The RWJF Health & Society Scholars program ended February 2017. The site will no longer be updated. More »


The final cohort for The University of Pennsylvania completed the Program in August of 2014

The Health & Society Scholars Program at the University of Pennsylvania aims to develop leaders who will produce significant scholarship, design interventions, and build the infrastructure and prestige of a new field focused on the multiple determinants of health. Penn’s program is based on an eclectic and expansive vision of the kinds of knowledge and actions that are needed to improve the nation’s health.

The program draws its faculty from Penn’s schools of medicine, arts and sciences, communication (Annenberg), business (Wharton), social work, fine arts, nursing, and law. Penn’s history of interdisciplinary collaboration, location in Philadelphia and compact campus facilitate a unique interdisciplinary atmosphere for conducting research and training new leaders. Our diverse core faculty collaborate on projects that:

  • explore aspects of health inequalities, race relations/ethnicity, nutrition, and effects of the built environment. 
  • involve novel applications of multi-level modeling and spatial analysis to understand the complex interplay of factors that produce health.
  • design and test interventions at the community, mass media and social policy levels.

Scholars will acquire new skills, span disciplinary boundaries and launch innovative scholarly programs of their own design. From recruitment on, scholars will be linked with mentors who will provide guidance and serve as advocates for their interests and careers. Each scholar will formulate an individualized learning and research plan and will take part in a common, structured curriculum. Highlights of the curriculum include a seminar focused on faculty research and a scholars’ seminar series. The scholars’ seminar series will engage them in a critical analysis of the most important social, environmental, behavioral and biological determinants of population health. Scholars also can take advantage of existing courses and programs throughout the University.

Scholars will participate in leadership development programs run by faculty at the Wharton School and the Fels Center of Government. These programs will train scholars to become effective advocates for population health and to influence communities, institutions and policymakers to translate research results into effective interventions. Scholars will receive generous research support (seed money, research assistants, travel funds and University resources), close and diverse research mentoring and guidance, and a tight connection with a variety of relevant institutions on campus and in the city.

Some of the major research centers contributing to the program at Penn are the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, a world-renowned program in health services research and health care management; the Annenberg School for Communication, whose health communication program is one of the nation’s leading research centers in the media’s role in health policy; the Cartographic Modeling Lab, a repository of city information on income, education, crime, health and social services available on a neighborhood or city block level; the Partners for Child Passenger Safety, a collaboration with The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia that includes the nation’s largest surveillance system of children in motor vehicle crashes; the Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion, a VA-funded center to understand and eliminate health and health care disparities; and the Population Studies Center, whose faculty conduct groundbreaking studies of aging, mortality, economic and historic demography, and race and ethnicity.

The program co-directors are Robert A. Aronowitz, M.D., Professor of History and Sociology of Science and of Family Practice and Community Medicine, and David A. Asch, M.D., M.B.A., Robert D. Eilers Professor of Medicine and Health Care Management and Economics. More than 50 other faculty members from across the University are committed to teaching scholars and providing them with mentoring and research opportunities.