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. 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, an NCQA employee from 1995–2015. Phyllis was an enthusiastic champion for change and was devoted to improving our national health care system. She promoted the use of electronic health records, patient-reported outcomes for performance measurement and new strategies and methodologies for physician measurement.

At NCQA, high-quality care is equitable care—there is no quality without equity. NCQA is on a journey to review, revise and innovate across programs and products through the lens of equity. This means investigating and understanding how structures and processes have led to disparities, inequalities or bias, and identifying solutions and changes to eliminate discrimination and unjustifiable health care differences. The Phyllis Torda Fellow will work on critical issues related to health care quality and equity. Below are examples topics, other related topics are welcome,

  • Integration of equity concepts in measurement, Accreditation, Certification, Recognition, education and information-sharing programs.
  • Developing or enhancing measures or standards for care access, equity and quality for behavioral health.
  • Digitization of health care information, evaluating data “fitness,” and reporting.
  • State or federal health care policy.
  • Patient experiences and reported outcomes.
  • Care populations: chronic conditions, complex care, maternal/child health.
  • New and expanded modes of care delivery: care at home, telemedicine, long-term services and supports.


The Fellowship is a 12-month, full-time program with the option to be fully virtual, hybrid or in person. Fellows who choose to be fully virtual may participate remotely from anywhere in the United States. For fully remote Fellows, NCQA will cover travel for trips to the NCQA offices, located in Washington, DC. NCQA is well equipped to ensure that teleworking staff and Fellows are integrated into the team and supported in their work.

The Fellowship program 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 and equity. Research & Analysis engages in projects to identify areas in health care that need improvement, to inform national policy and programs and to assist in developing and maintaining quality measures or standards that assess or signal delivery of high-quality, equitable care.

The Fellowship comprises four key components.

  1. Mentorship.

    Fellows are supported by NCQA senior staff with expertise in health care quality; measure development; quality improvement; 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 their career goals. Mentors hold regular meetings with Fellows to discuss progress.

  2. Educational activities.

    Fellows have the opportunity to participate in in-person meetings, such as NCQA’s annual Health Innovation Summit, as well as in virtual educational activities including courses or webinars on research methods and data analytics, as well as policy-oriented virtual events led by NCQA with leading health care organizations and research institutions. Other educational materials and resources can also be provided, based on the Fellow’s learning plan. There is a budget for Fellows to participate in educational opportunities.

  3. Experiential learning.

    Fellows participate in one of two tracks.

    1. Quantitative Research Track

      This track is intended for doctoral-trained candidates with strong research and data analytics training, with an emphasis on quantitative methods. Fellows support ongoing NCQA research projects and proposals selected based on their learning objectives and research background. NCQA projects/proposals cover a variety of health care quality topics including health equity, social needs, health and social care coordination, telehealth, patient-centered care and behavioral health. Fellows should have experience in research methods and management to complete a self-guided project during the Fellowship, in consultation with NCQA research and data scientists. The project should address a health care quality/equity topic of policy significance. Fellows are encouraged to analyze data available at NCQA, their own data or publicly available data sources they have experience analyzing (typically, from their dissertation), or may propose 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 Research Questions section on the Expression of Interest Form, and should consult with NCQA staff during the application process.

      Eligibility for the Quantitative Research Track:

      • Doctoral degree graduates in a health-related discipline with less than 3 years of post-doctoral research experience.
      • Doctoral candidates planning to defend their dissertation within the first half year of the Fellowship period (e.g., within six months of Fellowship start date).
    2. Translational Research Track

      This track is intended for master’s or doctoral-trained candidates who are interested in translational policy- or practice-focused health care research. Fellows support ongoing NCQA projects and proposals based on their individual learning objectives and health care experience. Fellows will work to identify, synthesize and apply evidence-based research and theory from a broad range of disciplines and health-related data sources, for problem-solving and to advance programs, policies and systems. NCQA has a variety of projects that intersect with measurement development, policy and products related to health promotion, disease management, health information technology, equitable health care, population health management, case management, long-term services and supports and the patient-centered medical home.

      Fellows have the opportunity to influence decision making on policies and practices that advance health care, by synthesizing the evidence base, applying scientific methods to create knowledge, analyzing data or information to develop recommendations, drafting communications and participating in the consensus-building process.

      Applicants will propose a self-guided project to evaluate a health care quality and/or equity-focused initiative or explore solutions to a health care quality and/or equity problem. Fellows should have experience in research methods and 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 department.

      Examples of recent translational projects at NCQA:

      Eligibility for the Translational Research Track:

      • Master’s degree graduate in a health-related discipline with at least 2 years of professional research and/or health care experience after completing the degree.
      • Doctoral degree graduate in a health-related discipline with less than 3 years of post-doctoral research experience.
      • Doctoral candidates planning to defend their dissertation within the first half year of the Fellowship period (e.g., within six months of Fellowship start date).
  4. Professional networking.

    Fellows have the chance to meet in person and in virtual meetings with thought leaders at NCQA and in the health care quality and equity field, including experts from health care organizations (e.g., health plans, hospitals) state health officials (e.g., Medicaid directors), academic institutions, health care vendors, patient advocacy groups and community-based organizations.


Portia Buchongo, MPH, BSN, RN, 2022–2023 Torda Fellow, is completing her PhD in Health Services Research at the University of Maryland College Park School of Public Health. Her research examines the relationship between neighborhood socioeconomic conditions and access to diabetes prevention strategies. Her areas of interest also include behavioral health integration and leveraging cross-sector partnerships to enhance whole-person care and address social needs.

Whitney Graves, PhD, MPH, 2022–2023 Torda Fellow, recently graduated with a PhD in Epidemiology from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her research examines the role of social factors on health and health care across the life span. As a Fellow, Dr. Graves supports NCQA projects exploring quality measurement for people who give birth and strategies to advance health equity.

Kevin Wiley, 2021–2022 Torda Fellow, is Assistant Professor at the Medical University of South Carolina and Leadership Fellow in the National Institutes of Health-funded Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning to Advance Health Equity and Researcher Diversity program. Dr. Wiley completed his PhD in Health Policy and Management, with a minor focus in Public and Population Health Informatics, at the Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health. Dr. Wiley’s research examines the implications of EHR data quality on care processes in chronic disease care.

Phil Saynisch, PhD, 2019–2020 Torda Fellow, is a Lead Research Scientist in the Advanced Analytics team at Independence Blue Cross, specializing in health economics and outcomes research. Prior to joining IBC, Dr. Saynisch was a Research Scientist at NCQA, working on primary care quality and health equity in diabetes care and chronic kidney disease. He also supported product development as a subject matter expert. Dr. Saynisch earned his PhD in Health Policy from Harvard University.

Andrew Anderson, PhD, 2018–2019 Torda Fellow, is 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, Dr. Anderson 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.

Anne Bowers, PhD, 2017-2018 Torda Fellow, is a senior researcher and business communications advisor at Cigna. Dr. Bowers’ fellowship project focused on health policy impacts for advanced care planning in Dual Eligible Special Needs Plans (D-SNPs). Dr. Bowers also served as the measure development lead for NCQA’s Serious Illness Care Program.

Keri Christensen, MS, 2016–2017 Torda Fellow, is 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 health care strategy and quality.


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 underrepresented racial and ethnic groups: American Indian/Alaskan Native, African American/Black, Asian American, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander and Hispanic/Latinx.

We also encourage applicants from minority-serving institutions such as Tribal Colleges and Universities, Non-Tribal American Indian/Alaskan Native-Serving Institutions, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions and Asian American and Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions.

Applicants are assessed on the following criteria:

  • A commitment to the field of health care quality and equity. A match between the applicant’s learning objectives/research interests and what NCQA can offer.
  • The 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 to to indicate their intent to apply. This allows NCQA to provide guidance and support to candidates during the application process.

Submit the full application and materials to by 11 pm (ET), January 31, 2023.


The 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.


Read the application instructions and label documents carefully before uploading (PDF or Word documents). Incomplete applications will not be considered. Submit the full application and materials to by 11 pm (ET), January 31, 2023.

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. Resume or Curriculum Vitae. Label the file “CV, [your last name, your first name].”
  3. Personal Statement. Label the file “Personal Statement, [your last name, your first name].” Provide responses to the questions below. Word limits are included for each question. Use 12-point Times New Roman typeface, double-spaced, in your responses.
    • Describe your interest in the Phyllis Torda Fellowship, and what you hope to gain from being a Fellow. (200 words)
    • Describe the track you would like to pursue, and a reflection of your current abilities. What do you seek to reinforce or strengthen in the context of your work through the Torda Fellowship? (500 words)
    • What topics related to health care quality and equity would you like to work on, and why? How does the topic relate to NCQA?  Be specific. (500 words)What are your professional goals as they relate to what you hope to gain from the Fellowship? (200 words)
  4. Self-Guided Project Proposal. Label the file “Self-Guided Project, [your last name, your first name].” There is 5-page maximum, excluding cover sheet. If you provide references, endnotes are not included in the page count. Use 12-point Times New Roman typeface, double-spaced, in your proposal.
    Instructions for the Self-Guided Project Proposal

    Include the following on the cover sheet:

    • Proposal title.
    • First name, last name.
    • Whether the proposal is for a Quantitative or a Translational research project.

    Describe a self-directed project you propose to complete during the Fellowship. Provide the following sections:

    • Abstract or Executive Summary. Describe the problem; the methods to address the issue; and potential implications, findings or solutions that will be identified by the self-guided project. (250 words)
    • Problem Statement. Describe the context, historical evidence or policies related to the issue you would like to research. Why is this topic important? For example, how is it related to the National Quality Strategy, how could it contribute to achieving the Quintuple Aim or how does it align with NCQA’s health equity strategy? What objectives do you want to achieve, or what questions do you hope to answer? How do the objectives help advance health equity and quality in health care?
    • Methods. Describe the approach to identify potential new knowledge of the problem and potential solutions to address the health care issue outlined in the problem statement. What research methods, analytical approach and/or data sources will you use? Use this portion of the proposal to highlight your research training, experience and capability to complete the analysis using the proposed data source or qualitative methods. What challenges do you foresee, and how will you address them?
      • For the Quantitative Research Track, describe the data source(s) and the caveats for addressing/examining the problem statement.
      • For the Translational Research Track, describe the approaches to be taken.

      Provide a project work plan, general time frame and details on how you plan to manage your project and complete it on time. The self-guided project is roughly 45%–50% of the Fellowship year, as Fellows also participate in NCQA-directed projects at least 50% of the time.

    • Implications. Describe the anticipated outcomes or potential findings. Describe the likely implications of this work for future research, policy, programs or measure development. How are these outcomes or findings related to health care quality and equity? How does this work align with NCQA’s mission and vision?
  5. Letters of Recommendation. Provide two letters of recommendation from persons who can comment on your academic and/or professional work. These persons (not the candidate) should email the letter to by the due date in order for the application to be considered complete.Include in each letter: Letter of Recommendation, Candidate’s Full Name, Date.

If you have questions about this Fellowship or about the application process, email


  • Fellowship Announcement: November 15, 2022.
  • 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: 11 pm (ET), January 31, 2023. Submit the full application and materials to
  • Virtual Interviews: The selection process includes a virtual telephone/video call with highly ranked candidates.
  • Notification of Award: Notification of the award will be made by April 2023.
  • Potential Start Date: Between June 1 and September 15, 2023 (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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