Young Leader Awards:

Recognizing Leadership for a Healthier America

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 40 Years of Improving Health and Health Care


As a part of the recognition of its 40th anniversary, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) will honor up to 10 leaders age 40 and under who offer great promise for leading the way to improved health and health care for all Americans. The Young Leader Awards will be given to individuals who have demonstrated innovative leadership in health and health care.



Thank you to all those who submitted nominations for the RWJF 40th Anniversary Young Leader Awards.  The Call for Nominations period is now closed.  We have received 840 complete nominations and have been amazed at the high quality of those we have read to date.  The remarkable young leaders who have been nominated provide all of us who are privileged to review the submissions with a strong feeling of hope for the future.  Thank you all!

Please click here to learn about the 10 winners.



Awards  |  Key Dates and Deadlines  |  Eligibility Criteria  |  Use of Award Funds

Characteristics of Leaders Sought  |  How to Nominate 

Frequently Asked Questions  |  Inquiries  |  Awards Panel 

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation




The Foundation will make up to 10 awards of $40,000 each to outstanding young leaders. Awardees may use the award to advance their work, though this is not a requirement. Awardees will be publicly announced at and will be requested to attend a RWJF conference to be held in Princeton, New Jersey, on October 25-26, 2012.

Acceptance of an award constitutes permission to use the winner's name, likeness, voice and biographical information for promotional purposes by RWJF without restriction or further consideration. Each potential winner may be required to sign an affidavit of eligibility and a liability and publicity release as a condition of receiving any award.


Key Dates and Deadlines

 May 31, 2012
 Announcement of Call for Nominations
 July 16, 2012
 Deadline for receipt of nominations
 September 24, 2012
 Notification of awardees
 October 25/26, 2012 
 Announcement of awardees



Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for a Young Leader Award, a candidate must:

  • Have been working to improve health or health care for at least three years;
  • Have contributed to improving health or health care through innovation and leadership;
  • Be 40 years of age or younger as of July 16, 2012; and
  • Be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States or its territories.

Neither the nominee nor the nominator may be staff or family of staff of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Institute for Alternative Futures, or the Awards Panel. Additionally, nominees cannot be Trustees of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation or related by blood or marriage to any Officer* or Trustee of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, or be a descendant of the Foundation’s founder, Robert Wood Johnson.

* The Officers are the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, President and CEO, Chief of Staff, General Counsel & Secretary, and Treasurer of the Foundation.


Characteristics of Leaders Sought

We are seeking nominees who have demonstrated the characteristics needed to improve health and health care through leadership and innovation. These characteristics — a combination of personal attributes, commitment to health and health care, and successful experience — demonstrate an ability to lead and innovate and they signal the potential to become a greater leader in the coming years. Specifically, we are looking for:

  • Meeting an Important Need through Innovation — The nominee will have demonstrated the ability to address an important health or health care need by developing a new approach.
  • Accomplishments that Represent Collective Efforts — The nominee will have demonstrated the ability to bring others together to achieve results greater than what a single person could bring about.
  • Demonstrated Empathy, Care and Commitment — The nominee's success reveals concern for people and a persistent drive to relieve suffering and fulfill human potential.
  • Transdisciplinary Understanding — The nominee will have shown the capacity to apply learning beyond the boundaries of a single discipline.
  • Curiosity — The nominee will have demonstrated curiosity that drives for answers to questions others have passed over, showing persistence as well as an ability to engage others in the quest for answers.
  • Combined Thinking and Action — The nominee will have developed great ideas into products, services or policies that have made a difference in health or health care.
  • Sustainable Impact — The nominee will have made an impact on health or health care that extends beyond an initial group of people to reach additional populations and will likely be sustainable over the decades ahead.

Diversity and inclusion are core values of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. We value differences among individuals across multiple dimensions including, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion and socioeconomic status. We encourage nominations of young leaders from the widest array of perspectives and experiences. We believe that the more we include diverse perspectives and experiences in our work, the better we are able to help all Americans live healthier lives and get the care they need. Examples of potential young leaders include but are not limited to:

  • Scientists working on discontinuities with the potential to cure or largely control major diseases (e.g., heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s), or who are applying new knowledge (e.g., how epigenetics works and how we can create environments for healthy genome expression).
  • Health innovators capable of monumental improvements that could create unbelievable quality of life.
  • Technology developers who could lower the cost of health care.
  • Role models or behavioral scientists who could greatly increase health consciousness and healthful behaviors (e.g., how we eat and stay active).
  • Change agents shaping policy, systems, or behavior, who could successfully address violence, nutrition, physical activity or other important social factors for health.
  • Health equity promoters who innovatively reduce health disparities, especially by affecting upstream causes of disparities and ill health. 
  • Developers of innovative community programs or new approaches that show promise for other communities, especially within diverse and vulnerable communities.


Use of Award Funds

Awardees will each receive $40,000 as a direct personal acknowledgement of his/her accomplishments. Awardees are responsible for all applicable federal, state, and local income taxes that may be due on the award.  Awardees should seek advice from a tax professional concerning the tax implications of this award.

How to Nominate

Templates. Templates for nominators and nominees to complete and submit are available below and must be used for all nominations. Both the nominee and the nominator must submit their respective templates and statements. Nominations that are missing the nominee's or the nominator's submission will not be considered for the Awards. Please also note that only one nominator submission will be accepted and considered per nominee, and we will not accept nominator submissions that present the names of multiple nominators. We recommend that any young leader who gets multiple people contacting them about the Young Leader Awards select only one nominator rather than agree to multiple people’s request.

 Template for Nominators  Template for Nominees
 Click to Download  Click to Download


Submission Requirements for Nominators. Individuals can nominate young leaders who have the characteristics identified above. Nominators must complete the Nominator Template and describe in no more than five pages how the nominee embodies these characteristics. The nomination should highlight at least two examples of the candidate’s abilities to lead and innovate, including descriptions of relevant work. Nominators should address as many of the characteristics (listed above) as applicable, using concrete examples. Additionally, nominators should obtain agreement from the nominee for the submission and explain their relationship to the nominee.

Nominations should come only from people who know their candidate well, who are personally inspired by them and who are personally completing the nomination forms. A candidate may not nominate him or herself, or be a member of the family (e.g., spouse, sibling, child, or parent) of the nominator.

Submission Requirements for Nominees. Nominees must complete and submit the Nominee Template and a one-page personal statement about their work and its meaning for health or health care, describing what they have achieved, what they hope to achieve and how.

Requirements for Submissions. Nominators and Nominees must submit their completed templates and statements by email to Only material submitted to this email address will be accepted. Nominations will be accepted beginning May 31, 2012, and all materials must be received no later than July 16, 2012, 11:59 pm Eastern Time. Nominations will not be acknowledged or returned. No responsibility is assumed for late, lost, incomplete, inaccurate, or misdirected nominations or nominations that are not received for any reason. No feedback or comments will be provided to nominees or nominators on their submissions.

Nominees may be subject to background checks to confirm eligibility and suitability for award. Upon request, a nominee may be required to provide a signed declaration or affidavit confirming eligibility, answer any pertinent questions, and consent to a detailed background check to the fullest extent permitted under applicable law. Failure to comply when requested may result in disqualification for further consideration as a nominee. This program is subject to all applicable laws. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

Submission of materials for this awards program conveys to RWJF the non-exclusive right, but not the obligation, to publish or display those materials, in whole or in part, in any and all media, worldwide, without restriction of any kind.

Frequently Asked Questions


Q: Are current and former RWJF Fellows or Scholars eligible to be nominees or nominators?
Q: Are former staff and retirees of the Foundation eligible to be nominees or nominators?
Q: Are staff of a RWJF grantee organization eligible to be nominees or nominators?
Q: Are members of a RWJF-funded national program office eligible to be nominees or nominators?

Yes, all of the above are eligible to be nominees or nominators, provided that the individual meets all other eligibility and submission requirements described in the call for nominations.

Q: Are you only looking for nominees who are leaders of large organizations?

No, nominees do not need to be members or leaders of large organizations.  We welcome nominations for self-employed individuals as well as members or leaders of small- or medium-sized organizations.

Q: Are students eligible? Does the nominee have to have a completed terminal degree?

Students are eligible for the Young Leader Awards and do not need to have a completed degree,
provided that the individual meets all other eligibility and submission requirements described in the call for nominations.


Q: Do you require both nominator and nominee templates and statements for a complete nomination?

Yes, to nominate an individual, both nominator and nominee must submit their respective templates and statements.  Only complete nominations will be considered for the Young Leader Awards.

Q: Can more than one nominator submit an application for the same nominee?
Q: Is there a limit to the number of people who could nominate an individual for this award?

We will accept and consider only one nomination per nominee, and we will not accept nominations that present the names of multiple nominators.  We recommend that any young leader who gets multiple people contacting them about the Young Leader Awards select only one nominator rather than agree to multiple people’s request.  However, please note that we ask nominees to list the name and contact information for two references in their template; the nominee may consider listing some of these fellow potential nominators as one or two of these references, rather than having them complete multiple nominations for the same individual.

Q: Can a nominator nominate several nominees?

Yes, but only by completing separate templates and statements for each individual.

Q: Do you accept Letters of Support or CVs, submitted in addition to the completed Nominee and Nominator templates and statements?

No, only completed nominee and nominator templates and statements will be considered for the Young Leader Awards.

Q: Should the nominee and nominator statements be written using single- or double-spacing?

You may choose any spacing, as long as the statement overall conforms to the space limitations, i.e., one page for nominees and five pages for nominators.

Q: Should I separate my template and statement as individual attachments each, or merged into a single attachment?

You may choose, however we would prefer having all of the nominee materials merged into a single attachment. Same for the nominator materials.

Q: May I submit the nominee and nominator materials in the same email?


Q: What should I use as my subject line?

To help with processing, we encourage you to state the name of your nominee in the subject line (e.g., YLA nominator docs for Jane Smith).

Q: May we submit the nominator and nominee materials in the same email?

Yes. You may also submit them in separate emails. In any case, please clearly label your attachments (e.g., nominee template, nominator template).


Q: Will the Young Leader Awards be offered annually or is this a one-time opportunity? 
Q: Is there any way to see previous award winners to know more about the caliber of awardees?

The Young Leader Awards are a one-time opportunity only.  There have not been any previous award winners.



For information on the award, nomination process or eligibility criteria, please contact the Institute for Alternative Futures at (703) 684-5880 or by email to




Awards Panel

Submitted applications will be evaluated by IAF and the following panel of experts:

David Altman, Ph.D.
Executive Vice President, Research, Innovation, & Product Development
Center for Creative Leadership

Esther Dyson
EDventure Holdings

Dean Kamen
DEKA Research & Development Corporation

Denise Koo, M.D., M.P.H.
Director, Scientific Education and Professional Development Program Office
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D.
The Satcher Health Leadership Institute, Morehouse School of Medicine

David R. Williams, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health
Harvard School of Public Health


About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measurable and timely change.

For 40 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation


40 years of improving health and health care. Learn more at