Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Selects Meharry Medical College for Multimillion-Dollar Endowment to Establish National Health Policy Center


Nashville, TN, March 5, 2009 -   Officials from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), (Princeton, New Jersey) and Meharry Medical College today announced the establishment of a national health policy center at Meharry Medical College. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College aims to bring diversity of perspectives and collaborative approaches to national health policy discussions. The creation of the Center comes as the nation's ethnic and racial diversity is rapidly increasing, and will be guided by the principle that sound health policy must be grounded in the experience of the people it represents.  

RWJF Senior Vice President and Director of the Health Care Group John R. Lumpkin, M.D., M.P.H., joined Meharry Medical College President and CEO Wayne J. Riley, M.D., MPH, MBA, Vanderbilt University Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Richard McCarty, Ph.D. and other university leaders from the two campuses to launch the Center, which builds upon the longstanding collaborative programs between the two institutions.

The Center will be established with an initial endowment gift of $9 million - which is the largest single foundation gift in the 132-year history of Meharry Medical College.  The endowment will be supplemented with additional funding to support the Center's work over the first five years of its operations.

The purpose of the Center is to increase the number and diversity of those with formal training in sociology and economics who engaged in health services and health policy research.  The project will integrate faculty and students from both Meharry and Vanderbilt's College of Arts and Science's sociology and economics departments within the Center. The Center will be based on Meharry's campus and operate under the direct supervision of the President of Meharry Medical College vis-à-vis a dedicated Executive Director identified through a national search.

The Center will have four key components: (1) the recruitment of health policy students and faculty at Meharry and Vanderbilt; (2) creation of a certificate program in health policy for Meharry's medical, dental, public health and biomedical science students; (3) establishment of a Health Policy Scholars in Residence program at Meharry; and (4) support for student and faculty led research, seminars and symposia to inform various policy debates.

As a leader in diversifying the nation's health professions workforce, Meharry is an ideal site for the Center for Health Policy. Vanderbilt College of Arts and Science has a long history of training graduate students in sociology and economics. Leaders at both Nashville institutions and within the community are fully committed to this collaborative project, which aims to influence national health policy debates and create a new cadre of health policy experts to serve the nation.    

"As a respected institution with a long tradition of  providing care to the underserved, Meharry is uniquely positioned to prepare the next generation of leaders who will help assure a healthier future in an increasingly diverse American society," said John R. Lumpkin, M.D., M.P.H., senior vice president and director of the Health Care Group of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "The talents at Meharry and Vanderbilt enable the creation of a world-class center that we believe will influence and enrich the national health policy debates." 

 "Meharry is honored and pleased to receive this historic endowment gift and program funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to establish a national health policy center," said Meharry President and CEO Wayne J. Riley, M.D., M.P.H., MBA. "The Center will help to reshape the future of America's health policies by creating a more inclusive pool of experts trained to conduct research and design solutions to the complicated and systemic health and health care challenges we face." 

 "It is a privilege to collaborate with Vanderbilt on this initiative," Dr. Riley continued. "The Center will strengthen our existing strong relationship and shared commitment to increase diversity in health policy."

 "Vanderbilt is proud to collaborate with Meharry on this groundbreaking health policy initiative by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation," said Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos. "Through this collaboration, we will work to ensure that our future leaders in this field reflect the diversity of our communities and have the core expertise in sociology and economics to address the multiple, complex issues associated with developing and implementing effective health policy. "

The RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry will complement the work of its sister institution, the RWJF Center for Health Policy at the University of New Mexico, founded in 2007.          

About Meharry Medical College

Meharry Medical College, a United Methodist Church affiliated school, is the nation's largest private, independent, historically black academic health center dedicated solely to educating minority and other health professionals. Diverse Issues in Higher Education's ranking of institutions annually lists Meharry as a leading national educator of African Americans with M.D. and D.D.S. degrees, and Ph.D. degrees in the biomedical sciences.  The School of Dentistry is one of two dental programs in Tennessee and one of 56 dental programs in the United States.  For more information, visit

 About Vanderbilt College of Arts and Science

Vanderbilt University is a private research university of more than 6,600 undergraduates and 5,400 graduate and professional students. Founded in 1873, the university comprises 10 schools, a public policy institute, a distinguished medical center and The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center. Vanderbilt, ranked as one of the nation's top teaching and research universities, offers undergraduate programs in the liberal arts and sciences, engineering, music, education and human development, and a full range of graduate and professional degrees.  For more news about Vanderbilt, visit VUCast - Vanderbilt's News Network at

About Robert Wood Johnson

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change.  For more than 35 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit

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For more information, contact:

Janet M. Caldwell (615) 327-6851, Office; (615) 500-0632, Mobile

Donna Lewis Johnson (202) 833-9771, Office; (202) 255-6188, Mobile