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U-M Medical School named training site for RWJ Clinical Scholars

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has announced that the U-M Medical School will be one of four institutions to train participants in its Clinical Scholars Program, beginning in 2005.

The Medical School has been a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars site since its first cohort arrived in 1995. Established in 1972 as the first competitive national program of the foundation, the Clinical Scholars Program helps junior physicians from any specialty who are committed to clinical medicine to acquire new skills and training in the quantitative and qualitative sciences underlying health services research—sciences such as epidemiology, biostatistics, economics, research design and anthropology—important to improving health and medical care systems.

"The foundation is committed to funding its Clinical Scholars Program through 2015—a total of 40 years of funding—which is an extraordinary length of time for any foundation to support any training program. This speaks to the importance of the program and its mission. We are honored to participate and have the opportunity to educate future leaders in health care," says Dr. Allen S. Lichter, dean of the Medical School and Newman Family Professor of Radiation Oncology.

Through the program, clinically trained physician scholars learn those skills necessary to influence the future direction of health care and to improve the health of the American public. Program alumni have made impressive contributions in academic medicine, government and the administration of medical care systems.

"As a Clinical Scholars Program alumnus, it is especially gratifying for me to see the U-M Medical School program flourish in the highly collaborative environment that characterizes our university, and to see individual scholars cross disciplines as their careers unfold and ultimately impact health care in America," says Dr. Joel Howell, professor, Department of Internal Medicine and Victor Vaughan Professor of the History of Medicine; and director, Medical School Clinical Scholars Program.

The other training sites chosen to participate are the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Yale University School of Medicine.

Each scholar in the two-year post-residency program creates a personalized course of study that recognizes the foundation's priorities in funding the program. These include attention to the social and cultural relations of medicine and society and the quest for equitable access to efficient, high-quality health care for all Americans. With the program starting in 2005, the foundation has added a new focus: leadership training and an increased emphasis in community-based participatory research and primary data collection.

According to Howell, some of the unique aspects of the U-M Medical School's Clinical Scholars Program include the extreme ease in crossing disciplines on the U-M campus, as well as the breadth and depth of all its programs. In addition, the School of Public Health and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System are involved in providing educational content and venues for the program. With the advent of the new Clinical Scholars Program in 2005, some will have the opportunity for a third year of support. Scholars in the new program at the Medical School will earn a master's degree in health and health services research.

"The institutional support from top to bottom for this program has been wonderful. It's a marker of excellence for the Medical School to have the Clinical Scholars Program continue side-by-side with its two sister Robert Wood Johnson Foundation programs in the U-M School of Public Health—Health and Society Scholars and Scholars in Health Policy Research," says Dr. Rodney A. Hayward, professor, Department of Internal Medicine; director, Veteran's Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System for Outcomes Research; and co-director, U-M Medical School Clinical Scholars Program.

Since the first scholars were named in 1995, 37 physicians have participated in the Medical School's program. Participants in the program are recruited nationally, and many have gone on to leadership positions in health care, both nationally and at the Medical School.

Nationally, two-thirds of scholars are drawn from the specialties of internal medicine and pediatrics. At the U-M Medical School, the reverse is true. Because the U-M program reaches out for representation in such specialties as anesthesiology, radiology and obstetrics/gynecology, among others, alumni are able to bring the benefit of their vision to all corners of physicians' practice. To date, nine clinical departments at the Medical School have hired Clinical Scholars.

"The scholars stand out in their departments and in tangible ways are making a lasting mark," Howell says.

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