Docs come back to school

Some of the nation’s top physicians will be coming to Penn for a second dose of education.

The University has been chosen to serve as a training site for the Clinical Scholars Program of the New Jersey-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care.

According to Harold Feldman, co-director of the Penn Clinical Scholars Program, approximately eight physicians selected from the highly competitive program will come to campus in 2005 to acquire new skills and training in the quantitative and qualitative sciences that underlie health services research.

Half of the clinical scholars, all of whom are certified physicians, will complete a two-year master’s program while the other half will enroll in a three-year program. A formal curriculum will include teaching in epidemiology, biostatistics, economics, anthropology, sociology, communications, policy analysis and health systems.

Feldman, who is also an associate professor of medicine and clinical epidemiology in the School of Medicine, said the program will enable physicians to make a difference in the nation’s health delivery system. “How you do it [deliver health] is as important as what you do,” said Feldman. Scholars will walk away from the program with both better leadership skills and the ability to put research into practice.

“Many leaders on this campus and many leaders nationally speaking were trained in this program. It has a long history.”

A collaborative network that includes faculty from the School of Medicine and nearly all of Penn’s 12 schools will provide the intellectual support. Ten community organizations—which include Covenant House, the Injury Free Coalition, the Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract, the Mayor’s Commission on Literacy, the Philadelphia Health Management Corporation, St. Agnes LIFE, the City of Philadelphia, the Treatment Research Institute, the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, and Maternity Care Coalition—have also partnered with Penn.

The scholars will not be the only ones benefiting from this mentoring alliance. Students at Penn’s School of Medicine will also have a chance to work shoulder to shoulder with some of the nation’s best. “They will be engaged very substantially in research activity when they’re here. Penn medical school students will have a great opportunity for interaction.”

Feldman said the return of the initiative, which had been at the University until 1995, end the hiatus begun almost a decade ago. Penn was an attractive choice not only because of the faculty’s “research prowess” but also because of a University-wide dedication, he said. “The University really expressed a wholehearted commitment. All the leadership on the campus, from Dr. Rodin and [Provost] Barchi to the leaders of the health campus, came and expressed a commitment.”

Penn is one of four nationwide training sites. The other three top-ranked schools chosen are David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, University of Michigan Medical School and Yale University School of Medicine. Physicians who are accepted as clinical scholars by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are matched to the various training sites. Feldman said the curricula at the various training sites are thematically consistent.

Originally published on February 27, 2003