The Phyllis Torda Health Care Quality and Equity Fellowship

The Phyllis Torda Health Care Quality and Equity Fellowship Program enables NCQA to train a new generation of leaders from diverse backgrounds. NCQA recognizes that strength comes through diversity and actively seeks and welcomes applicants with diverse backgrounds, experiences and identities.

The fellowship celebrates the life and work of Phyllis Torda, who was an NCQA employee from 1995–2015. Phyllis was an enthusiastic champion for change and was devoted to improving our national health care system. Her work included efforts to promote the use of electronic health records and patient-reported outcomes for performance measurement, and new strategies and methodologies for physician measurement.

The Phyllis Torda Fellow will work on critical issues related to health care quality and equity, including:

  • Health care disparities among disadvantaged populations, especially among disenfranchised racial and ethnic minorities.
  • Social determinants of health, social risks, health inequities and culturally and linguistically appropriate services.
  • Telehealth and health information technology and their impact on care access and coordination.
  • Patient-reported outcomes, goals of care attainment, care planning, clinical decision making and patient experience with care.
  • Value-based care and payment and health care system accountability to quality, equity and cost of care.
  • Quality measurement and improvement in behavioral health.
  • Maternal and child health, morbidity and mortality.
  • Health care delivery transformation in practices and health systems.

Program Description

The fellowship is a 12-month, full-time program that will be conducted virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fellows participate remotely from anywhere in the United States. NCQA is well equipped to ensure that its teleworking staff and fellows are integrated into the team and are supported in their work.

The fellowship is housed in NCQA’s Research & Analysis department, whose mission is to develop methods and conduct research to advance knowledge and promote thought leadership in health care quality. Research & Analysis engages in projects to inform national policy and programs, assists in development of relevant quality measures and generate usable products to support delivery of high-quality care.

The fellowship comprises four key components:

1. Mentorship. Fellows are supported by NCQA senior staff with expertise in health care quality; measure development; health care informatics; health care policy and implementation; practice transformation; health services and outcomes research; and analysis of health care quality data. Mentors provide oversight of each fellow’s learning plan to ensure that activities are in line with the fellow’s career goals. Mentors hold regular virtual meetings with fellows to discuss progress.

2. Educational activities. Fellows have the opportunity to participate in virtual educational activities such as online research methods and data analytics webinars, as well as policy-oriented virtual events led by NCQA, leading health care organizations and research institutions. Other educational materials and resources can also be provided, based on a fellow’s learning plan. There is a budget for fellows to take advantage of educational opportunities.

3. Experiential learning. Fellows participate in one of two tracks:

    1. Quantitative Research Track: Geared for doctorate-trained candidates with strong research and data analytics training, with an emphasis on quantitative methods. Fellows support ongoing NCQA research projects and proposals based on their learning objectives and research background. NCQA research projects/proposals cover a variety of health care quality topics, including health equity, social determinants of health, health and social care coordination, telehealth, patient-centered care and behavioral health.Fellows should have experience in research management to complete a self-guided project during the fellowship, in consultation with NCQA research and data scientists. The project must address a health care quality/equity topic of policy significance.
      Fellows are encouraged to analyze their own data or publicly available data sources they have had experience analyzing (typically, from their dissertation), or may propose using a new database they will learn during the fellowship. Fellows must demonstrate evidence of their research capability to complete analyses and finish the project during the fellowship. NCQA offers the following data sources as potential options for fellows to analyze:

      1. Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS®) Data Factory.
      2. Health Outcomes Survey (HOS).
      3. Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS®).
      4. NCQA Recognition Programs database, which includes granular structure and process data on primary care (e.g., patient-centered medical homes). The level of data restriction and data quality for analysis (e.g., specific years or selected data elements) may vary by data source.

      Applicants interested in using any of these data sources should indicate their preference in the Expression of Interest Form (see below) and consult with NCQA staff during the application process.

    1. Translational Research Track: Geared for master’s-trained candidates who are interested in translational policy- or practice-focused health care research. Fellows support ongoing NCQA research projects and proposals based on their individual learning objectives and research and health care experience. NCQA has a variety of research projects that intersect with measurement development, policy and products related to disease management, health information technology, multicultural health care, population health management, case management, long-term services and supports and the patient-centered medical home.As an option (not a requirement), candidates may propose a self-guided project that evaluates a health care quality/equity initiative or explores solutions to a health care quality/ equity problem. Fellows should have experience in research management to complete this project during the fellowship. The project may entail an environmental scan, literature review, interviews, focus groups, case studies and short surveys. Examples of appropriate projects include examining industry best practices, understanding responses to health policy changes and developing evidence-based toolkits and resource guides. The goal is to produce new knowledge that can further NCQA’s mission through research activities. If NCQA approves the project, work may begin in consultation with NCQA Research & Analysis staff.

4. Professional networking. Fellows have the chance to meet in virtual meetings with thought leaders in the health care quality and equity field, including experts from health care organizations, health plans, state health officials, academic institutions and patient advocacy groups.

Previous Fellows

Keri Christensen, MS, 2016–2017 Torda Fellow, currently Director of Strategy Implementation at NCQA. As a mid-career professional, Ms. Christensen found the fellowship to be an opportunity to devote concentrated time to studying how social determinants of health interact with quality measurements. Her areas of interest include social determinants of health and digital transformation.

 

Andrew Anderson, PhD, 2018–2019 Torda Fellow, currently an assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy & Management at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Dr. Anderson graduated with a PhD in health services research from University of Maryland, College Park. As a fellow, he completed his dissertation and worked on research to evaluate care coordination in accountable care organizations, disparities in readmission, and strategies to address social determinants of health. His work aims to develop health equity measures and interventions for health systems.

 

Phil Saynisch, PhD, 2019–2020 Torda Fellow, currently a Research Scientist at NCQA working on primary care quality, telehealth and health equity in diabetes care and chronic kidney disease. Dr. Saynisch earned his PhD in Health Policy from Harvard University and worked on research evaluating the impact of the patient-centered medical home on health care costs and utilization. His work also supports product development.

 

Selection and Eligibility

The fellowship is an experiential learning, professional development opportunity for highly qualified, self-motivated individuals who are in the early stages of their career. NCQA recognizes that strength comes through diversity and intentionally seeks and welcomes applicants with diverse backgrounds, experiences and identities. In particular, we encourage applicants who meet the eligibility criteria from the following historically under-represented racial and ethnic groups to apply: African Americans (or Blacks), American Indians and Alaska Natives, Hispanics (or Latinx), Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders.

Eligibility for the Quantitative Research Track is open to:

      • Doctoral candidates in a health-related discipline working on completing their dissertation.
      • Doctoral degree graduates in a health-related discipline with less than 3 years of post-doctoral research experience.

Eligibility for the Translational Research Track is open to:

      • Master’s degree graduates in a health-related discipline with 2–3 years of professional research and health care experience after completing their master’s degree.

Applicants are assessed on the following criteria:

      • Commitment to the field of health care quality and equity.
      • Match between applicant’s learning objectives/research interests and what NCQA can offer.
      • Potential impact of the fellowship experience on the applicant’s career.
      • Professional qualifications and prior achievements.
      • Interpersonal and communication skills.

Applicants should complete and submit an Expression of Interest Form (see below) to fellowship@ncqa.org to indicate their intent to apply. This allows NCQA to provide guidance and support to candidates during the application process.

Submit full application and materials to fellowship@ncqa.org by 11pm (ET), January 22, 2021.

One fellow will be selected for the 2021–2022 year. Refer to the timeline below.

Salary and Other Support

Salary range is from $75,000–$100,000, depending on education and years of experience. This is a full-time position with full-time insurance benefits, including paid time off and educational assistance. This position is also eligible for company-provided benefits.

Application Information

Read application instructions and label documents carefully before uploading (PDF or Word documents). Incomplete applications will not be considered. Submit full application and materials to fellowship@ncqa.org by 11pm (ET), January 22, 2021.

Pre-Application Form

Complete the Expression of Interest Form as soon as possible to indicate intent to apply for the fellowship. Although completion of this form is not required, it is highly encouraged because it will allow NCQA to support candidates during the application process.

Application Materials

1. Application Form

2. Curriculum Vitae. Label the file “CV, [your last name, your first name].”

3. Personal Statement. Maximum 4 pages, double-spaced. Label the file “Personal Statement, [your last name, your first name].”

      • Describe why you want to be a Phyllis Torda Fellow. Address the following themes explicitly:
      • Your strengths and qualifications.
      • Your reasons for applying to either the Quantitative Research Track or the Translational Research Track.
      • Learning objectives (e.g., research/analytical approaches, data sources, health care topics, professional development skills) you hope to achieve during the fellowship.
      • Your topics of interest related to health care quality/equity. Be specific.
        Master’s-level applicants who are not proposing a self-guided project:
        Your statement of interest and relevant experience for advancing NCQA’s mission are especially important for consideration in the selection process.
      • Your professional goals as they relate to what you hope to gain from the fellowship.

4. Self-Guided Project Proposal. Maximum 5 pages, excluding cover sheet, double-spaced. Label the file “Self-Guided Project, [your last name, your first name].”

A self-guided project proposal is:

      • Required for doctorate-trained candidates applying for the Quantitative Research Track.
      • Optional for master’s-trained candidates applying for the Translational Research Track.

Include the following on the cover sheet: Proposal Title, Last Name, First Name, indication of the project as either a Quantitative Research Project or a Translational Research Project.

Describe the project you propose to complete during the fellowship program. Address the following questions:

      • Why is this topic important? For example, how is it related to the National Quality Strategy or how could it contribute to achieving the Triple Aim?
      • What objectives do you want to achieve or what questions do you hope to answer?
      • What research methods, analytical approach and/or data sources will you use? Your training and experience should demonstrate your capability to complete the analysis using the proposed data source.
      • What are the project’s work plan and general time frame? Provide details on how you plan to manage your project and complete it on time.
      • What challenges do you foresee and how will you address them?
      • What are the likely implications of this work for future research, policy, program or measure development related to health care quality and equity?
      • How does this work align with NCQA’s mission and vision?

5. Letters of Recommendation. Two letters of recommendation from persons who can comment on your academic and/or professional work. These persons (not the candidate) should email their letter to fellowship@ncqa.org by the due date in order for the application to be considered complete.

If you have questions about this fellowship or the application process, email fellowship@ncqa.org.

Timeline

  • Fellowship Announcement: November 16, 2020.
  • Expression of Interest Form Deadline: As soon as possible. This form will help NCQA provide guidance to support applicants during the application process.
  • Full Application Deadline: 11pm (ET), January 22, 2021. Submit full application and materials to fellowship@ncqa.org.
  • Virtual Interviews: The selection process includes a virtual telephone/video call with highly ranked candidates.
  • Notification of Award: Notification of award will be made by early April 2021. One fellow will be selected for the 2021–2022 year.
  • Potential Start Date: Between June 1 and September 15, 2021 (negotiable).

Equal Opportunity Employer/Protected Veterans/Individuals with Disabilities

NCQA is a drug-free workplace. NCQA recruits, hires, trains and promotes individuals, and administers any and all personnel actions, without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy, citizenship, familial status, disability status, veteran status, genetic information or other protected statuses under applicable state and federal laws.

NCQA will not discharge or in any other manner discriminate against employees or applicants because they have inquired about, discussed or disclosed their own pay or the pay of another employee or applicant. However, employees who have access to the compensation information of other employees or applicants as a part of their essential job functions cannot disclose the pay of other employees or applicants to individuals who do not otherwise have access to compensation information, unless the disclosure is (a) in response to a formal complaint or charge; (b) in furtherance of an investigation, proceeding, hearing, or action, including an investigation conducted by the employer; or (c) consistent with the contractor’s legal duty to furnish information. 41 CFR 60-1.35(c).

HEDIS® is a registered trademark of the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA).

CAHPS® is a registered trademark of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

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