Professional News

UK Nurse Researcher Named Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellow

headshot of Dr. Kristin Ashford
Ashford is one of only six health professionals from across the country joining the prestigious, yearlong fellowship program.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 23, 2021) The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and National Academy of Medicine (NAM) have named the University of Kentucky College of Nursing’s Kristin Ashford, Ph.D., to the 2021-2022 class of RWJF Health Policy Fellows. 

Ashford is one of only six health professionals from across the country joining the prestigious, yearlong fellowship program. In September she will move to Washington, D.C., to work on health-related legislative and regulatory issues with members of Congress and the executive branch.

“I am unbelievably honored and humbled for this opportunity to work and learn alongside prominent, national health policymakers,” said Ashford, associate dean of undergraduate faculty and interprofessional education affairs and Good Samaritan Professor for Community Nursing at UK’s College of Nursing. “Thank you to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the National Academy of Medicine for selecting me to participate in this immersive experience and recognizing the value of involving health professionals in health care policy and decision making.”

Ashford received her bachelor's degree in nursing from Washburn University, a master's degree in nursing from the University of Louisville and her doctorate in nursing from the University of Kentucky. In addition to her associate dean role, Ashford currently serves as a professor, researcher and women’s health nurse practitioner at UK’s College of Nursing. She also serves as the director of the UK’s Perinatal Research and Wellness Center. 

“We are so proud of Dr. Ashford for receiving this well-deserved, elite designation from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and National Academy of Medicine,” said Janie Heath, UK College of Nursing dean and Warwick Professor of Nursing. “This fellowship could not be timelier and more impactful, as nurses and other health professionals are needed to help shape policy and legislation that will reduce inequities in the lives of individuals and communities in need of achieving their full health potential. Dr. Ashford’s honor serves as yet another example of the UK College of Nursing’s standard of excellence for advancing academic nursing leadership.”

The RWJF fellows were selected for their accomplishments in health and behavioral/social science through a national competition for health professionals with an interest in policy. Their experiences in Washington will position them to examine how federal and state governments relate to the mission of their home institutions and local communities and will enrich their understanding of the federal policy formation process. 

After an intensive three-month orientation, the fellows will then participate in a nine-month assignment in a congressional office or the executive branch, where they will be involved in health-related legislation and policy development. After their time in Washington, the fellows will continue to develop as health policy leaders and will receive support in order to assist in providing expert perspectives for informed health policy.

“The past year has been a reminder of the importance of health, public health, and health care to the well-being of our nation,” said Gregg Margolis, director of the RWJF Health Policy Fellows program at NAM. “Health policy decisions impact every aspect of our lives, including justice, fairness, equity, the environment, and the economy. We are proud to bring exceptional health and health care experts to Washington to provide a front-line perspective to current policy debates. This cohort will participate in health policy deliberations at the highest levels of government, and they will help craft more informed policy options and use their experience to improve the nation’s health.”

The complete 2021-22 class of RWJF health policy fellows are:

  • Kristin Ashford, Ph.D., associate dean of undergraduate faculty and interprofessional education affairs and Endowed Good Samaritan Professor for Community Nursing, College of Nursing, University of Kentucky, Lexington
  • Brenda Baker, Ph.D., assistant clinical professor, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, Emory University, Atlanta
  • Angela Perone, founding executive director, SAGE Metro Detroit, Ferndale, Michigan
  • Dr. Ann Sheehy, associate professor of medicine and division head, Division of Hospital Medicine, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • Dr. Brian Williams, professor of surgery, section of trauma and acute care surgery, University of Chicago Medicine, Chicago
  • Dr. Charlton Wilson, chief medical officer, Mercy Care, Phoenix

About the RWJF Health Policy Fellows program

The RWJF Health Policy Fellows program is the nation’s most prestigious learning experience at the nexus of health, science, and policy in Washington, D.C.  Since 1973, this nonpartisan fellowship has offered exclusive, hands-on policy experience with the most influential congressional and executive offices in the nation’s capital. Over 290 fellows from across the nation have worked hand in hand with the best and brightest in federal health policy to gain an insider’s perspective of the political process, develop unmatched leadership skills, and build a professional network that lasts a lifetime. As chancellors and deans at major academic institutions; presidents of professional societies and voluntary health organizations; leaders in local, state and federal government; and experts at think tanks and advocacy groups, fellows transform the nation’s health care policy and practice. For more information, visit

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 

For more than 45 years, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. RWJF is working alongside others to build a national Culture of Health that provides everyone in America a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being. For more information, visit Follow the foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at

About the National Academy of Medicine 

The National Academy of Medicine, established in 1970 as the Institute of Medicine, is an independent organization of eminent professionals from diverse fields including health and medicine; the natural, social, and behavioral sciences; and beyond. It serves alongside the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering as an adviser to the nation and the international community. Through its domestic and global initiatives, the NAM works to address critical issues in health, medicine, and related policy and inspire positive action across sectors. The NAM collaborates closely with its peer academies and other divisions within the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.