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Social Justice

Historically marginalized and disadvantaged populations face a higher burden of illness, injury, disability, and mortality, and their access to and use of care is limited. Nursing, and specifically Penn Nursing, has long focused on social justice and improving the outcomes for the most vulnerable.

Dean Antonia M. VillarruelDean Antonia M. Villarruel“Our mission has always been to make a significant impact on improving the health of all people, to be the preeminent intellectual and transformative force in improving health through nursing.” says Antonia Villarruel, PhD, RN, FAAN, Professor and Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing. “Social justice and inclusion are vital to achieving that mission and the need to dismantle structural racism is even more important today.”

“Nurses, through their research, practice, education, and advocacy are an important component in leading the elimination of health disparities and in achieving health equity. ” says Dr. Villarruel. “Our commitment to social justice and our work challenges dominant truths and disrupts structural inequities in health care to enhance health and quality of life for all.”



News and Stories Related to Social Justice

  • Dismantling Structural Racism in Nursing

    Confronting the uncomfortable reality of systemic racism – the system that creates and maintains racial inequality in every facet of life for people of color – is having a national heyday. But calling out this injustice and doing something about it are two different things.

  • Fagin Hall

    Moving Social Justice Forward at Penn Nursing

    Dear School of Nursing Community:

    I am writing to share the Nursing School’s continued efforts to advance social justice, especially considering current events. The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 and law enforcement brutality on Black and other communities of color are symptoms of the same disease – structural racism. Structural racism is nothing new; sadly, it is a significant and enduring theme in the American story. No institution in this country is immune to its grip – not the nursing profession, the University of Pennsylvania, nor our very own School of Nursing. The events of this summer bring a renewed and urgent call to action. 

  • Moving the Needle on Faculty Diversity

    In the wake of major social changes, public and private sector entities across the nation have taken steps to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion. Yet while college student bodies have become more racially and ethnically diverse, there is still a dearth of underrepresented minority (URM) faculty in higher education.


Faculty Spotlight on Social Justice

  • Dr. Jose Bauermeister

    José A. Bauermeister

    Dr. Bauermeister’s work is driven by a strong commitment to social justice. As a public health scientist and community engaged researcher, his research aims to improve the health and well-being of sexual and gender minority populations by identifying LGBT health disparities and testing programs that improve their equitable access to psychosocial services across diverse communities. 

  • Bridgette M. Brawner

    Bridgette M. Brawner

    Through her research, teaching, and community engagement, Dr. Brawner improves the health of historically underserved people and communities. She and her health disparities research team immerse themselves in Philadelphia’s neighborhoods – conducting focus groups, interviewing neighbors, and doing behavior surveys. They combine this information with GIS data on community characteristics such as income and education levels to analyze how social and structural conditions, including the built environment – crowding, green space, and proximity to public transit – affect health.

    Brawner’s work shows how conditions such as living in disadvantaged neighborhoods or being under stress due to high levels of crime can harm health, while remedying them can effect positive change. In one NIH-funded project, she studied how these factors can affect HIV/AIDS infection. In another project, she is studying short-term solutions for health promotion, such as bringing community members together to plant a garden, paint a house, and create stronger ties that support healthy behaviors.

  • J. Margo Brooks Carthon

    J. Margo Brooks Carthon

    Dr. Brooks Carthon’s research and teaching have long focused on the issues of marginalization and inequities in healthcare. It is well understood that inequities in health care are avoidable, unnecessary and unjust and are due to policies and practices that create unequal distribution of resources to minority and poor communities. As such, her research examines policies such as nurse practitioner scope of practice barriers and insufficient nurse staffing levels that contribute to system racism and disproportionately impact minority patients and result in poor health outcomes.

    Most recently, research by Dr. Brooks Carthon’s team is addressing the disproportionate risk borne by low income individuals with multiple chronic conditions who are transitioning to home from acute care settings. While social conditions such as inadequate housing and food insecurity, impact post hospitalization recovery, so too does poor care coordination and a lack of communication between inpatient and community based providers. To address these healthcare delivery concerns, she co-led an interdisciplinary workgroup in the development of an intervention called THRIVE to support the clinical and social needs of low-income individuals returning home after a acute care admission. As Executive Director of THRIVE, she continues to advocate targeted resources to improve outcomes for historically marginalized communities. 

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