FAQs

1. How are mentors selected at Harvard?
2. At what point should applicants contact potential mentors?
3. Can the Harvard co-directors pre-screen applications?

4. Do scholars need to live in Boston/Cambridge to be part of the program?
5. What obligations and time commitments do scholars have in the program?
6. Where do scholars sit at the Harvard site?
7. What are the differences between the six sites?
8. Can MDs apply for the program?
9. How do I apply?
10. What is it like to live in the Boston area?

1. How are mentors selected at Harvard?

A strong mentorship program is pivotal to the success of our program at Harvard. We advocate a dual mentorship model to ensure that each participating scholar is privileged with one-on-one interaction with scientists familiar with the challenges and opportunities intrinsic to transdisciplinary research. Upon arrival, co-directors Ichiro Kawachi and Lisa Berkman meet with each scholar to map out a workplan and a proposed mentor team. In all cases one of the mentor matches will be made with faculty close to their core discipline, to ensure that they receive appropriate career-related training in their fields. Each scholar is also matched to another mentor from a field outside their own.  The scholar will have the option of selecting their other mentors from other disciplines at Harvard. Mentors assist scholars in identifying critical research opportunities and coursework that would be appropriate to each scholar’s level of skill and experience.

2. At what point should applicants contact potential mentors?

If an applicant makes it to the interview round of the process, we will discuss with the candidate which faculty and current scholars he/she should meet with.

3. Can the Harvard co-directors pre-screen applications?

No, we are unable to review applications or comment on a candidate’s research agenda. We encourage everyone to apply if they meet the criteria.

4. What obligations and time commitments do scholars have in the Harvard program?

Scholars spend most of the time working independently on their own research agendas. Attendance is required at: 1) bi-weekly Thursday HSS seminars; 2) bi-weekly Thursday scholars meeting with site directors; 3) site visit by RWJF in spring; 4) the RWJF Health and Society Scholars Annual Meeting that takes place in the spring; 5) Interview sessions in January for next cohort.

Scholars are also obligated to meet regularly with mentors and are encouraged to enroll in any courses that will enhance their methodological and statistical skills.

5. Do scholars need to live in Boston/Cambridge to be part of the Harvard program?

Yes, scholars should plan to live locally as they are obliged to participate in weekly seminars/meetings. Permission to be away for longer than a week is required from the site directors.

6. Where do scholars sit at the Harvard site?

Current scholars have primary offices at the The Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies (HCDS), where the program is administered. The HCPDS is located in the heart of Harvard Square in Cambridge. The Boston campus, where the Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School and affiliated hospitals are located, is a 20 minute ride across the Charles River. A free shuttle bus runs every 1/2 hour between the Cambridge and Boston campuses.

Scholars may also have satellite office space at other Harvard schools or labs (to be discussed with the co-directors).

7. What are the differences between the four sites?

Applicants are encouraged to read through the web pages of the four participating universities to discern differences in program focus, format, and expectations. The other sites include ColumbiaUCSF/Berkeley, and the University of Wisconsin Madison. The RWJF Health and Society Scholars web page also has a wealth of information.

8. Can MDs apply for the program?

Yes. Individuals who have completed their doctoral training (MD, PhD, ScD) by the time of entry into the program (September 2015) in one of a variety of fields including, but not limited to, behavioral and social sciences, biological and natural sciences, health professions such as medicine and nursing, public policy, public health, history, demography, environmental sciences, urban planning, engineering and ethics, are eligible, regardless of the number of years since receiving their doctorate. Applicants are expected to have significant research experience. Past training in health-related areas is not a requirement, but applicants must clearly connect their research interests to substantive population health concerns. Applicants should welcome the challenge of building the field of population health.

9. How do I apply?

All applications are handled centrally at the National Program Office, not at the individual sites. Information on the application, including the timetable and the review process, is available at the RWJF Health & Society Scholars website. Applicants interested in specific elements of the Harvard program may contact Kayla Small at ksmalle@hsph.harvard.edu.

10. What is it like to live in the Boston area?

Boston and Cambridge combine a wonderful blend of stylish sophistication and historic New England charm. We have four distinct seasons and variable temperature readings – from 90s in summer to 20s in the winter. Getting around via public transportation, biking, and walking is quite easy.

Boston is home to scores of museums, theaters, and other cultural institutions, a vibrant restaurant and entertainment scene, and four professional sports teams. Discounted tickets for many shows and events can be obtained through Harvard. All the other New England states are within a two to three hour drive. New York City is a four hour drive away (and hour plane ride).

Note that the cost of living is quite high in this area – equivalent to New York and San Francisco.