General Program FAQs

What is the purpose of the Fellowship?
The goal of the Health Innovators Fellowship is (a) to strengthen the leadership of innovators across the U.S. health care ecosystem, and (b) to connect, inspire, and challenge them to develop creative new approaches to improve the health and well-being of all Americans. The program offers busy people an opportunity to "hit the pause button" during four six-seven day seminars over a two-year period when they can spend time with a group of peers in the health care field and reflect together on how they lead in their organizations and how they might strengthen their leadership and have a broader and deeper impact on health care in the U.S.

How is the Fellowship structured?
This Fellowship is modeled after the highly successful Henry Crown Fellowship, launched in 1997. The Health Innovators Fellowship was developed through a partnership of the Aspen Institute and Prisma Health, which is a generous sponsor of the Fellowship. The Aspen Institute controls the content of the Fellowship and the selection of the Fellows.

What will happen during the Fellowship?
Fellows are part of a class of 20 leaders in the U.S. health care sector. Fellows go into retreat four times over a two-year period with the other members of their class. These retreats are held behind closed doors--no one may participate except for the Fellows and three Aspen Institute moderators. There are no guests, speakers, or visitors. This is a unique opportunity for Fellows to share openly and confidentially with one another the challenges they face as leaders and their visions for how they might "step up" to have a broader impact that will improve the health and well-being of Americans. The role of the moderators is to spark a candid dialogue among the Fellows about how they currently lead, their views of a "Good Society" and how the U.S. health care system aligns with those views, their thoughts on how the health care system could be improved, and their ideas on how improving health care in the U.S. can become part of their personal legacy.

Your materials mention the Aspen Global Leadership Network (AGLN)--what is that?
The Aspen Global Leadership Network is the umbrella under which the Institute operates our geographic and sector-specific Fellowships around the world. Collectively, the AGLN comprises over 2,500 Fellows from 50 countries and is continuing to grow. Like the Health Innovators Fellowship, each of the Fellowship programs is designed to inspire Fellows to take their leadership to greater heights and to broaden their impact on society-at-large. The seminars provide Fellows with an intimate forum for deep introspection, probing dialogue, and interactive problem solving. Fellows are also challenged to launch ventures that will stretch them as leaders. Looking across the Network, we see Fellows using their businesses and organizations to create new ventures and jobs, develop medical devices for children, fight rare genetic diseases, improve employability, provide healthy meals to school children, promote environmental sustainability, reduce infant mortality, raise classroom engagement, stop ethnic violence, keep kids out of gangs, battle corruption, and so much more. The Network helps keep members connected so that they can continue to learn from, collaborate with, and support one another. Once selected, Health Innovators Fellows will automatically become members of the AGLN and will be included in its activities, including the annual Resnick Aspen Action Forum.

Becoming a Fellow/Nominations FAQs

Who would benefit from participating in this Fellowship?
The Fellowship is designed for proven, entrepreneurial leaders in the U.S. health care field who have reached a point in their lives and careers when they would like to "paint on a broader canvas" as leaders and could benefit from an opportunity to think through how to do that with a diverse group of peers with whom they would not ordinarily interact. Fellows hail from a variety of industries and sectors throughout the health care ecosystem, including medicine, health insurance, pharmaceuticals, medical technology, biotechnology, the life sciences, mental and behavioral health, government, public health, health care facilities and systems, medical equipment and supplies, venture capital, and veterans' health. 

Why would a busy leader in health care make so much time for this Fellowship?
We are keenly aware that Fellows are very busy and their time is at a premium. That said, Fellows who have participated in one of the Aspen Institute's Fellowship programs tell us that their participation in the Fellowship was one of the best investments they've ever made. The Fellowship provides a rare opportunity to step back and think with and draw inspiration from other successful leaders who are facing similar life and professional challenges.

What do you expect from Fellows?
The program requires each Fellow to commit to attending approximately 26 days of seminar meetings (i.e., four seminars of six-seven days each). On top of this is the time required to prepare for each seminar as well as the time and energy needed to design and launch a leadership venture of the Fellow's own choosing. This venture is a requirement of the Fellowship and an opportunity for Fellows to truly stretch themselves in their leadership. Each Fellow will need to be able to attend all four seminars in their entirety--from start to finish--and each candidate will need to confirm his or her availability for all four seminars before we will consider them for the Fellowship. Participation will be without cost to the Fellows or their organizations, with the exception of incidental expenses and travel costs to and from the seminar sites. For those who cannot cover transportation, there are travel subsidies available to support them.

One of the requirements is that the Fellows participate in all four seminars. Is there any flexibility for that requirement?
No. All of our Fellows are busy, but we do expect all of our Fellows to attend each and every seminar from start to finish. No late arrivals or early departures. No ducking out for calls or meetings. We know this sounds difficult, but we now have more than 2,500 Fellows who have been able to respect this requirement of their Fellowship.

Another requirement is that the Fellows carry out a leadership venture. What sort of venture will Fellows be expected to complete?
Our goal is to help develop and incubate creative approaches that will improve the health and well-being of all Americans.  We ask our Fellows to develop new approaches that will stretch them in their leadership and make a significant impact on the field.  The key is that the ventures add to the Fellows’ current efforts and accomplishments; Fellows cannot fulfill the venture requirement by continuing a current venture or venture. We leave it to the Fellows to decide on their venture. The Fellowship does not provide financial resources for these ventures, but we will approve the ventures and provide support that includes coaching and mentoring.

How does one become a Health Innovators Fellow?
Candidates for the Fellowship must be nominated through an online form by a third party. This third party should know the candidate well and be prepared to speak candidly and objectively about the candidate’s qualifications. Individuals cannot apply for the Fellowship or nominate themselves. 

How will the class of Fellows be selected?
Each class will have 20 Fellows, women and men, all between the ages of 35 and 50. The ideal class will include Fellows from various personal and professional backgrounds whose experiences will complement, challenge, and inspire each other during the seminars and throughout the Fellowship. We are looking for diversity within the class. Each Fellow should have something to teach and something to learn from the others. We call the process of putting together the ideal class "creating the mosaic," and it's both a science and an art. Unfortunately, many exceptional, impressive individuals are not chosen to be Fellows because they don't fit the class mosaic for that particular year. That's why we reconsider candidates, sometimes for a number of years, for their suitability for future classes.

Who is an ideal candidate?
We are looking for proven innovators in the health care field who have achieved significant success and are now at an “inflection point”--that is, at a point in their lives and careers where they are ready to explore “painting on a broader canvas” or deepening their impact on U.S. health care. Being at an inflection point is different from being ready to change jobs. Fellows must be at a stage in their lives when they are ready to explore how to use their skills, experiences, resources, and networks to broaden and deepen their impact on health care.

How do you define the health care field?
Broadly. We are looking for Fellows from a variety of industries and sectors throughout the health care ecosystem--including medicine, the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, the life sciences, mental and behavioral health, government, public health, health care facilities and systems, medical equipment and supplies, veterans’ health, and more.

How can my nomination be most effective?
To be most effective, your nomination will convince us of the following five things: the candidate is a proven innovator; the candidate is an innovator/entrepreneur; he or she is at the right point in their life and career to step back and think about how to broaden their leadership and impact (inflection point); the candidate is not daunted by the sorts of challenges that may scare away others (resilience); the candidate understands the requirements of the Fellowship and can commit to completing them.

You say you want “proven innovators in the health care field who have achieved significant success." How do you define success?
We are most interested in candidates who have risen to the top of their chosen field.  Most Aspen Leadership Fellows are founders of an organization, CEOs, executive directors, and senior executives.  They can be from the for-profit or non-profit sectors, or from government or academia.  The key is that they are leaders and true innovators who have already made a difference in the health care field and are ready to have an even greater impact on health care.

What does it mean when you say you are looking for entrepreneurs/doers?
We are looking for people who make things happen. Not analysts or advisors. Our strongest candidates will have started and grown something and are ready to do more.

Is my candidate eligible if he or she will turn 51 this year?
Eligible candidates must be between the ages of 35 and 50 years old at the end of the nomination year.

Should I tell my candidate that I am nominating him/her?
Absolutely, yes, you should tell your candidate because you need to ensure that he or she is interested in the Fellowship and available to participate fully if selected. Please forward the nomination materials to them and make sure they visit our website so that they understand the program and the time commitment it involves, and that they are fully prepared to engage. We encourage them to reach out to other individuals involved with the Aspen Institute (Fellows, trustees, etc.).

How well do I have to know the candidate to nominate them?
Very well. We are not looking for someone you have merely met at a conference or read about in an article who impresses you and appears to fit our criteria. We look to you as a nominator to provide an in-depth look into candidate’s background, values and readiness to take full advantage of this opportunity.

How can I prepare my nominee for an interview?
Please ask them to be open and honest. At this point in the process, we are confident the candidate meets our basic criteria (e.g., success in their field, innovative, between the ages of 35 and 50). The interview is about getting to know them as a person. Are they at an inflection point in their life? Are they willing to be open and vulnerable at the seminar table and with their classmates? Do they have a kind heart and generous spirit to take this journey for themselves and their classmates? The interview is a chance to really get to know each of our top candidates and see how their personality would fit into our class mosaic. Everything said at the interview is confidential, so please encourage your candidate to feel comfortable sharing anything they feel is important about who they are as a leader and a potential Health Innovator Fellow. In addition, we strongly encourage them to reach out to a few alumni or current Fellows to get a feel for the Fellowship.

What can derail a candidate?
We expect candidates to come to the interviews having taken some time to research the Aspen Institute and what the Fellowship experience entails. We also ask them to make a couple of non-negotiable commitments: to attend the seminars in their entirety, start to finish, and to complete a meaningful venture. An inability to commit to either eliminates candidates for the coming year. We ask the nominator to stress the importance of examining the published seminar dates, as well as the venture-related criteria and frequently asked questions. We have had candidates who accept an interview knowing that they cannot make the dates. Some believe they can receive an exception, which is not the case, as the seminars are an essential component of the Fellowship and missing any part is unfair to that Health Innovators Fellow and their class. Any Fellow who accepts an interview slot expecting that he or she may get an exception prevents another candidate from being evaluated.

Do you accept nominations for candidates based outside of the United States or candidates in the United States who are working on international health issues?
Unfortunately, we do not. 

Can Fellows from other AGLN programs be nominated to participate in Health Innovators Fellowship?
Unfortunately, we are not able to accept candidates who are Fellows of other Aspen Global Leadership Network programs. 

Venture FAQs

When do Fellows have to decide what they will do for their venture?
Fellows are not expected to arrive at the first seminar knowing what venture they will undertake. Rather, the Fellowship experience and the other members of their class are meant to inspire them to discover what they would like to do. We do, however, expect Fellows to identify and commit to an idea within the first six months and to begin implementing the initiative during the two-year Fellowship period.

Why do ventures have to address a U.S. health care challenge?
The Health Innovators Fellowship aims to connect, inspire, and challenge health care leaders to create new approaches to improve the health and wellbeing of Americans. Given this mission, we require that all Health Innovators Fellows focus on a U.S. health care challenge as one expression of their commitment to moving the needle on the Fellowship's ultimate goal.

What counts as “U.S. health care” in the context of ventures?
The Fellowship defines "U.S. health care" broadly—a venture will fulfill this requirement as long as it aims to improve the health and wellbeing of Americans. Most Fellows don't have a problem designing a venture that fits our parameters, but our team is always available to talk through ideas if a Fellow is unsure if their idea meets our requirements.

How are ventures vetted and approved and by whom?
After the first seminar, the Health Innovators Fellowship executive director will discuss each Fellow's venture concept with them and, with the Fellowship team, actively support each Fellow to ensure that their venture is positioned to be successful. After concepts have been greenlit, Fellows are asked for regular written progress reports and their participation in update calls with Fellowship staff and fellow Fellows. Periodic updates are also required after the formal Fellowship period.

Does a venture have to operate as a nonprofit?
We have no preference regarding a venture’s legal status; ventures can be for profit, nonprofit, or government projects and can be programs, products, or organizations. The key is for the venture to make an explicit and positive impact on US health and health care.

Do ventures have to involve starting a new organization?
Fellows do not need to start a new organization, although some choose to do so. Ventures can take many forms, from launching a new organization to creating a new program or service within an organization to scaling an existing program so that it impacts more people.

Do venture ideas have to be original?
We believe that Fellows are innovative, mission-driven leaders who have the potential to devise breakthrough ideas. That being said, we strongly encourage all Fellows to learn about successful models that address the challenge they aim to tackle, if and where they exist. This includes models already launched within and outside of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. This ensures that ventures are additive instead of duplicative. While some Fellows have an original idea for their venture, others build on existing ideas to make them more effective or to move them in a new, more fruitful direction.

What if a Fellow's job is already a social/community program/venture?
Many Fellows are already social entrepreneurs or nonprofit or government leaders. In these cases, we want to challenge them to step back and see with a fresh perspective how they might augment their leadership in areas they are concerned about. Are there other approaches they have wanted to try? An experiment they’d like to test? We encourage Fellows to use their ventures as an opportunity to creatively engage in a different approach to the challenge they are addressing or as an opportunity to do something that they would not have started or done if not for the Fellowship.

Can joining a new board—or becoming chair of a board—count as a venture?
As leaders, we assume Fellows already sit on boards, so simply joining a new board would not count as a venture. If a Fellow were already a board chair when selected for the Fellowship, being the chair would not count as a venture. If a Fellow steps up as a result of the Fellowship experience, we would consider on a case-by-case basis whether becoming a board chair would count. The key is whether the Fellow, because of the Fellowship, has decided to play a more significant leadership role and truly apply their innovative energies to significantly remake or energize an organization.

Can Fellows do a class venture or a joint venture with a subset of their class?
While we strongly encourage and try to facilitate class-wide (and Fellowship-wide) collaborations on health care challenges, a class project or a joint venture between members of the same class cannot satisfy the leadership venture requirement.

Can Fellows team up with someone who has already implemented a venture?
This can work as long as a Fellow who is not in the same class as the venture's founder can find a discrete piece of meaningful work that stretches them and for which they can be held accountable. We support Fellows who find a way to leverage their unique skills or assets to help another venture achieve greater impact or scale.

Can a venture idea change?
We expect—and hope—that there will be modifications and changes to ventures throughout the process. It's also okay if a Fellow hits an insurmountable roadblock and needs to pivot to an entirely new idea.

Do ventures have to be completed/running/fully functional by the time Fellows complete the Fellowship’s four seminars?
Fellows need to be able to demonstrate significant progress toward their goal by graduation, as well as a clear plan for the future. We expect that the venture will live long past the two-year Fellowship period, and we’ll continue to reach out for updates and be available to provide support far beyond the fourth seminar.

Can ventures be publicized as initiatives of the Health Innovators Fellowship, the Aspen Global Leadership Network, or the Aspen Institute?
No, though Fellows are welcome to characterize their ventures as “inspired by” the Fellowship or the Aspen Global Leadership Network in their communications or marketing materials.

Can the Fellowship or the Aspen Institute help me raise money for my venture?
Unfortunately, we cannot help Fellows raise funds. However, once Fellows’ ventures have been running for two years, we encourage Fellows to apply for the John P. McNulty Prize (winners receive $100,000 and finalists receive $25,000 for their ventures) and/or McNulty Prize Catalyst Funding (up to $25,000 for ventures at key developmental stages).

If you have any further questions, please contact Rima Cohen, Executive Director, or Emily Rubenstein, Program Associate.