Clinical Scholars Program

Clinical Scholars is a national leadership development program for practitioners from diverse fields of health care. Working in small teams, they collaborate across disciplines, design a project to address a complex health problem in their community, and extend their influence and impact as leaders. Clinical Scholars fellows include nurses, physicians, pharmacists, physical therapists, dentists, social workers, veterinarians, and many others working in clinical or academic settings. During the three-year program, which includes a financial stipend, they participate in intensive learning, mentoring and networking to develop as individuals and inter-professional leaders to help build a Culture of Health. Clinical Scholars is one of several programs created by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to develop strong, interdisciplinary networks of leaders from every sector who have a shared vision of what shapes health—and a desire to work together.

The program is led by a team from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that spans the School of Medicine and the Gillings School of Global Public Health. It is also supported by partners including Community-Campus Partnerships for Health, AcademyHealth, University of Nebraska Medical Center, FastTrack Leadership, and Inside Out.

Clinical Scholars Group

CCPH’s Role

Actively engaged throughout the planning and launch of the new Clinical Scholars program in 2016, CCPH continues to keep voice of the “community” at the forefront. Fellows participate in webinars and in-person trainings to promote community inclusiveness led by CCPH Executive Director Al Richmond. This includes the opportunity to participate in the two-day Structural Inequalities Intensive during their first year in the program. The experience allows for conversations about structural inequalities past and present, as well as provides encouragement to take steps to dismantle them.


The partnership between CCPH and Clinical Scholars has significant impacts on the fellows both personally and professional. As health practitioners and leaders, they apply the knowledge and skills gained during the program to reduce health disparities and advance health equity in their communities and beyond. Derrick Stephens of Team Underdog Dreams, a project improving long-term quality of life outcomes for Florida’s foster youth and families, shares his experience:

“As a fellow, I was able to bring along two foster youth, Emmanuel and Roderick, and community partners. The impact this experience had on these youth is still very apparent months after the workshop ended. Emmanuel has mentioned it several times and says, “I feel empowered now to have conversations about structural inequalities.” 

During our visit to North Carolina, Emmanuel was confronted by a hotel staff member and denied entry to our hotel. This unfortunate experience was a reminder of present-day inequalities. The workshop offered us a common experience to talk about structural inequalities that are manifested in the past and in our daily lives and provided encouragement to take steps to dismantle them.

It is hard to describe in words the impact this experience had on me as a black male. I can best describe it as sacred or as a rite of passage. I walked away feeling a profound obligation to my ancestors before me. I often imagine the strength it took to emerge as a leader during a time when a slave wasn’t even considered a full person. I walked away with a heightened sense of responsibility to contribute to the betterment of humanity.” – Derrick Stephens, LCSW (RWJF Clinical Scholars Fellow, Cohort 2016)

Connect to the Work

Each year, up to 35 health practitioners are accepted into Clinical Scholars. Applications for the next cohort of participants are open January 11 – March 13, 2019. Through the program, Clinical Scholars fellows increase their ability to use their voice andskills to innovate and lead, in both their workplace and their community. Teams receive grant funding up to $525,000 to support their participation in the three-year program, meaning team members gain the benefits of executive leadership development at no cost to themselves or their institutions.

Sound like something you or someone you know could benefit from? Use the RWJF Program Finder to explore funding opportunities, such as Clinical Scholars.

Follow Clinical Scholars on Twitter and Facebook or sign up for email updates to stay updated with fellows, projects, and events. In the meantime, hear from some of our scholars in this video: