.

The foundation, which reports $9.5 billion in assets, annually distributes nearly $400 million in support of a broad array of activities including the Clinical Scholars programs at the University of Pennsylvania; Yale University; the University of California, Los Angeles; and the University of Michigan.
In her campus meeting with Penn's current clinical scholars, Lavizzo-Mourey said that she regretted the way that February announcement was framed.

In her video interview, she said the idea of closing the programs had been too "jarring," and emphasized that the clinical scholars programs would continue without interruption after 2017.

'More of a transition'
"In a lot of ways, it's more of a transition then a stark ending," she explained. "But we want people to understand that it will be very different."

"Everyone who has looked at the American health care workforce concludes that we can't do it the way that we've done it in the past," Lavizzo-Mourey continued. "We can't do physician training in a siloed way anymore. We've got to be able to work in teams and work across sectors. That's the kind of skill set that we're trying to build into the next generation of the program."

"We need physicians who can develop relationships with leaders from other professions, who can work across sectors, and who can understand how to work not only in their own geographic environment but to work virtually," she said.

Digital connections
Lavizzo-Mourey pointed out that RWJF planners don't believe that the scholars have to be trained together in a single location in the future. Previously, she has noted that digital technologies provide effective new ways to connect groups of people in different locations.

She told the Penn scholars, "There's not going to be any break in scholar enrollment. We'll be admitting the next cohort of fellows just as this one is ending." She urged the Penn scholars to tell potential scholar candidates that there WILL be a program to apply for even though its exact nature hasn't yet been completely defined.

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Hoag Levins is Editor of Digital Publications at the University of Pennsylvania's Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics (LDI).