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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

  • Black Maternal Health Week

    Penn Nursing Supports Black Maternal Health Week

    To mark Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW) in the United States, faculty from Penn Nursing, including Professor and Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing Antonia M. Villarruel, PhD, RN, FAAN, issued a statement recognizing the initiative as an important step in efforts to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality among Black women. The statement points to the “devastating effects of racism on maternal health.”

  • New Senior Leadership Role for Lewis

    Lisa Lewis, PhD, RN, FAAN, has been appointed the Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusion. Her commitment to social justice is deeply rooted in her lived experience, teaching, and program of research.

  • 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.


Faculty Spotlight on Social Justice

  • Dr. Jose Bauermeister

    José A. Bauermeister

    Dr. Bauermeister’s scholarship is grounded in social justice and characterized by a commitment to addressing structural and interpersonal barriers that hinder the social and personal well-being of SGM communities. Alongside race, class and gender, sexuality structures how we relate and interact with one another, and can give way to social and health inequalities when some sexualities are privileged over others. Dr. Bauermeister has sought to examine how to leverage intragroup and intergroup relationships to promote innovative strategies that address the needs of vulnerable SGM 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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