The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program is one of several health related fellowships the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funds to develop health leaders and influence the quality of healthcare in this country. Yale is one of four Clinical Scholars Program sites. Yale has been a site for this pioneering Program for over 40 years. 

Upon successful completion of the Program, Scholars are awarded a Master of Health Sciences Research (MHS) from Yale University. The fellowship is a two-year program that begins in July and concludes in June.

The mission of the Yale Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program (RWJF CSP) is to prepare a select group of physicians to improve health and healthcare in the US through scholarship and action at the national, state, and local levels. Now, perhaps more than ever, the nation needs physician leaders who are capable of developing solutions to the problems that continue to undermine health and healthcare. Despite enormous technological advances in medicine and healthcare delivery, the nation’s healthcare system continues to be plagued by many problems including barriers to access, a disproportionate burden of illness imposed on vulnerable populations, misaligned incentives, fragmentation of healthcare services, and persistent concerns about the safety, effectiveness, efficiency, equity, and patient-centeredness of care.

Through coursework, practical experiences, interaction with health leaders, and research, the Yale Program prepares Scholars to work effectively across disciplines, think creatively about healthcare issues, generate ideas and test hypotheses, participate in policy development, work within communities, and lead organizational change. The Program balances classroom experience with ample time for research project development and individual mentoring.      

The curriculum is designed around training in clinical epidemiology, community-partnered research, health economics, health policy, health systems management, organizational behavior, and leadership development. Classroom content is complemented by a number of applied experiences in both years of fellowship. Scholars spend approximately 102 hours in the classroom during their first summer, 98 hours in the fall, and 53 hours in the spring. As classroom time decreases, time for research increases. 

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Scholars are expected to conduct two or more health services research projects during their fellowship and contribute to clinical research scholarship. They are encouraged to consider at least one project that involves primary data collection and to take on projects that employ different methodological approaches. Scholars are also expected to engage in a community-partnered research project with the aim of helping to improve health in the New Haven community.

Initially, research is conducted with strong mentoring from faculty preceptors with Scholars developing increased independence in their second year of fellowship.  

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Scholars spend up to 20 percent of the fellowship effort maintaining clinical and teaching skills. Direct patient care experience is available electively at Yale-New Haven Hospital, the West Haven VA Medical Center, and affiliated clinics, hospitals, and community-based health centers. 

In 1978, the Office of Academic Affiliations (OAA) in conjunction with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation established the VA Advanced Fellowships Program for Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholars at selected VA medical centers. The West Haven VA Medical Center was and continues to be one of those sites. The Program was designed to introduce new skills and training in the non-biological sciences and in healthcare research to young physicians committed to clinical medicine. Graduates were expected to be role models in leading and developing solutions to meet the most pressing health issues of the day. Since then, the VA/RWJF Clinical Scholars Program has become one of the premier fellowships for physicians interested in influencing health policy. The fellowship provides two years of post-residency research, education, and clinical learning opportunities to eligible physicians.

The Program emphasizes the importance of community health, consistent with VA's goals to optimize the health of the veteran, the VA community, and to contribute to the health of the nation. VA RWJF Clinical Scholars participate in activities at the West Haven VA Medical Center as well as participate fully in the overall RWJF Clinical Scholars Program at Yale University.