Newswise — WASHINGTON (July 24, 2013) – For millions of people across the United States, health and well-being depends on policy decisions made at the federal level. With mental health at the center of today’s health policy discussion, Amir Afkhami, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and global health at the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), will bring his “boots on the ground” experience in mental health policy to the government as a 2013–2014 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellow. He will gain front-line experience in federal health policy-making and become part of the program’s 40-year legacy as the most prestigious learning experience at the nexus of health science, policy, and politics.
From 2008-2010, Afkhami authored and led implementation of the State Department-funded Iraq Mental Health Initiative, one of the largest international efforts to help rebuild Iraq’s mental health care infrastructure after years of war and conflict. Afkhami also worked with the Department of Defense to help stabilize and support mental health care for Afghani civilians. He is also a member of the Council of Foreign Relations, where he briefs government leadership on international health care issues, and actively treats patients and trains residents at GW SMHS.
At this critical time in health care development, as the Affordable Care Act is being implemented, Afkhami says he hopes to focus his fellowship on finding ways to address issues of access to mental health care in rural communities and communities with disparities and socioeconomic inequities. With his background, he hopes to bring a global perspective to some of the domestic challenges being faced.
“Health care doesn’t necessarily have borders – we are much more interconnected than meets the eye,” said Afkhami. “Working on the issue of substance abuse and harm in Afghanistan has important connections to heroin use in Washington, D.C., since the majority of heroin originates in Afghanistan. We must have a global perspective to be able to face and address some of the local challenges we are facing.”
Afkhami, who graduated from SMHS in 2003, was mentored by Jeffrey S. Akman, dean of GW SMHS and vice president for health affairs, as a medical student.
“With Dr. Afkhami’s extensive experience working in conflict zones, he will bridge domestic and international health policy interests as he helps shape health policy during his fellowship and his career,” said Akman. “We couldn’t be more pleased to have him represent GW SMHS as an alumnus and faculty member.”
Afkhami was chosen through a competitive selection process and will join five other exceptional health professionals for a one-year fellowship in the nation’s capital. The fellows hold a range of expertise in fields spanning nutrition science to oncology and will utilize their academic, public health, clinical, and community-based experience to support the formation of health policy on Capitol Hill. A three-month orientation program is followed by a nine-month assignment in which fellows work in either a congressional office or the executive branch. This experience is enhanced by leadership development activities and media training provided throughout the year.
“The real-world health and health care leadership experiences of our fellows provide a critical perspective to major health policy decisions, and will be invaluable as the country strives to transform health care,” said Marie Michnich, DrPH, director and alumna of the RWJF Health Policy Fellows program. “While working with key players on Capitol Hill, our fellows gain an insider’s view of the political process, critical leadership skills, and a professional network that lasts a lifetime.”
The RWJF Health Policy Fellows program is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation with direction and technical assistance provided by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Additional information about the RWJF Health Policy Fellows can be found at www.healthpolicyfellows.org.
About the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences
Founded in 1825, the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) was the first medical school in the nation’s capital and is the 11th oldest in the country. Working together in our nation’s capital, with integrity and resolve, the GW SMHS is committed to improving the health and well-being of our local, national and global communities. www.smhs.gwu.edu.
About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measurable, and timely change. For more than 40 years, the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org.