What does the program prepare pharmacists to do?

It will prepare the individual for a career as: a congressional staff member, an agency policy development staff member or congressional liaison, a government affairs staff for a professional society or pharmaceutical company, or a healthcare policy/health system researcher/educator in academia.

Why is this experience important to pharmacy practice and health care?

It is important for the future of pharmacy to have individuals who not only understand the processes of analyzing and making good, sound policies, but also those who are willing to engage in the process. Policy happens everywhere—at local institutions, and in local, state, and federal legislative and regulatory environments. It is important for pharmacists to increase their involvement in legislative or regulatory policy, and to have better representation in Congress and the federal agencies.

Fellowships are typically focused on research. Does this fellow program require research, and why was it named as a fellow program rather than a residency?

The term “fellowship” is used to describe programs that focus on professional development and are often sponsored by organizations within the field.  This program provides its fellows the opportunity to examine health care issues from a professional association and Congressional perspective—not to perform “traditional” research.

What is unique about this program?

In contrast to other Congressionally-related fellowship programs, this Congressional Healthcare Policy Fellow Program:

  • is designed for pharmacists who come from outside of government, to bring external perspectives to the policy process
  • is structured to emphasize policy-oriented learning through participation, rather than observation
  • designates its Fellow as a free agent, not a representative of the participating organizations while they serve in Congress
  • provides this year-long experience to M.S., Pharm.D. or PhD - prepared pharmacists

What types of skill sets would be enhanced during this fellow program?

Communication skills are a major focus of this program.  Unique to policy writing compared to other forms of written communication, one has to write succinctly. Communication within the policy arena is a challenge for many people; an efficient and effective policy brief must arrive at the main point in a single page. This maturation occurs quickly while fellows are working in their congressional office. Within this office, the fellow is often working and communicating with non-healthcare professionals.  Finally, as the fellow is considered a free agent, this program works to develop and encourage autonomy.

What career paths have fellows from this program gone on to pursue?

The fellows have gone on to a wide variety of experiences. Many have held positions in government agencies, like the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services or the FDA. They have also gone on to academia, think tanks, consulting firms, and policy positions at state associations and agencies. See alumni fellow profiles for further information.

What is the time commitment one makes to complete the program?

This 14 month experience is designed to immerse the selected pharmacist in the congressional environment in which a multiplicity of perspectives is shared and ultimately emerges the development and evaluation of Federal Healthcare Policy.

How is the program structured?

The fellow starts  and undergoes an orientation program through the Brookings Institute.  The fellow then spends 3 weeks with ASHP government affairs and 3 weeks with ACCP policy staff. Then, the 2 associations and VCU work with the fellow to identify an office of an individual representative or a legislative committee to work with in Congress. The fellow then spends the remaining 12 months working as a health policy fellow in the office of that senator or representative or on committee staff.

What activities and projects do fellows work on during this experience?

Fellows work as staff in the congressional offices during this experience. Projects may include a variety of legislative activities and writing projects focusing on an assortment of legislative issues pertinent to that office. Fellows learn to evaluate and analyze policies, write briefs on health care issues, respond to government regulating agencies (like the FDA or the Department of Health and Human Services, and contribute to the drafting of legislation for the office or the committee they are working for during the year in Congress. Past fellows have been asked asked to arrange and prepare for a hearing.  Responsibilities for this included the identification of issue experts and the development of questions for the senators or representatives to ask of these experts.

Why was this program started?

The genesis of this program grew out of the founding director’s experience as a health policy fellow in a program sponsored for mid-career faculty by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. As a health policy fellow for the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions the founding director realized there was a need for younger individuals to have the same experience and opportunity as well.

What prerequisites, if any, are required?

Prerequisites include that the pharmacist has graduated from an accredited school of pharmacy, is a United States citizen, and has completed a postgraduate year 1 (PGY-1) residency and/or equivalent experience. Many have also earned additional degrees, such as a master of public health or a juris doctor, or completed a PGY-2 residency prior to applying to this fellow program.

Do I need to be a United States citizen to apply?

All applicants must be U.S. citizens and at the time of appointment not employed by the Federal government.