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Gerson Galdamez is named a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Research Scholar

With the intention of diversifying the next generations of leaders and ensuring equity in policies, Health Policy Research Scholars has selected a group of PhD students from across the country to be part of its second cohort.

Gerson Galdamez, a doctoral student at the University of Southern California Leonard Davis School of Gerontology is one of a diverse group of 40 scholars, chosen from across the country to collaboratively tackle persistent health policy challenges by creating innovative solutions through their research. The Health Policy Research Scholars program is led by George Washington University with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Galdamez conducts elder abuse research with Mary Pickford Professor of Gerontology Kate Wilber and Research Assistant Professor Zach Gassoumis in the Leonard Davis School’s Secure Old Age laboratory. As the first gerontology PhD in the HPRS program, Galdamez will focus on elder abuse interventions and the prevention of elder financial exploitation.

“This new cohort of scholars is committed to research that challenges long-held notions about the health of our communities,” says Harolyn M.E. Belcher, MD, MHS, program director, Health Policy Research Scholars, Director of the Center for Diversity in Public Health Leadership Training and professor, Johns Hopkins University. “I am thrilled to work alongside them as they continue to develop into the kind of leaders that can enact real change and ultimately build a Culture of Health.”

Along the way, Galdamez will develop high-level leadership skills through professional coaching, mentoring, networking, and an advanced leadership curriculum. While participating in the program he will continue studying full-time and applying new knowledge and leadership within the USC Leonard Davis School, to advance a culture of health—one that places well-being at the center of every aspect of life.

He also hopes to encourage other students from diverse backgrounds to advance their studies.

“I feel it is important to represent the Latino community in academia and health policy,” said Galdamez. “In supporting my work and connecting me to a larger group of scholars, I feel so fortunate to be part of this program and hope more people from underprivileged backgrounds will feel encouraged to pursue their goals.”

Additional partners providing training and coaching to scholars include: AcademyHealth, Mayo Clinic, University of California—Los Angeles, and University of Michigan.

Health Policy Research Scholars is one of a number of leadership development programs supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). These programs continue RWJF’s legacy of supporting the development and diversity of leaders. Initially focused on health and health care, the programs have been expanded, because the Foundation knows that building a Culture of Health requires all of us in every sector, profession, and discipline to work together. The next application period for many of these programs will open in early 2018. Additional information is available at

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