HIV Researcher Heads to Washington to Study Health Policy

Sep. 8, 2009

Sheldon D. Fields, Ph.D., R.N., F.N.P.-B.C., A.A.C.R.N., D.P.N.A.P., F.A.A.N.P., associate professor at the University of Rochester School of Nursing, has been named a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health Policy Fellow for 2009-2010. Awarded by the RWJF and administered by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies, the prestigious fellowship enables Fields to spend a year in Washington, D.C., enriching his understanding of public policy practices and utilizing his range of experiences to provide health policy leadership on Capitol Hill.

Fields is well known for his research and experience in the prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and medical services for those with the disease. His year in the nation’s capital, which officially began Sept. 1, will include working in a U.S. House of Representatives or Senate congressional office or for one of the committees related to health policy. He will have the opportunity to draft legislative proposals, arrange hearings, brief legislators for committee sessions and floor debates, and serve as a liaison between elected officials and the executive branch, interest groups, trade associations, think tanks and the health care community.

“This is an incredible opportunity for me to really get to learn the ins and outs of how things get done,” Fields said. “The reality is that if you’re going to make real policy change you have to be a part of things, you have to make the contacts. You also have to be able to step back and have a broad picture. The fellowship will afford me all of these things.”

To help continue his development as a health policy leader, Fields will receive additional funds the year following his fellowship as he applies his experiences to improving health policy and management locally. He is one of 10 people selected from applications submitted by individuals from academic institutions, nonprofit health care organizations and other community-based providers. He is one of only two nurses selected for this year’s class and the first male nurse in the program’s history.

In addition to his research, Fields is a family nurse practitioner with an active clinical practice in HIV primary health care, an educator, a national nursing leader in the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, and a community advocate working with the MOCHA Center Inc., a local non-profit organization.

Though health policy is a new area for Fields, it’s a natural progression given the experiences he’s had both as a researcher and clinician. “The more work I do, the more I realize I run into walls of all kinds. If we can change some of our health care policies, we can get more people access to care,” he said.

That goal has been paramount to Fields for some time. He is principal investigator for Project YEAH, Youth Empowerment Around HIV, a $1.5 million, five-year project funded by the Human Resources Services Administration, aimed at engaging HIV-positive young men of color, who have sex with other men, around the issues of HIV prevention, advocacy, education, medical services, outreach and testing.

Fields, a co-investigator at the HIV Vaccine Trials Unit at the University of Rochester Medical Center, is a fellow of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and the National Academies of Practice.

About the RWJF Health Policy Fellows Program                                                            

Established in 1973, the Health Policy Fellows program is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, with direction and technical assistance provided by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. The program develops the abilities of outstanding mid-career health professionals in academic and community-based settings by providing them with an understanding of the health policy process. More than 200 fellows from universities, colleges, and other health-related organizations across the nation have participated in this program. 

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation                                                                                 

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing the country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the organization works with diverse groups and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years RWJF has brought experience, commitment and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of the country.