Below are frequently asked questions and answers about the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellows program.  You are welcome to contact the national program office (NPO) with any questions at (202) 334-1506 or info@healthpolicyfellows.org.

About the Fellowship

Q: What are some ways to learn more about the program and the past fellows?

A: Please visit and follow our LinkedIn page for up-to-date information and news about the program and what alumni are doing after the fellowship.

Q: What is my fellowship time obligation?

A: Fellows must commit 100 percent of their time.  Some leniency is afforded during the orientation period (September – December); however, full commitment is expected during the fellowship assignment period (January – August or December if extending the Washington stay). Orientation meetings are typically scheduled for Monday through Friday from 9:00am-5:00pm.  Most Wednesday mornings are reserved for independent visits, reading, and other projects at the discretion of the fellow.  Fellows generally receive advance notice for events outside of that time frame.

Q: Is there an option to telecommute as fellows?

A: No.  This is not a telecommuting program because this is an immersion experience.

Q: How are fellowship assignments determined?

A: Throughout the orientation, fellows will be advised on the various opportunities and merits of specific placements.  In November, the NPO schedules an introductory meeting for the fellows as a group with the majority and minority staff in the committees of jurisdiction as well as with the staff in personal offices.  Fellows typically meet with roughly 15 offices as a group and follow up with offices of their interest for individual interviews.

Q: Why is there variability in the fellowship term (minimum of 12 months but may be longer)?

A: Fellows may request approval from the NPO to extend the Washington stay past the 12-month fellowship period of September to August through the legislative session, or until December 31.

Q: Can I continue my board position during the fellowship?

A: Fellows must excuse/recuse themselves from board positions, participation in associations and societies, and any fiduciary responsibilities by November at the very latest to mitigate conflicts of interests when interviewing for fellowship assignments.

Q: If I have a research grant, can I finish it during the fellowship?

A: Fellows may devote some professional effort during the orientation period (September – December).  However, fellows cannot devote any professional effort after the orientation period since it will be a conflict of interest because their fellowship assignments will be on the Hill with a member of Congress or in the executive branch.

Q: If the sponsoring institution has requested me to attend a few events after the start of fellowship, is this a possibility?

A: During the fellowship year, fellows will need the program director’s approval to participate in public /professional speaking engagements, academic papers, and literary publications of any kind.

Q: How should forthcoming publications be handled?

A: Fellows who will be releasing any materials publicly should discuss the timing, content, implications, etc. with the program director prior to publication.  This policy is especially important should the publication discuss public policy in any capacity.

Q: What types of opportunities have most alumni pursued after the fellowship?

A: View the alumni video profiles to learn about what some of the alumni have done after the fellowship or read the bios of our alumni by searching the alumni directory.  If you wish to contact our alumni who are located in your geographic area and/or who share a similar professional background, please contact the NPO at (202) 334-1506 or info@healthpolicyfellows.org.

Q: How do I find a place to live in the Washington, D.C., area?

A: Most fellows locate housing near the Metro stops to ease the everyday commute to the NPO and the Congress.  Since the current fellows often provide the most helpful advice about housing and convenient locations in D.C., Maryland, or Virginia, the NPO will connect the new fellows with the current fellows.

Q: Is there relocation assistance?  If so, may I travel back to my originating state during the fellowship program using the relocation fund?

A: Fellows who reside outside of the DC area prior to the start of fellowship are eligible for a relocation allowance of up to $12,000 per fellow.  Within this relocation allowance, fellows may select to rent furniture and take trips back to home city or ship necessary household goods to the DC area at the beginning of the fellowship and back to home or to an alternate location at the end of the fellowship.



Q: What is considered 'mid-career'?

A: Since we know that lives and careers follow many paths, we do NOT define “mid-career” in terms of age or years since graduation. Typically, our fellows have at least the equivalent of 10 years of full-time practice/work experience (beyond training/residency) and who are committed to contributing to the health policy field for at least 10 years after the fellowship. Successful applicants to this program have gained deep subject matter expertise in an area of health or health care and have a demonstrated track record of leadership activities and distinguished professional accomplishments. It is often helpful to refer to the “Ideal Candidate” description and the bios of current fellows to see examples of the types of background of successful applicants.

Q: What is considered an advanced degree?

A: An advanced degree refers to a postgraduate degree (e.g., master’s degree, JD, MD, PhD, DO).

Q: Is prior health policy experience required?

A: No.  Though many already have some policy experience, all fellows undergo more than three months of intensive training in all aspects of federal policymaking, meet with more than 200 key health and health policy leaders, and arrive in the fellowship assignment equipped to work with a congressional committee, other office or agency, or a Member’s personal office.

Q: Am I eligible to apply if I do some work around advocacy, but it is not my key job?

A: Yes.

Q: Am I eligible to apply if I am a U.S. citizen who currently lives and works abroad?

A: Yes.


Application Materials and Process

Q: How many applications do you typically receive?

A: We receive 50-70 applications every year.

Q: Is there a template for the one-page biographical sketch?

A: No.  It is up to the applicants to determine the content and style of their bio sketch since it reveals a lot about the applicants on what they want the advisory board to know.

Q: What is considered the ideal reference?

A: Your reference writers should be individuals who know you well and can speak to your qualifications.

Q: Can you apply a second or third time if I am not initially successful?

A: Yes.  Since our program is very competitive, some individuals have applied a second or third time.  In fact, we have had fellows who were not initially successful but were selected for the fellowship on their second or third attempt.

Q: In the case of re-applicants, is their original application reviewed during the process of evaluating their new application?

A: No.  The advisory board reviews all applications afresh every year and evaluates each candidate among the applicant pool.

Q: Is there any opportunity for feedback on the applicants who are turned down?

A: RWJF or NPO does not provide individual critiques of applications submitted.


Selection Process

Q: Who are the members of the selection committee?

A: Members of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellows advisory board assess all applicants and select fellows each year based on the selection criteria and goals of the program.

Q: Who is an ideal candidate?

A: Ideal candidates for this fellowship have a record of exceptional professional accomplishment and are recognized experts within their profession, community, institution, or organization. The fellowship strongly encourages individuals with diverse backgrounds, ideologies, and perspectives to apply. Because of the unique nature of working on Capitol Hill or in the executive branch and the uncertainty that often accompanies the legislative process, individuals who are flexible, team players, and fast learners tend to be more successful. A positive attitude, confidence, sense of humor, humility, critical thinking, listening skills, discretion, and patience are highly regarded. Those with strong emotional intelligence and networking skills will be able to maximize the value of this experience in their subsequent roles as leaders and influencers committed to building a healthier and more equitable future for the nation.

Q: When is the decision made regarding finalist status?

A: The advisory board will select finalists from the applicants in mid-January and interview them in mid-February in Washington, D.C.  All applicants will be notified of their status in mid-January.  Applicants who are selected for interviews will receive details about the remainder of the process upon invitation.


Sponsoring Institutions

Q: Do I need a sponsoring institution?

A: Yes.  Applicants may apply from an eligible sponsoring institution (Track 1) or as an individual (Track 2) and request the award be administered by the National Academy of Medicine (NAM).

Q: What is an eligible sponsoring institution?

A: Nonprofit health care organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3), governmental offices, and academic centers that are housed at nonprofit, tax-exempt or public institutions of higher education are eligible sponsors.

Q: How do I determine if I should apply as a Track 1 or Track 2 applicant?

A: If you have an eligible sponsoring institution, it is best to apply as Track 1 to keep your fringe benefits, retirement plans, and other benefits in place.  If it is not at all possible to be Track 1, then it is best to be a Track 2 applicant for your benefit.

Q: Can you begin the application process as a Track 1 and transition to Track 2 if selected as a finalist?

A: Yes, if necessary.


Administration of Fellowship Funds

Q: What is the difference between the Track 1 and Track 2 stipend administration options?

A: Under Track 1, the RWJF grants up to $175,000 directly to the institution named as the sponsoring institution.  During the first 12 months (September 1 through August 31 of the following year), fellowship funds of up to $160,000 in salary (inclusive of corresponding fringe benefits or COBRA/optional health insurance costs) is available.  The sponsoring institution may supplement the fellowship funds. Under Track 2, the NAM administers the award for applicants without a sponsoring institution.  A fellow under Track 2 will receive a stipend of up to $160,000 divided equally into 12 monthly payments and may request enrollment in an optional health insurance program.  The stipend and health insurance payments are subtracted from the total award of $175,000.

Q: Is there a preference for applicants with an eligible sponsoring organization versus independent applicants?

A: No.


About the Budget and Award

Q: Can you tell me more about the budget proposal and what it entails?

A: Finalists will be invited to complete a full proposal that will include a proposed budget of up to $175,000 and detailed budget narrative.  During the first 12 months of the fellowship, a stipend of up to $104,000 in fellowship funds may be requested.  For Track 1 fellows, fringe benefits corresponding to the level of support for the fellow at the sponsoring institution may also be requested.  Track 2 fellows may include an amount for continuation coverage if paying into a COBRA plan or for the sponsor portion of an optional health insurance plan provided to fellows by the NPO. Fellows may use any remaining funds for up to 12 months after the first budget period to carry out additional health policy leadership activities that may include: an extension of the Washington stay for up to four additional months; salary support for the fellow and/or a research assistant or support staff; travel to attend meetings or conferences to interact directly with policy-makers at the national or state level; educational pursuits; and other costs directly attributable to health policy leadership development. Examples of budgets and guidance on preparing a budget can be found below.

The budget narrative should describe each 12-month period of requested support, providing details of how funds will be spent and how the amount was determined.

Q: Are there any other noteworthy items related to the use the $175,000 grant?

A: The requested amount for salary cannot be higher than your current salary.  Indirect costs are not allowable for this fellowship and will not be paid.  Funding for computers, laptops, printers, PDAs or other equipment is not allowable. If grantees fail to meet the RWJF requirements for the submission of annual and final reports, as well as timely notification of changes to budget or fellowship plans, there could be a delay in funding.

Q: If I am invited to complete a full proposal, will I need to budget for relocation expenses out of the $175,000 grant?

A: No.  Relocation and program-related travel reimbursements are administered by the NAM through a separate grant.  In addition, travel and meeting expenses to attend the fellowship program’s annual meeting are budgeted for in a separate grant.  You will not need to include these costs in your budget.  Details on reimbursements for a housing search trip and the relocation expenses to Washington, D.C., will be sent to selected finalists who accept the award.

Q: Do I need to have a specific project or area in mind to complete this proposal?

A: No.

Q: In addition to salary, can the funding be used to pay for monthly housing expenses?

A: No.

Q: If I am a Track 2 fellow, can my sponsoring institution supplement my salary?

A: Yes.  Sponsoring institutions may supplement funds in any category.

Q: If I am a Track 2 fellow, what are my fellowship tax reporting requirements?

A: Fellowship stipends may be subject to income taxes. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies)/NAM will not withhold or report income taxes and will not deduct F.I.C.A. contributions (Social Security taxes) from the stipends. The stipends are considered non-compensatory fellowship income and the National Academies/NAM will not report income on IRS Forms W-2 or 1099 Misc. taxes. Fellows are not considered employees of the National Academies/NAM or RWJF. The fellow is responsible for any applicable taxes on the award. Please consult the IRS website at www.irs.gov for more information about fellowship tax reporting and for information on how to file a quarterly declaration of estimated tax, if indicated.