PHILADELPHIA — The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) today announced that Raina Merchant, MD, MSHP, and Scott Halpern, MD, PhD, MBE, of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have been selected to receive an inaugural RWJF Young Leader Award.The award recognizes leaders ages 40 and under for their exceptional contributions to improving the health of the nation. The awards also signal the winners’ strong potential for future leadership.  Penn is the only institution, public or private, to have more than one winner honored. Each recipient will receive $40,000.

Dr. Merchant is an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine at Penn and a senior fellow in the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics. An expert in treatment for cardiac arrest, which is among the nation’s top killers, her research focuses on the creation and dissemination of new media-driven tactics for improving survival from this deadly condition for resuscitation science. As the creator and director of the MyHeartMap Challenge, a mobile phone-fueled crowdsourcing contest that mapped the locations of automated external defibrillators, she made Philadelphia the first city in the nation to have a map of these lifesaving devices. That data will now be used by 911 operators and bystanders to locate the nearest AED for bystanders to use during cardiac emergencies before EMS arrives.

For the past two and a half years she has served as a policy scientist for the Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response (ASPR) in the Department of Health and Human Services. Through this work, she has established herself as an expert in methods for increasing health care provider awareness about volunteering during catastrophic events such as the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and about how social media tools can be used to improve emergency preparedness and response. Her research is supported by the NIH’s National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and the American Heart Association.

Dr. Halpern is deputy director of the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics at Penn and an assistant professor of Medicine, Epidemiology, and Medical Ethics and Health Policy. He is also the founding director of the Fostering Improvement in End-of-Life Decision Science (FIELDS) program, which created a multidisciplinary team of Penn faculty working toward the common goal of improving the timing, content, and outcomes of the end-of-life decisions made by patients, family members, and providers. By translating knowledge from the fields of economics, psychology, medical ethics, and epidemiology, the multidisciplinary teams he has built test a variety of scalable – and hence, sustainable – interventions to improve health-related decision making, particularly in such charged but critical areas as end-of-life care. Examples of his work include initiating the first randomized clinical trial in the U.S. comparing different types of advance directives and working with a large private insurer to help change the ways in which insurers advocate advance directive completion among their beneficiaries.

His research is supported by the National Cancer Institute, National Institute on Aging, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, American Thoracic Society, and by a Greenwall Foundation Faculty Scholar Award in Bioethics. He has served as a consultant for the NIH, FDA, CDC, UNOS, The World Bank, and for several advisory committees to the U.S. Secretary for Health and Human Services.

Both Merchant and Halpern have been recognized by Philadelphia magazine as one of the top 40 physicians under 40 in Philadelphia, the fifth largest city in the nation.

The RWJF is dedicated to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need. In recognition of RWJF’s 40th anniversary, Foundation leaders established the Young Leader Awards to highlight the important contributions that people can make early in their career to improving health and health care for all Americans. The Institute for Alternative Futures helped a diverse panel of established leaders select the 10 award winners from a pool of nearly 850 candidates, based on a vision for health and health care 40 years from now. 

Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $5.3 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 18 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $373 million awarded in the 2015 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center -- which are recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report -- Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2015, Penn Medicine provided $253.3 million to benefit our community.

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