About the Center

In February 2009, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) awarded Meharry Medical College a multi-million dollar endowment to establish the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College. Meharry is the nation’s largest private historically black academic health center, and RWJF is the largest philanthropy devoted solely to improving the health and health care of all Americans. The Center for Health Policy aims to provide leadership in health policy education along with research and reform on national, state, and local levels, while continually supporting Meharry Medical College’s historic mission of improving the health and health care of minority and underserved communities.


The mission of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College is to increase the diversity of health policy leaders in the social, behavioral, and health sciences, particularly sociology, economics, and political science, who will one day influence health policy at the national level.


The Center accomplishes its mission through six aims:

  • Recruiting and matriculating African American and Hispanic social scientists into the field of Health Policy;
  • Developing a strong, collaborative environment that supports health policy education and partnership among faculty, fellows, scholars, and leadership  that spans across Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University College of Arts and Science;
  • Cultivating a thriving academic partnership and culture among faculty, fellows, and visiting scholars at Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University;
  • Supporting research and scholarly development among faculty, fellows, and scholars;
  • Creating a national reputation and image for the RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College, as a leading source for health policy, analysis, and research; and
  • Sustaining the RWJF Center for Health Policy by acquiring external funding for research and research infrastructure.


Dexter Samuels

A. Dexter Samuels, Ph.D.
Executive Director

A. Dexter Samuels, Ph.D., is the Executive Director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College and Senior Vice President for Student and Faculty Affairs at Meharry.


Dr. Samuels comes to Meharry after nine years at Tennessee State University where he served most recently as Vice President for Student Affairs and, prior to that, as the Assistant Dean in the College of Public Service and Urban Affairs. He began his academic career as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Administration and Health Sciences at Tennessee State University. Formerly, Dr. Samuels served as Director of the Title VI Program for the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Additionally, Dr. Samuels served as the Program Director of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation in the Division of Mental Health Services.


Dr. Samuels’ academic background includes a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology from Michigan State University, a Master of Science Degree in Health Care Administration from Western Kentucky University, and a Doctorate of Philosophy Degree in Public Administration from Tennessee State University. He is a recipient of the 2007 Kettering Foundation Public Scholars Fellowship. Also, Dr. Samuels is a graduate of the Tennessee Government Executive Institute Class of 1997 as well as Leadership Middle Tennessee Class of 2003.


In his roles as Senior Vice President and Executive Director, Dr. Samuels will be responsible for leading and directing the offices of Admissions, Registrar, Student Life, Faculty Affairs and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College. He will also serve as a member of Meharry’s Executive Management Team.

Our Staff

Mariah Cole

Mariah Cole, J.D.

Director, Program Management

The Center welcomed Mariah Cole in May 2014 as the Director of Program Management. She will manage the day-to-day activities of the RWJF Center for Health Policy in addition to teaching and evaluating health policy courses. She is a graduate of the University of Mississippi where she earned a BA in English. She also earned a JD degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law and is licensed to practice law in Tennessee. Her legal background allowed her the opportunity to complete an internship with the Mississippi Center for Justice, where she worked with a public health law attorney and advocated for the rights of underserved citizens to access free or reduced health care. Dr. Cole spent eight months working for a solo practitioner after completing law school and focused primarily on family law, probate and criminal defense. From there, she transitioned into higher education and worked as the Special Assistant to the Vice President for Student Affairs at Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Stephen J. Smith

Stephen J. Smith, M.Ed.

Program Manager

Stephen Smith joined the staff of the RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College in September 2015. Mr. Smith is responsible for the Center’s marketing and communications activities, in addition to student engagement initiatives. Mr. Smith received his undergraduate degree in political science from The University of Tennessee at Knoxville, a master’s degree in higher education administration from Middle Tennessee State University, and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in public administration at Tennessee State University. Before accepting the position with the Center, he served as Program Manager in the Office of Student Life at Meharry Medical College.

Terrica Sampson

Terrica Sampson, M.Ed.

Program Coordinator

Terrica Sampson provides overall staff support, manages the Center’s research, faculty, and community engagement initiatives, and assists with planning events. Ms. Sampson received her undergraduate degree in political science from Fisk University, a master’s degree in educational administration from Tennessee State University, and is currently pursuing an Ed.D. in higher education administration from Tennessee State University. She has dedicated over five years to higher education in the areas of student life, civic engagement and community-based minority health disparity research and programming. She holds membership in the Phi Beta Kappa Society, Middle Tennessee Urban League, and Women in Higher Education in Tennessee.

National Advisory Board

The National Advisory Board of the RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College consists of experts and leaders in health and health policy from across the nation providing the center’s executive director with advice, guidance, and counsel in the development and implementation of the strategic plan, assistance in identifying opportunities for furthering the center’s development, and promotion of the center’s affiliated fellows and scholars.  The National Advisory Board members are:

James Blumstein

James Blumstein, M.A., L.L.B.

University Professor of Law
Vanderbilt Law School
Vanderbilt Health Policy Center
Vanderbilt University

Susan Busch

Susan Busch, Ph.D.

Associate Professor,
Public Health (Health Policy);
Faculty of Arts & Sciences
Chair, Health Policy & Management
Yale University

Rosalyn Carpenter

Ms. Rosalyn Carpenter

Vice President for Diversity & Inclusion
Catholic Health Initiatives
Englewood, Colorado

Lisa Dubay

Lisa Dubay, Ph.D., Sc.M.

Senior Fellow
Urban Institute

Bill Frist

William Frist, M.D.

Former U.S. Senator and Majority Leader
Nashville, Tennessee

Darrell Gaskin

Darrell J. Gaskin, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Health Economics
Department of Health Policy & Management
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Gerald Kominski

Gerald Kominski, Ph.D.

Director, UCLA Center for Health Policy Research
Professor of Health Policy & Management,
UCLA Fielding School of Public Health​
University of California Los Angeles

Thomas A. LaVeist

Thomas A. LaVeist, Ph.D.

William C. and Nancy F. Richardson Professor in Health Policy
Department of Health Policy & Management
Director, Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Daniel Polsky

Daniel Polsky, Ph.D.

Executive Director,
Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics
Robert D. Eilers Professor,
Health Care Management & Economics, The Wharton School
Professor, Division of General Internal Medicine
University of Pennsylvania

Steve G. Ullmann

Steven G. Ullmann, Ph.D.

Director, Center for Health Sector Management & Policy
Professor of Economics, School of Business Administration
Professor of Epidemiology, Public Health,
Family Medicine, & Community Health,
School of Medicine
Miami University

Rueben C. Warren

Rueben C. Warren, D.D.S., M.P.H., Dr.P.H., M.Div.

National Center for Bioethics in Research & Health Care
Tuskegee University

Ad Hoc Members

A. Dexter Samuels, Ph.D.

Senior Vice President, Student & Faculty Affairs
Executive Director, RWJF Center for Health Policy
Meharry Medical College

John Sloop, Ph.D.

Dean, College of Arts & Sciences
Vanderbilt University