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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

UNC to Lead New Clinical Scholars Program, with Support from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Improving health and reducing persistent disparities in wellness and longevity across the United States requires clinical innovation and community transformation. A new national leadership program, led by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has just selected its first group of participants who will advance both.


[Photo: Dr. Giselle Corbie-Smith (left) and Dr. Claudia Fernandez]

With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the new Clinical Scholars program, awarded to The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will commence this fall. Thirty innovative clinicians from across the U.S. and from a wide range of fields and specialties will collaborate to tackle pressing health problems. The Clinical Scholars will prepare health-care providers and practitioners to expand their influence beyond the hospital or clinic to advance a Culture of Health — one that places well-being at the center of every aspect of life.

“Health-care providers got into this business to make people’s lives better,” said Dr. Giselle Corbie-Smith, Clinical Scholars co-director, Kenan Distinguished Professor of social medicine and medicine, and director of the UNC Center of Health Equity Research. “We know we can’t do that just by working in the clinic or hospital, and we can’t do it alone. This program lets providers stretch beyond their specialty or daily work setting, thinking together about how to attack ‘wicked’ health problems by drawing from every clinical practice and engaging with their community.”

Hailing from New York to California, the first cohort of fellows represents a diverse range of disciplines, including nursing, audiology, pharmacy and social work. Through the program, they will receive funding to work in cross-functional teams on projects that address top-of-mind issues in health and equity, including addiction, community violence, transgender health, poor oral health in rural areas, behavioral health in immigrant communities and integrative mental health.

Along the way, they will develop high-level leadership skills through professional coaching, mentoring, networking and an advanced curriculum.

“We have a lot of excitement and confidence in our approach, since our previous work indicates that professionals build leadership skills and use those skills to a significantly greater extent after this type of training,” said Dr. Claudia Fernandez, Clinical Scholars co-director, clinical assistant professor of maternal and child health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, and director of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists National Leadership Institute. “We look forward to this opportunity to create a transformational experience for the clinicians who will engage in this new Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program to serve the public good.”

Selected through a competitive process that drew many applications, participants will receive a stipend to support their participation and their projects. They will continue working in their home communities while applying their new knowledge and leadership skills in their careers.

The 2017 application period for Clinical Scholars will open in January. More information about the program is available at Clinical Scholars is one of four new leadership development programs launched this year by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The three additional programs, all with an emphasis on cross-sector collaboration and equity, include Culture of Health LeadersHealth Policy Research Scholars andInterdisciplinary Research Leaders.

For more than 40 years, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. It is working with others to build a national Culture of Health, enabling everyone in America to live longer, healthier lives. For more information, visit