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UNC-Chapel Hill Selected as Center for New Leadership Initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

UNC-Chapel Hill to lead an unprecedented national push to equip clinicians with leadership, team-building and cultural competence skills to improve the health status of Americans.

(Chapel Hill, N.C. – Nov. 2, 2015)  — The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been selected by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to serve as the National Program Leadership Center for a new RWJF leadership initiative. In this capacity, it is anticipated that UNC-Chapel Hill will co-design and launch the New Clinical Scholars program, which will train and network groups of leaders in communities across the country who will contribute to building a national Culture of Health.

UNC-Chapel Hill is expected to receive an initial three-month planning grant of up to $750,000 to establish the New Clinical Scholars program. RWJF anticipates that UNC-Chapel Hill also will be its leading grantee partner in administering the program over the longer term. The program, one of four new signature leadership initiatives supported by RWJF, will launch in September 2016. Together, the new programs will help enable the Foundation to support more leaders than ever before.

The program will be led by Dr. Claudia Fernandez and Dr. Giselle Corbie-Smith, faculty at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health and the School of Medicine, respectively, and based at the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research. The UNC-Chapel Hill program is part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s plan to invest more than $400 million over the next decade to train leaders to build a Culture of Health throughout the United States.

“UNC-Chapel Hill’s commitment to health equity, collaborations across the campus, and history of deep engagement and service to the state of North Carolina, makes our campus uniquely situated to lead this effort,” said Corbie-Smith, Kenan Distinguished Professor and director of the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. “We are so honored to have this opportunity. We were humbled by the excitement this grant has generated across campus and look forward to working with our colleagues to make this a success.”

The New Clinical Scholars Program will build a sustainable and national infrastructure of clinical teams trained in leadership, health services research, public health, population health, health policy, community engagement and health equity research. UNC-Chapel Hill will partner in this effort with AcademyHealth, Community-Campus Partnerships for Health and University of Nebraska to provide customized distance and onsite training. The overarching goal of this grant is to create a culture of collaborative leadership among diverse clinicians to improve the health of people across the country.

For the UNC-Chapel Hill-based project, inter-professional teams of clinicians will complete a three-year leadership development program while continuing to work in their home communities and organizations. Each of these clinical scholars – up to 50 per year drawn from multiple clinical specialties (medicine, nursing, allied health, dentistry, pharmacy, social work, psychology and others)—will come together for a series of intensive leadership development sessions with their project teams, including on-site training at the UNC-Chapel Hill campus each year.

Between sessions, they will return home and continue their leadership development work with an executive coach and a project team-based coach, while also engaging in a robust, customized, and flexible distance-based learning system, which has been pioneered by leadership development experts at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

This new opportunity builds on the previous work UNC-Chapel Hill has been noted for, including the current, long standing Clinical Scholars Program, the Food Systems Leadership Institute, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists National Leadership Institute, and the Maternal and Child Health Public Health Leadership Institute. It also builds on a deep bench of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grantees and alumnae of RWJF Human Capital Programs like the current Clinical Scholars Programs, Amos Faculty Development Program, Nurse Faculty Scholars Program, Nurse Executive Leadership Program and the Health and Society Scholars Programs.

“It is an incredible honor to be selected to work on a problem of this complexity, namely regarding how we turn around and markedly improve the culture of health in the United States,” said Fernandez, a co-recipient of the grant, leadership institute director and executive coach. “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. We look forward to this opportunity to create a transformational experience for the hundreds of clinicians who will engage in this new Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program to serve the public good.”

— Carolina —

UNC Communications and Public Affairs contact: Thania Benios, (919) 962-8596,

About the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, is a global higher education leader known for innovative teaching, research and public service. A member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, Carolina regularly ranks as the best value for academic quality in U.S. public higher education. Now in its third century, the University offers 78 bachelor’s, 112 master’s, 68 doctorate and seven professional degree programs through 14 schools and the College of Arts and Sciences. Every day, faculty – including two Nobel laureates – staff and students shape their teaching, research and public service to meet North Carolina’s most pressing needs in every region and all 100 counties. Carolina’s more than 308,000 alumni live in all 50 states and 150 countries. More than 167,000 live in North Carolina.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation


For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve the health and health care of all Americans. We are striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all Americans to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at