September 9, 2005

VUMC’s Hemphill to take part in health policy debate

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Robin Hemphill, M.D.

VUMC’s Hemphill to take part in health policy debate

A prestigious fellowship award is allowing a Vanderbilt emergency physician to participate in the health policy process in the nation's capital.

Robin Hemphill, M.D., M.P.H, associate program director of Emergency Medicine and medical director of Vanderbilt's National Center for Emergency Preparedness, was one of seven physicians from across the country selected to participate in the Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellowships Program.

The yearlong program combines their health care experience with that of policy-makers in Washington, D.C.

Hemphill started her fellowship this month. Fellows undergo an intense three-month orientation, meeting top administrators of agencies responsible for health activities, congressional committee staff members, representatives of major health interest groups, officials of the Office of Management and Budget, and key White House advisers.

Toward the end of their orientation, the fellows interview for nine-month work assignments in legislative or executive branch offices with leading responsibilities for health legislation and programs.

In order to continue their development as health policy leaders at their home institutions and in their local communities, fellows receive additional support for up to two years following the completion of their federal work assignments.

“The year will be divided into a period of class work and interaction with policy makers,” Hemphill said. “Then in January, I will take a Senate assignment with a committee or a Senator.”

Hemphill was selected after an extensive screening process that required several interviews.

“We attempt to narrow the actual final applications to only those with the highest probability of succeeding in a national competition,” said Marie E. Michnich, director of health policy, educational programs and fellowships for the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. “Applicants compete in a pool that includes those from the most prestigious and highly regarded health care institutions and academic centers in the country. Dr. Hemphill was one of six awardees out of 14 semifinalists to win the award.”

“The interview process was interesting,” Hemphill said. “I went to D.C. and had three interviews, each with a group of about 8-10 people. It was not at all clear what they were looking for, so it was a challenge. What did become clear from the interview is that I really wanted to be involved in the program.”

Hemphill said the fellowship would allow her to become more adept at how health policy is created and refined so she can more effectively work at the state level in policy development for health care systems.

Established in 1973, The Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellowships Program — the second-oldest active program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) — is designed to develop the capacities of outstanding, mid-career health professionals in academic and community-based settings by providing them with an understanding of the health policy process. The program is administered by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This program seeks to blend the practical, real-world knowledge of the health care system with national and local policy efforts about how to improve it,” said Constance Pechura, Ph.D., senior program officer at RWJF. “Our hope is that the 'hands-on' experience will create a context for the fellows, and enable them to make an impact in their future endeavors.”