The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Quality Scholars Fellowship Program (VAQS) was established in 1998 as a postgraduate medical education fellowship to train physicians in new methods of improving the quality and safety of health care for veterans and the nation. The VAQS curriculum is based on adult learning theory, with a national core curriculum of face-to-face components, technologically mediated distance learning components, and a unique local curriculum that draws from the strengths of regional resources. VAQS has established strong ties with other VA programs. Fellows' research and quality improvement projects are integrated with local and regional VA leaders' priorities, enhancing the relevance and visibility of the fellows' efforts and promoting recruitment of fellows to VA positions. VAQS has enrolled 98 fellows since 1999; 75 have completed the program and 24 are currently enrolled. Fellowship graduates have pursued a variety of career paths: 17% are continuing training (most in VA), 31% hold a VA faculty/staff position, 66% are academic faculty, and 80% conduct clinical or research work related to health care improvement. Graduates have held leadership positions in VA, Department of Defense, academic medicine, and public health agencies. Combining knowledge about the improvement of health care with adult learning strategies, distance learning technologies, face-to-face meetings, local mentorship, and experiential projects has been successful in improving care in VA and preparing physicians to participate in, study, and lead the improvement of health care quality and safety.