VA Quality Scholars Fellowship Program - Office of Academic Affiliations
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VA Quality Scholars Fellowship Program

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Program Announcement

Program details and application procedures:
Program Announcement


The VA Quality Scholars (VAQS) program develops leaders and scholars to improve healthcare. VAQS provides an interprofessional fellowship in healthcare quality improvement for physicians, doctoral-trained nurses, pharmacists, clinical psychologists and other health professionals. In this dedicated two-year fellowship, participants learn to develop and apply new knowledge for the ongoing improvement of healthcare services for VA and the nation. The VA Quality Scholars Fellowship Program offers scholars opportunities to become leaders with knowledge and skills to:

  • Improve health care delivery, health systems organization and management, and health professions education through interventions that exert positive influences in each domain
  • Apply the knowledge and methods of health care quality improvement to the care of individual patients and populations
  • Teach health professionals about healthcare improvement
  • Perform research and develop new knowledge for the ongoing improvement of the quality and value of healthcare services

Program Overview

Supported by the United States Department for Veterans Affairs, the VA Quality Scholars (VAQS) program develops leaders and scholars in healthcare improvement. Founded in 1999, VAQS is the premier training program in healthcare improvement and leadership and leads change nationally and internationally.

Interprofessional Education and Program Expansion

Given the interprofessional nature of healthcare teams and the particularly prominent role of nursing in quality improvement and patient safety, the VA Office of Academic Affiliations encouraged the integration of nurse fellows at all VAQS program sites. In 2009, the first doctoral-prepared nurses matriculated as VAQS program fellows. With support from the Quality and Safety Education for Nursing (QSEN), nursing faculty were integrated into each of VAQS sites. All VAQS sites were henceforth co-lead by a physician and nurse senior faculty scholar. Furthermore, a competitive program expansion occurred in 2012 with two new sites, Atlanta VA and the Greater Los Angeles VA, added to the overall VAQS program. Both sites were chosen because of their strengths as leaders in interprofessional education.

Following the VAQS site re-competition in 2018, selected sites include: Atlanta, GA; Birmingham, AL; Charleston, SC; Cleveland, OH; Durham, NC; Iowa City, IA; Minneapolis, MN; Nashville, TN; San Francisco, CA). Today, these 11 sites include physicians, doctoral-trained nurses, clinical psychologists, pharmacists and other health professionals as fellows who participate in an interprofessional fellowship curriculum.

Program Structure

The VAQS program now includes eleven sites in different geographic locations across the United States (Atlanta, GA; Birmingham, AL; Charleston, SC; Cleveland, OH; Durham, NC; Greater Los Angeles, CA; Iowa City, IA; Minneapolis, MN; Nashville, TN; San Francisco, CA; and White River Junction, VT). In addition, the program has partnerships with VA Rural Scholars in Iowa City, the VA National Center for Patient Safety, and an independently funded Quality Scholars program at the Centre for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety, University of Toronto, Canada since 2011. Each US site is located at a VA medical center and partnered with an academic medical center and university. Sites function independently.

Each site is directed by at least two Senior Scholars, an accomplished academic physician and doctoral-prepared nurse, and one or more other faculty experienced in mentoring and research in health care quality and patient safety. Mentoring is a critical part of the program and Senior Scholars view each fellow as an individual with unique needs. Senior Scholars’ approach is designed to nurture each fellow to develop a career whether in research in quality improvement and health services or in quality improvement practice within the framework or a position in medical administration or clinical practice.

Coordinating Center

In 2014, the Center for Training in Healthcare Quality at the Michael E DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston, Texas was awarded the role of VAQS Coordinating Center after a competitive application process.  The Center for Training in Healthcare Quality is an established quality improvement, patient safety, and health services research education and training program within the Houston Center for Innovations in Quality, Effectiveness, and Safety (IQuESt) at the Houston VA and Baylor College of Medicine.  The Houston Coordinating Center is responsible for the development and delivery of the VAQS curriculum, program evaluation, conducting the annual Summer Institute conference, and assisting sites with marketing and recruitment.


Fellows engage in quality improvement research projects and experiential learning opportunities at their sites, as well as with the VAQS national didactic curriculum. The VA Quality Scholars curriculum consists of four courses – Quality Improvement Core, Methods and Analysis, Career and Scholarship, and Leading Healthcare Improvement. Each week, a course is presented through our virtual platform (Adobe Connect) to all twelve sites throughout North America. These hour-long courses are led by invited expert speakers and provide an opportunity for international discussion and collaboration. VAQS fellows develop proficiencies in leadership for healthcare improvement for the VA and the nation. Fellows spend approximately 80 percent of their time in healthcare improvement research and education and approximately 20 percent in clinical activities.

All Fellowship participants serve as trainees on a temporary, full-time employment basis at one of the sites for the duration of the appointment period. Each appointee receives a per annum stipend related as closely as possible to local affiliate fellowship stipend levels. The highest postgraduate level attained through previous Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) residency training plus experience in nationally recognized Fellowships sponsored by NIMH, NIA, or similar agencies determine the stipend levels.

Fellowship Requirements

Applicants must desire to pursue medical careers in healthcare improvement and to serve as change agents to help lead VA into the 21st century. They must have the capacity for interactive skills necessary to create changes in institutions and the ability to appreciate and leverage the benefits of coordinated clinical medicine, research, and administration. VAQS faculty, fellows, and alumni are not only passionate leaders in healthcare improvement throughout the VA, but are also dedicated to propelling the field of improvement science forward. All applicants must be a US Citizen, not be simultaneously enrolled in an accredited clinical training program, and demonstrate interest in pursuing a VA career with healthcare quality as a significant focus.

Physician applicants must have completed an ACGME accredited specialty and subspecialty residency training program and be a board certified or board eligible physician with an active, unrestricted valid license to practice medicine in the U.S. Residency training licenses are restricted licenses, so VHA cannot accept them. In addition, any international medical graduate must have an unexpired visa and an Education Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) certificate that is valid indefinitely.

Pre-doctoral nurse applicants prior to the beginning of the fellowship, must possess an active, unrestricted valid nurse license in any US state or territory, demonstrate current active enrollment in good standing or written acceptance in a nursing doctoral program (either PhD or DNP) at an academic institution associated with a nursing school accredited by either National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) or Commission for Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Post-doctoral nurse applicants prior to the beginning of the fellowship, must possess an active, unrestricted valid registered nurse license in any US state or territory, have graduated (or completed all requirements for the award of degree) from a doctoral program at a recognized academic institution. This can be a doctoral program in a clinical discipline such as nursing (PhD or DNP) or in a non-clinical field relevant to Health Care Quality (e.g. education, industrial psychology, anthropology, medical informatics, etc.).

Clinical and counseling psychology applicants prior to beginning the fellowship, must have completed all requirements to become eligible for hire as a staff psychologist at a VA facility. Doctoral program accreditation must be  from the American Psychological Association (APA), Canadian Psychological Association (in relevant clinical degree areas), or Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS). The applicant must have completed an APA or CPA-accredited internship (or a new OAA funded, VHA-based internship that is not yet accredited).

Other associated healthcare applicants prior to beginning the fellowship, must possess an advanced degree from an accredited doctoral program that would make them eligible for VA hire, have completed all requirements to become a fully credentialed independent practitioner (or the equivalent for that profession) at a VA facility, and have an active, unrestricted valid license to practice in the US (if applicable to the candidate’s profession).

Application Process

Prospective fellows should begin the application process by reaching out directly to the Senior Scholars at their site of interest. All sites and faculty contact information are listed at

To apply, applicants must send a cover letter describing their experiences in healthcare improvement and a copy of their curriculum vitae to the Senior Scholars at the site(s) of their choice.

Accomplishments of VA Quality Scholars alumni

Alumni of the VA Quality Scholars program impact health care quality inside the VA and beyond including leadership positions that directly work to improve healthcare. Accomplishments of VAQS alumni include:

* Faculty positions both within and outside VA
* Leaders in public health organizations
* Deans in medical education
* Quality Management Officers in VA Networks
* Chief Medical Officer
* Vice President for a private hospital
* VA National leader of Medication Reconciliation
* Director of Quality Improvement for the US Army
* White House Fellow
* Leader of Senior Corps

VAQS Sites

Atlanta, GA  
Senior Faculty Scholars:
Anne Tomolo, MD, MPH 
Corrine Abraham, DNP, RN
Faculty Scholar:
Krysta Johnson-Martinez, MD
Jeannie Cimiotti
Emeritus Scholar:
Bethany Robertson, DNP
Carolyn Clevenger, RN, DNP, AGPCNP-BC, GNP-BC, FAANP
Atlanta VA Medical Center
1670 Clairmont Road
Decatur, GA 30033
Telephone 404-321-6111

Experitise in: Quality improvement, implementation science and educational program design and evaluation.

Birmingham, AL  
Senior Faculty Scholars:
Patricia A. Patrician, PhD, RN, FAAN
Carlos A. Estrada, MD, MS 
Faculty Scholar:
Rebecca Miltner, PhD, RNC-OB, NEA-BC
Meghan Black, MD
Melanie Morris, MD
Birmingham VA Medical Center
732 Faculty Office Tower
510 20th Street
South Birmingham, AL 35294-3407
Telephone 205-093-3081 ext. 6676

Expertise in: Signature programs and areas of excellence (ex: nurse staffing, work environment, and quality indicators, implementation science, surgical outcomes, community interventions, HIV/ hepatitis-C, rheumatology, medical education, informatics, personalized medicine).

Charleston, SC
Senior Faculty Scholars:
Elizabeth Santa Ana, PhD, MA
Robert (Neal) Axon, MD, MSCR
Donald (Hugh) Myrick, MD
Charlene Pope, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN
David Taber, PharmD, MS, BCPS
Ralph H Johnson VA Medical Center
109 Bee Street
Charleston, SC  29401-5703

Cleveland, OH
Senior Faculty Scholars:
Mary Dolansky, PhD, RN
David Aron, MD, MS 
Faculty Scholars:
Susan Phillips, DNP, MPH, PMHCNS 
Federico Perez, MD, MS 
Louis Stokes VAMC Cleveland (W)
10701 East Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44106
Telephone 216-421-3098


Expertise in: Quality Improvement (QI), education experts in QI, Implementation science – de-implementation, Interdisciplinary education, operations-related projects, and experience with quality and safety education for nurses –QSEN.

Durham, NC
Senior Faculty Scholars:
Patrick Calhoun, PhD, MA
Karen Goldstein, MD, MPH
Adam Goode, PhD, DPT
Eleanor McConnell, PhD, RN
Durham VA Medical Center
508 Fulton St.
Durham, NC 27705
Telephone 919-286-0411 

Expertise in: Implementation science, developing systems to improvement prevention and chronic illness management, women’s health, geriatrics and long-term care, physical activity, musculoskeletal disease management, behavioral health, and population health science.


Iowa City, IA
Senior Faculty Scholars:
Jill Scott-Caweizell, RN, PhD, FAAN
Hilary Mosher, MD, MFA 
Emeritus Scholar:
Peter Kaboli, MD, MS
Senior Faculty Rural Scholar:
Michael Ohl, MD
Iowa City VA Medical Center
601 Highway 6 West
Iowa City, IA 52246-2208
Telephone 319-338-0581


Expertise in: Research methods and specific content, including nurse-physician communication, rural health, infection control, pharmacy and statistical methods. In addition, expertise in implementation methods is sought in the areas of mental health care delivery, novel clinical programs, hospital medicine and transitions of care, and healthcare administration.

Minneapolis, MN  
Senior Faculty Scholars:
Christopher Erbes, PhD, MA
Judith Pechacek, DNP, RN, CENP
Aasma Shaukat, MD, MPH, MBBS
Faculty Scholars:
Ashish Malhotra, MD
Susan Diem, MD, MPH
Minneapolis VA Health Care Sytem
1 Veterans Drive
Minneapolis, MN 55417
Telephone 612-725-2000 

Nashville, TN  
Senior Faculty Scholars:
Robert Dittus, MD, MPH 
Ruth Kleinpell, PhD, RN, FAAN
Sandra Simmons, PhD, MA
Faculty Scholars:
Carol Callaway-Lane, DNP, ACNP-BC
Sunil Kripalani, MD, MSc
Michael Matheny, MD, MS, MPH
Christianne Roumie, MD, MPH
VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System
1310 24th Avenue South (GRECC)
Nashville, Tennessee 37212
Telephone 615-873-8004
Fax 615-873-7981

Expertise in: Quality improvement, implementation science, health services research, clinical epidemiology and outcomes research, health behavior, and clinical informatics.

San Francisco, CA
Senior Faculty Scholars:
Terri Huh, PhD
Sei Lee, MD, MAS
Margaret Wallhagen, PhD GNP-BC, AGSF, FGSA, FAAN
Tim Carmody, PhD
Faculty Scholars:
Jessica Eng, MD 
Kirby Lee, PharmD, MAS
San Francisco VA Health Care System
4150 Clement St.
San Francisco, CA 94121-1598
Telephone 415-221-4810 ext.3562

Expertise in: Mentorship, particularly for academic careers, geriatrics and palliative care research, research and innovative models of care for people with multimorbidity and quality improvement in mental health.


For additional Information:

VA Quality Scholars Program * In collaboration with the CECS' Health Care Improvement Leadership Development, the Veterans Health Administration has created the VA National Quality Scholars (VAQS) Fellowship Program. The Center for the Evaluative Clinical Sciences (CECS) at Dartmouth, established in 1989, is a locus of scientists and clinician-scholars from Dartmouth's medical and graduate schools who conduct cutting edge research on critical medical and health issues with the goal of measuring, organizing, and improving the health care system.

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