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 evaluate, enhance and innovate across our offerings through an equity lens. This means investigating and understanding how structures and processes have led to inequalities and identifying solutions and changes to remove gaps in care. The Phyllis Torda Fellow(s) will work on critical issues related to health care quality and equity. Below are some example topics; other related topics are welcome:

  • Integrating equity into various areas: This includes measurement, accreditation, certification, recognition, educational programs, and sharing information.
  • Establishing or improving standards for behavioral health care: Focus is on care access, equity, and quality measures.
  • Digital transformation of health care data: This involves assessing data relevance and adequacy, as well as effective reporting systems.
  • Influence of state and federal health care policies: Recognizing their impact on the healthcare landscape.
  • Emphasis on patient-reported outcomes and experiences: These are crucial metrics for evaluating care effectiveness.
  • Targeting specific care populations: Including those dealing with chronic conditions, complex care needs, as well as maternal and child health.
  • Adapting to new and expanded care delivery methods: Such as providing care at home, utilizing telemedicine, and incorporating long-term services and supports.
  • Leveraging clinical informatics to improve and broaden existing clinical measures: This involves expanding beyond health plans to encompass a more comprehensive range of healthcare services and outcomes, enhancing the depth and breadth of data-driven insights to advance overall healthcare quality and effectiveness.


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 Quality Measures & Research Group (QMRG) department which plays a pivotal role in developing and maintaining HEDIS measures for health plan reporting. It also conducts foundational research to support NCQA accreditation and recognition programs. QMRG comprises several teams: Research, Performance Measurement, Analysis, and Quality Solutions. The Research Team advances knowledge in healthcare quality, the Performance Measurement Team translates best practices into accountability measures, the Analysis Team handles data analysis and provides methodological support to research and measure development, and the Quality Solutions Group maintains relationships and manages projects for NCQA’s products.

The Fellowship comprises four key components.

  1. Mentorship.

    Fellows are supported by NCQA’s senior staff with expertise in health care quality; health care quality measurement science; quality improvement; health care policy and implementation; practice transformation; health services and outcomes research; and analysis of health care quality data. There will be a mentor who will provide oversight of each Fellow’s learning plan to ensure that activities are in line with their career goals. The mentor will also hold regular meetings with Fellows to discuss progress.

  2. Educational activities.

    Fellows can join in-person gatherings, like NCQA’s Health Innovation Summit, and virtual educational activities such as research and data analytics courses, webinars, and policy-focused events led by NCQA and renowned healthcare organizations and research institutions. Additional educational materials and resources tailored to the Fellow’s learning plan are available. A budget is allocated for Fellows to engage in these educational opportunities.

  3. Experiential learning.

    Fellows support NCQA projects based on their learning goals and healthcare background. They use evidence-based research and data from various sources to solve problems and improve healthcare programs and policies. Fellows will work on projects that allow them to actively apply what they’ve learned in practical situations, fostering a deeper understanding of the subject matter. Fellows have the chance to influence healthcare policies and practices by analyzing data, drafting recommendations, and participating in the decision-making process. Additionally, Fellows propose self-guided projects related to healthcare quality and equity initiatives or solutions to related problems.

  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.


This program is tailored for master’s or doctoral-trained candidates interested in translational healthcare research, particularly in policy and practice. Fellows play a crucial role in supporting ongoing NCQA projects, aligning with their learning objectives and healthcare background. Their responsibilities include identifying, synthesizing, and applying evidence-based research and theories from various disciplines and health-related data sources to advance healthcare programs, policies, and initiatives.

NCQA is involved in a range of projects encompassing measurement development, policy initiatives, and products related to areas such as preventive health, behavioral health, complex care, health information technology, equitable healthcare, and population health management.

Fellows are empowered to influence decision-making processes, synthesizing evidence, applying scientific methods, analyzing data, composing communications, and participating in consensus-building. Applicants are encouraged to propose self-guided projects aimed at impacting healthcare quality and equity initiatives or addressing healthcare quality and equity challenges.

These projects may include environmental scans, literature reviews, interviews, focus groups, case studies, and short surveys. Examples of suitable projects encompass assessing industry best practices, understanding responses to healthcare policy changes, and developing evidence-based toolkits and resource guides. The ultimate goal is to contribute new knowledge in line with NCQA’s mission to enhance healthcare quality.

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.


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 and currently 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.

Eligibility for the program includes being a master’s degree graduate in a health-related field with at least 2 years of professional research and healthcare experience post-degree completion, a doctoral degree graduate in a health-related field with less than 3 years of post-doctoral research experience, or a doctoral candidate planning to defend their dissertation within the first half-year of the Fellowship period (e.g., within six months of the Fellowship start date)

Applicants should complete and submit an application form and have their letters of recommendation sent via this link to complete their application. If you have any questions, please email for further information.

Submit the full application and materials by 11 pm (ET), January 31, 2024.


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. If you have any questions, please reach out to All submission materials are due by 11 pm (ET), January 31, 2024.

Application Materials

  1. Application Form.
  1. Resume or Curriculum Vitae. Label the file “CV, [your last name, your first name].”
  1. 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 word max)
    • 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 word max)
    • What are your professional goals as they relate to what you hope to gain from the Fellowship? (200 word max)
    • Briefly share aspects of your background, experience and identities that will contribute to NCQA’s mission of furthering diversity, equity and inclusion. (200 word max)
  1. 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
    The self-guided project constitutes approximately 45%–50% of the Fellowship year, with Fellows also engaging in NCQA-directed projects for at least 50% of their time. Please note that the self-guided project may be subject to changes based on feasibility, interest, and scope. Include the following sections:
    • Proposal Title
    • Executive Summary: (200 word max)
      • Describe the problem, the methods to address the issue, and the potential implications, findings, or solutions the self-guided project will identify.
    • Objective of the project (100 words max, bullets acceptable)
    • Problem Statement: (200 word max)
      • Describe the context, historical evidence, or policies related to the issue you want to research. Why is this topic important?
    • Methods and Approach: (200 word max)
      • Describe the approach to identify potential new knowledge of the problem and possible solutions to address the health care issue outlined in the problem statement. Items to include:
        • What research methods, analytical approach and/or data sources will you use?
        • 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?
      • Project Plan & Timeline: (150 word max)
        • Provide a high-level project work plan and general time frame (assume in a 12-month timeframe). Please include how you plan to manage and complete your project on time.
      • Implications: (150 word max)
        • Describe the anticipated outcomes or potential findings. Describe the likely implications of this work for future research, policy, programs, or measure development. Include how these outcomes or results relate to health care quality and equity. Lastly, describe how this work aligns with NCQA’s mission and vision.
  1. 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 send their letter of recommendation using this link. If they have any questions, please be sure to have them email Letters of recommendation are due by January 31, 2024, along with other required materials in order for the application to be considered complete. If you have questions about this Fellowship or about the application process, email


  • Fellowship Announcement: November 15, 2023.
  • Full Application Deadline: 11 pm (ET), January 31, 2024.
  • 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 2024.
  • Potential Start Date: Between June 1 and September 15, 2024 (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).


Briana Barrett, PhD, 2023-2024 Torda Fellow, recently graduated with a PhD in Counseling and Counselor Education from North Carolina State University. Her research examines how technology use in counselor education has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a Fellow, Dr. Barrett supports NCQA projects exploring topics in behavioral health network adequacy and performance measurement.

Ashley Pugh, MSHI, RN, CPHIMS, 2023-2024 Torda Fellow, is a nurse informaticist with a critical care and community health background.  She supports various health equity initiatives across the organization, including quality measures, product development, and digital transformation.  Her interests include digital health literacy, interoperability, and community-based strategies to improve care coordination.

Portia Buchongo, PhD, MPH, BSN, RN, 2022–2023 Torda Fellow, is an Applied Research Scientist, Health Equity at NCQA. Portia found the Fellowship to be an opportunity to gain new skills in health care quality by working on projects that spanned quality measurement in behavioral health integration, health equity measurement and her independent research that examined the impact of neighborhood socioeconomic conditions and access to diabetes prevention programs.

Whitney Graves, PhD, MPH, 2022–2023 Torda Fellow, 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 supported NCQA projects exploring quality measurement for people who give birth and strategies to advance health equity.

Kevin Wiley Jr., Ph.D., M.P.H., 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 Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. His work aims to increase the visibility of healthcare needs among historically marginalized populations. 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.

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.

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