VCU-Bolashak International Scholarship Program

three photos of Bolashak Fellows

The Virginia Commonwealth University-Bolashak International Scholarship Program (VCU-BISP), offered through the School of Medicine’s Department of Health Behavior and Policy, is an innovative and comprehensive internship program for international post-doctoral scholars from the Republic of Kazakhstan. The scholarship is designed to expand the scholar's knowledge of health policy, research and clinical skills.  The program is funded through an award from the Bolashak Center for International Programs in Kazakhstan, and directed by Askar Chukmaitov, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Healthcare Policy and Research at VCU. Bolashak scholars are selected from Kazakhstan’s leading healthcare organizations and include policymakers, clinicians, researchers, and managers.


Kazakhstan is undertaking significant health reform which requires new approaches in healthcare policy, research development, medical education, and health service delivery systems. The Bolashak International Scholarship was established by President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan in 1993, with the goal of developing  a new cadre of professionals capable of transforming the country. Bolashak means “The Future” in the Kazakh language.  The VCU-BISP meets the goal of this reform by equipping scholars with the skills and knowledge to improve the country’s research enterprise, medical education and health service delivery systems.


Map of Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is situated at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, bordering Russia, China, and other Central Asian countries. The country has vast mineral resources and enormous economic potential. Kazakhstan is a beacon of stability in strategic Central Asia and a close partner of the United States in the region. Investments in evidence-based medicine, policy, research and clinical medicine are among the key priorities for the Government of Kazakhstan.

The Department of Health Behavior and Policy, together with public health and clinical departments in the School of Medicine and other VCU institutes and centers, welcomed the first group of international scholars from Kazakhstan in 2013. 

Bolashak Fellow using equipment

VCU-BISP Description

The VCU-BISP is comprised of courses, didactic lectures, interactive seminars, site visits, and practicums.  Scholars can expect to spend 4-10 months completing the program requirements. The program activities cross disciplinary boundaries; however, they remain tailored to the scholars’ individual concentration and interests. Upon successful completion of English language courses, scholars begin their internship in one of three concentration areas: healthcare policy and research, health/hospital management, or clinical disciplines.

Program Goal

VCU-BISP aims to promote research, education, and clinical collaboration among VCU departments, institutes, and centers and with their Kazakhstani counterparts.  To reach this goal, the following objectives have been set:

  • Train post-doctoral scholars to improve health care
  • Develop a global health research portfolio
  • Develop research, educational, and clinical partnerships in Kazakhstan

 Requirements and Curriculum 

  • Complete training in one of the three concentration areas
  • Develop a capstone project, prepare an academic manuscript, a research proposal, or an intervention project pertaining to the healthcare needs of Kazakhstan
  • Attend seminars, workshops, site visits, and other program activities

Health Behavior and Policy (6-10 months)

Hospital Management (4-6 months)

Clinical Practice and Research Fields (4-6 months)

HCPR Introduction to Health Policy

HCPR Introduction to Health Policy

HCPR Introduction to Health Policy

HCPR theory electives

HCPR or HADM theory electives

HCPR or EPI theory electives

BIOS, EPI, or ECON research method electives

BIOS, EPI, or ECON research method electives

BIOS, EPI, or ECON research method electives

Healthcare policy research practicum

Hospital management practicum

Observations in clinical departments

Independent research capstone project

Independent management capstone project

Independent clinical research capstone project

HCPR, EPI seminars

HCPR, HADM seminars

Grand rounds, HCPR seminars

Site visits, meetings, trips

Site visits, meetings, trips

Site visits, meetings, trips

HCPR – Healthcare Policy and Research, HADM – Health Administration, EPI – Epidemiology, BIOS – Biostatistics, ECON – Economics


Dr. Askar Chukmaitov, Associate Professor of Healthcare Policy and Research and VCU-BISP Director, oversees coordination and implementation of VCU-BISP. He is a Kazakh native with experience in comparative effectiveness research, and implementing USAID and World Bank-funded health projects. He has considerable experience with health care systems in Kazakhstan and Central Asia. All HCPR faculty are involved in teaching and mentoring Bolashak scholars drawing on their diverse education and experience in the disciplines of health economics, survey methods, health policy, health services research, and statistics.  Faculty and researchers from VCU clinical and public health departments also contribute their expertise to the program.




Askar Chukmaitov


Our program contributes to the VCU strategic plan Quest for Distinction by providing a "high quality learning/living experience focused in inquiry, discovery, and innovation in a global environment" and by building “sustainable, university-community partnerships."The program currently partners with VCU Global Education Office, VCU SOM clinical departments, VCU Health, VCU Office of Research, VCU SOM public health departments, the VCU Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program, the Department of Health Administration in the School of Allied Health, VCU Libraries, and other local centers and institutes. Furthermore, during their training the scholars have the option to visit Richmond-area health providers and research institutes as well as the Virginia Department of Health. 


Qualified individuals, from Kazakhstan, with an advanced degree (M.D. or Ph.D.) in a related discipline are invited to apply. Applicants should submit the following documentation to Michael Halvachs.

  • Official undergraduate and graduate transcripts
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Statement of professional intent
  • TOEFL score