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Health Equity Scholars for Action (HES4A)

Grants to USA Marginalized Faculty Staff to Support
their Academic Advancement and Career Development

Agency Type:

Foundation / Corporation

Funding Source:

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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)

Conf. Date:


LOI Date:


Deadline Date:

09/01/21 3:00 PM ET


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Grants to USA and territories underrepresented faculty staff members at accredited academic institutions to support their academic advancement and career development. A letter of intent must be submitted prior to submitting a full proposal. Funding is intended for investigators of historically marginalized backgrounds to conduct research that addresses health inequities.

The scholarship of individuals from certain communities, especially Black individuals; Indigenous people; people of color; individuals from low-income communities; individuals with disabilities; LGBTQ+ individuals; non-native English speakers; first generation college graduates—and individuals who identify with more than one of these groups—have not been adequately supported in academia. Structural racism and discrimination have created obstacles for many qualified individuals when pursuing an academic career. Biased methods of assessment and evaluation criteria for tenure—and other forms of unfair treatment—can also lead to disparities in advancement and promotion.

Many researchers from historically underrepresented backgrounds, who wish to investigate root causes of and solutions to health disparities, face challenges of insufficient funding and barriers to attaining tenure. Without mentors at their institutions who understand their lived experiences and supportive professional networks to help identify and offer guidance in pursuing opportunities, underrepresented researchers face many obstacles to academic career advancement.

Health Equity Scholars for Action (HES4A) is designed to enhance the supports, resources, and community necessary for participants to thrive professionally and personally, and in turn, be better able to contribute to and expand health equity-related research and evidence that can help build a Culture of Health.

The goal of HES4A is to support the career development and academic advancement of researchers from historically underrepresented backgrounds who conduct health equity research. Grants will be awarded to address the challenges that underrepresented researchers experience; help them overcome obstacles to earning tenure; and make progress toward acquiring independent research funding. Grants will support three aspects of career development: research, mentorship, and connection with a community of support.

For information about these three aspects, see:

The following are expectations for all HES4A scholars:

  • Collaboration with RWJF program officers and other HES4A scholars to identify and leverage potential synergies across scholar projects and to disseminate results broadly.
  • Regular meetings with technical mentor and career coach.
  • Active participation in research collaboration and translation activities offered through HER-LC.
  • Participation in other activities organized by RWJF and other program offices (P4A, E4A, and S4A) including, but not limited to, webinars, blogs, podcasts, research meetings and presentations, and policy briefings.
  • Participation in periodic progress check-ins throughout the grant period with RWJF staff overseeing the program.
  • Attendance at annual scholar convenings. If held in person, travel and hotel costs to attend will be covered by RWJF.

The grant funds provided to the institutions under the program cover the scholars’ annual stipends and health insurance, and expenses associated with their research and travel. 

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 195758

Number of Grants:

Up to 15 grants will be awarded.

Estimated Size of Grant:

Grants of $250,000 each will be awarded through this program. Funds will cover up to 70 percent of the scholar’s salary for two years (capped at $75,000 per year), with the remainder of the award to be used for research and other related expenses.

Term of Contract:

Grants will be for 24 months in duration.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

To be eligible for HES4A, the individual applicant must:

- Be from a systematically marginalized group that has historically been underrepresented in research disciplines. The term “systematically marginalized” refers to the challenges facing individuals because of their race, ethnicity, gender expression or sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or similar factors. Eligible individuals include, but are not limited to:
-- Individuals from ethnically and racially minoritized groups underrepresented in research disciplines
-- First-generation college graduates
-- People for whom English is not a native language
-- People from low-income communities
-- LGBTQ+ individuals
-- Individuals with disabilities

These examples are intended to be illustrative, not exclusive. Applicants who do not fall within one of these categories, but who believe they meet this eligibility criterion, will have an opportunity to describe their individual circumstances as part of the online application process.

- Have completed a doctoral degree within the last five years. The degree can be in any field and is not limited to public health or health sciences.
- Be a junior faculty member in an accredited school in the U.S. or its territories (“home institution”), with a full-time academic position that could lead to tenure, or a postdoctoral fellow poised to be in such a position by the start of the grant.
- Have a home institution that agrees to administer and receive the grant. The home institution must be an accredited academic institution. Applicants from any universities classified among the R2-M3 by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education are strongly encouraged to apply.
- Have never served as a project director or principal investigator on any grant since receiving their doctoral degree. Individuals who have been awarded grants to support predoctoral training or have received a predoctoral fellowship grant are eligible to apply. See frequently asked questions for further clarification.
- Not have received support from other post-graduate research fellowships/traineeships (e.g., NIH K award, or equivalent). Investigators are not prevented from applying to other fellowships/ traineeships while participating in the program.
- Be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at the time of application. As federal policy or laws change, we may need to consider adjustments in eligibility and grant terms.
- Not be related by blood or marriage to any Officer or Trustee of RWJF, or be a descendant of its founder, Robert Wood Johnson.
- Federal, state, tribal, and local government employees are eligible to apply unless they are considered government officials under Section 4946 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Applicants that have other active RWJF grants may apply.

Funds from this award may not be used to carry out interventions or for general organizational operations. RWJF policy also does not allow grant funds to be used to support clinical trials of unapproved drugs or devices, to construct or renovate facilities, for lobbying, or as a substitute for funds currently being used to support similar activities.

Pre-proposal Conference:

An informational webinar will be held on Tuesday, May 4 at 12 p.m. ET and will include a question and answer period. Registration is required through this link: A recording of the webinar will be available afterward.

RWJF is also hosting a number of virtual “office hours” to speak with RWJF program officers and staff. These are open to all applicants on a drop-in basis; registration is not required and these will NOT be recorded. Join the office hours by going to “Programmatic and Technical Office Hours,” within the “Resources” section of the Applicaton and Review system, accessed through the “Apply Online” button from the CFP overview page.

For questions regarding the HES4A program (e.g., eligibility, mentorship, types of research, etc.):
- Tues, May 11 @ 3-4 p.m. ET
- Mon, May 17 @ 12-1 p.m. ET
- Thurs, May 27 @ 2-3 p.m. ET

For questions specifically about the application portal (e.g., troubleshooting, technical issues, uploading materials, etc.):
- Wed, May 12 @ 3-4 p.m. ET
- Wed, May 19 @ 3-4 p.m. ET

Additional questions may be emailed to Sheldon Oliver Watts.

Pre-Application Information:

Key Dates:
- May 4, 2021 (12–1 p.m. ET): Optional applicant webinar.
- June 16, 2021 (3 p.m. ET): Deadline for receipt of letters of intent.
- July 21, 2021: Invitation to select applicants to submit full proposals.
- September 1, 2021 (3 p.m. ET): Deadline for receipt of full proposals.
- Mid-September 2021: Semifinalist interviews via web conference.
- Mid-October 2021: Notification of finalists.
- December 1, 2021: Program begins.

How to Apply:

There are two phases in the competitive proposal process:

Phase 1: Letters of Intent:
Applicants must answer some eligibility questions and submit a letter of intent consisting of a narrative and supporting materials that describe their eligibility and their proposed research project.

Phase 2: Full Proposals:
Selected applicants from Phase 1 will be invited to submit a full proposal.

A group of semifinalists will be invited to participate in web-based interviews that will occur in September 2021. Finalists for the program will be selected after all interviews are complete.


Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Apply online:

Please direct inquiries to:
Sheldon Oliver Watts, PhD, program officer
Phone: (609) 627-5846

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
50 College Road East
Princeton, NJ 08540-6614

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Alabama;   Alaska;   Arizona;   Arkansas;   California;   Colorado;   Connecticut;   Delaware;   Florida;   Georgia;   Hawaii;   Idaho;   Illinois;   Indiana;   Iowa;   Kansas;   Kentucky;   Louisiana;   Maine;   Maryland;   Massachusetts;   Michigan;   Minnesota;   Mississippi;   Missouri;   Montana;   Nebraska;   Nevada;   New Hampshire;   New Jersey;   New Mexico;   New York City;   New York;   North Carolina;   North Dakota;   Ohio;   Oklahoma;   Oregon;   Pennsylvania;   Rhode Island;   South Carolina;   South Dakota;   Tennessee;   Texas;   Utah;   Vermont;   Virginia;   Washington, DC;   Washington;   West Virginia;   Wisconsin;   Wyoming

USA Territories: American Samoa (USA)   Guam (USA)   Puerto Rico (USA)   Virgin Islands (USA)   Northern Mariana Islands (USA)

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