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New Orleans, LA – Janet Leigh, BDS, DMD, Chair of the Department of Oral Medicine and Radiology at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Dentistry, is one of ten Health Policy Fellows selected by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation® (RWJF) for 2009-10. She is the first dentist to be selected since 1999. The award comes with a grant in the amount of $165,000 for the residential stay, travel, research, conferences, and other leadership development activities.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellows program provides the nation’s most comprehensive experience at the nexus of health science, policy and politics in Washington D.C. The fellowship is an outstanding opportunity for exceptional midcareer health professionals and behavioral and social scientists with an interest in health and health care policy. Fellows experience and participate in the policy process at the federal level and use that leadership experience to improve health, health care and health policy. The fellowship is a 12-month residential experience in Washington, D.C. with continued health policy leadership development activities.

Fellows actively participate in the formulation of national health policies in congressional offices and accelerate their careers as leaders in health policy. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) conducts and administers the fellowship with funding support from and in collaboration with RWJF.

The Washington experience prepares individuals to influence the future of public health and health care and accelerate their own career development. Beginning in September with an intensive three-and-a-half-month orientation arranged by the IOM, fellows meet with key executive branch officials responsible for health policy and programs, members of Congress and their staff, and representatives of health- and health policy-related interest groups. Fellows also participate in seminars on health economics, major federal health and health research programs, the congressional budget process, current priority issues in federal health policy and the process of federal decision-making.

In November, fellows join the American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship Program for an overview of the national political process. The concentrated orientation is designed to prepare fellows for immediate success on the Hill.

Fellowship assignments begin in January. During these assignments, fellows are full-time, working participants in the policy process with members of Congress. Fellows typically will: help develop legislative proposals; arrange hearings; brief legislators for committee sessions and floor debates; and staff House-Senate conferences.

Fellowship assignments are supplemented throughout the year by seminars and group discussions on developing health policy, the general policy and governmental process, as well as media training and leadership development. Fellows are asked to prepare a formal presentation on a policy-oriented research issue with which they have been engaged. Fellows also take part in meetings of the IOM and other health policy organizations, as well as cultural and social functions.

Dr. Leigh developed and directs the LSUHSC HIV Outpatient Dental Clinic at the Interim LSU Public Hospital and was appointed, in 1994, the dental director of the Delta AIDS Education and Training Center. In 1997, the governor of Louisiana appointed her to the Governor’s Commission on HIV and AIDS, and, in 1999, Dr. Leigh chaired that commission. She spearheaded the creation of an oral HIV/AIDS clinical research program at LSUHSC and is funded as principle investigator through the US Health Resources and Services Administration Community Based Dental Partnership Program and a Special Project of National Significance as well as through the National Institutes of Health. Dr Leigh received her BDS from Guy’s Hospital Dental School University of London, and a DMD from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, where she also completed a fellowship in oral medicine and received board certification.  She has received the Pfizer Award for Excellence in Research, Education, Patient Care and Community Outreach, the LSUHSC School of Dentistry award for Excellence in Research, and a New Orleans City Business Women of the Year award for generating funding for educational opportunities for dental health professionals and increasing access to dental care for HIV/AIDS patients in Louisiana. In March 2008, at the American Dental Education Association annual meeting, Dr Leigh was named the American Dental Education Association/Sunstar Americas Inc. Harry W. Bruce Legislative Fellow.


LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans educates the majority of Louisiana's health care professionals.  The state's academic health leader, LSUHSC comprises a School of Medicine, the state's only School of Dentistry, Louisiana's only public School of Public Health, Schools of Allied Health Professions and Graduate Studies, as well as the only School of Nursing in Louisiana within an academic health center. LSUHSC faculty take care of patients in public and private hospitals and clinics throughout Louisiana. In the vanguard of biosciences research in a number of areas worldwide, LSUHSC faculty have made lifesaving discoveries and continue to work to prevent, treat, or cure disease. LSUHSC outreach programs span the state.

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 improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations  and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more that 35 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

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