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About the Fellowship

Every year, the Peter Harbage Fellowship provides one exceptional young person a year-long experience to deepen learning and capabilities in leadership and health care policy within California.

The fellowship is the vision of Peter Harbage, who was a leader and innovator in California’s health policy field for decades until his untimely death in 2015. Peter had a gift for bringing together diverse stakeholders to solve problems and develop innovative policy. In the process, he became a friend and resource to many colleagues and a mentor to many young people entering the health policy field. Whether they were relocating to California from Washington D.C. or transitioning from another field into health issues, Peter provided guidance, connections and many times, a job. The number of individuals Peter mentored and supported is truly impressive.

In the midst of battling cancer, Peter wanted his legacy to continue building future leadership within the California health policy community. To that end, Peter provided funds for a fellowship program that will make it possible for new health policy graduates to work in a special role at an organization focused on improving health in California. We are counting on today’s health care leaders to spread the word about this incredible opportunity that will carry Peter's name.

The fellowship is an opportunity for students completing graduate degrees in the fields of public policy or public health to apply for a one-year fellowship with a host organization under the mentorship of a seasoned and talented health policy veteran. Peter envisioned young people having the opportunity to learn from some of the most effective and strategic leaders in the health policy field acquiring knowledge and skills in their fellowship year that might otherwise take them years to develop. The fellow will be placed with a mentor with a reputation for making positive impacts on the health policy field. The fellowship will provide salary and benefits for the one-year position. In addition, over the course of the year, the fellow will have the opportunity for ongoing leadership development by meeting innovators in health policy, including current and past secretaries of health, state and county directors of health services and public health, the current director of Covered California, legislative leadership and staffers, health plan CEOs, health care association leaders, or leaders within the advocacy community. These meetings will be facilitated by the fellowship for the fellow and will further shape understanding of all the dimensions of the health care landscape, resulting in a new leader more positioned to impact health care policy.

The first fellow will work for Health Access California,, and be mentored by Executive Director, Anthony Wright. Health Access California is a leading statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, advocating for quality, affordable health care for all Californians. Wright has served as Executive Director for Health Access since 2002, leading California’s coalition effort to help pass the Affordable Care Act and state laws to implement and improve it. As a consumer advocate and community organizer, Wright has been widely quoted in state and national media. We are so proud that he has agreed to be the inaugural mentor for the Peter Harbage Fellowship.


Qualified Candidates

The Peter Harbage Fellowship will be looking for candidates who are about to graduate from or recently graduated from a public policy or public health graduate level program at universities in California and the University of Michigan (Peter’s alma mater). The fellow will be passionate about health policy, dedicated to improving health care for all Californians and work collaboratively and strategically with others. The fellowship will seek individuals with experience contributing to the health policy field in some way, as well as those just starting out for whom the fellowship would afford a unique opportunity to enhance learning and leadership. Applicants from diverse backgrounds and those with a commitment to California’s communities of color are strongly encouraged to apply.

About the fellowship




If you are a professor or administrator at a graduate school program and want to learn more, send inquries to Ingrid Aguirre Happoldt at Applicants should not email the fellowship directly.

We have found our fellow for 2018-2019.

A new application for our 2019-2020 fellow will be available in November of 2018.



The Peter Harbage Fellowship is made possible through our partnership with Tides Foundation, a grant from Blue Shield of California Foundation and the gift from Peter’s estate. In addition, hundreds of donors, many of whom were colleagues of Peter and friends of the Harbage family gave donations that helped the fellowship get started.


If you are a fellowship donor or a friend of the fellowship and want to be kept abreast of future developments or fundraising efforts, please sign up and provide us your email. We’ll be sure to send updates from time to time to let you know how your generous gift is making Peter’s vision a reality.


Peter had extensive experience in Medicaid financing and the options open to states and counties for accessing federal funds. He helped lead the team in California that originally conceptualized the nation’s first Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) program and used that experience to provide policy and operational advice on DSRIP to state agencies and health systems in Massachusetts, Texas, and New York. Peter served as an Assistant Secretary for Health at the California Health and Human Services Agency under Governor Gray Davis and as a Special Assistant to the Administrator of the federal Health Care Financing Administration during the Clinton Administration. He started his career as a Medicaid budget analyst at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


From 2003 to 2008, Peter served as the senior health policy advisor to presidential candidate and former Senator John Edwards. In 2007, he worked extensively with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s health care reform team in California in his role at the New America Foundation and was a Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Peter’s expertise and insight made him a frequent source for reporters nationwide. He appeared on CNN and NPR and has been cited in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Sacramento Bee. Peter also taught on the American health care system at the University of Southern California and was a frequent contributor to USC’s Annenberg School for Communication’s Health Journalism Fellowship program.


In 2014, Peter was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. He died from complications from a bone marrow transplant to treat the disease in February 2015. Peter spent his last 18 months more dedicated than ever to working toward an America where everyone has access to high-quality health care. Peter’s belief in what health care could become was responsible for his success in developing national health care policy and advising policy makers at all levels of government. His intelligence, compassion and positive attitude gave him the strength to face challenges with courage, humor, and resilience. It is our hope that the Peter Harbage Fellowship will keep Peter’s legacy alive and tell his story.

About Peter


To donate to the Peter Harbage Fellowship, click on the button below which will take you to Tides Foundation. Look for the drop down menu under “I want my donation to be designated toward” and select Peter Harbage Fellowshp-2117.

While Peter’s gift will enable us to get started, we are hoping to fund ten fellows over the next ten years so we appreciate any additional funding or support you can give to help us achieve that goal.

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