About the Department

Nancy A. Hodgson, PhD, RN, FAANClaire M. Fagin Leadershi... Nancy A. Hodgson, PhD, RN, FAAN
Claire M. Fagin Leadership Professor in Nursing
Chair, Biobehavioral Health Sciences
Our mission

The mission of the BHS Department is to apply our expertise in conceptual and empirical methodologies to enhance patient care through physical, psychosocial, and behavioral health interventions. The BHS Department faculty use multiple perspectives to advance scientific knowledge, including biological, sociocultural, political, ethical, and historical to our research, practice, and interdisciplinary education. As an underlying framework, the Department is committed to social justice in promoting health equity, diminishing disparities, and upholding the ethical principle of respect for persons in all aspects of patient care, teaching, research, and service.

Finding new solutions

We approach healthcare from all angles, bringing cultural awareness and environmental variables into the patient care discussion. Our teaching methods focus on how biological, behavioral, and sociocultural factors influence health care and patient outcomes.

Biobehavioral Health research is in high demand today and covers such topics as health behaviors, genetics and epigenetics, chronic disease, bioethics, global health, physiological processes, environmental exposures, and health disparities.

Developing healthcare leaders

We mentor and support our community of scholars and strive to develop leaders who use their knowledge to enhance patient care, symptom management, and the health of the public.

Improving Quality of Life and Sleep in People with Memory Problems Without Using Drugs

A groundbreaking study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing), recently published in Innovation in Aging, has shown promising results in improving the quality of life (QOL) and sleep quality in individuals living with memory problems. The research delves into the efficacy of a nonpharmacological approach in a trial known as the Healthy Patterns Sleep Program.


    Wendy A. Henderson, PhD, Appointed a Presidential Distinguished Professor

    Wendy A. Henderson, PhD, CRNP, FAASLD, FAAN, has been appointed the Gail and Ralph Reynolds President’s Distinguished Professor at the University of Pennsylvania and will serve as a faculty member in Penn Nursing’s Department of Biobehavioral Health Sciences. She joins Penn Nursing from the University of Connecticut where she held a joint appointment as Professor in the School of Nursing and the School of Medicine. Henderson most recently served as director of the PhD program at the School of Nursing and before that was director of the school’s Center of Nursing Scholarship and Innovation. Henderson was previously a clinical investigator and lab chief of the National Institute of Nursing Research, Digestive Disorders Unit, Division of Intramural Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases


    When Segregation of Opioid Use Disorder Treatment Threatens Care for People with Coexisting Conditions

    Life becomes very complex for patients who need to manage pain due to cancer or other illness while still receiving methadone treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD). Methadone is a highly effective medication for treating OUD, however, the current U.S. regulatory framework mandates that methadone for OUD is exclusively accessible through federally approved Opioid Treatment Programs, with many individuals required to make daily visits for supervised dosing. This requirement places a significant burden on those with competing health needs, limited access to transportation, living in rural areas or in regions with few or no treatment programs.

    The VRcoLAB films a Narcan Training video in collaboration with the Penn Nursing School and the County of Camden. Script by Natalie herbe...

    Penn Nursing and Annenberg School for Communication Partner with Camden County to Launch Virtual Reality Narcan Training

    Last year, 354 people died from opioid overdoses in Camden County, according to the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, which in 2022 recorded an estimated 15,407 administrations statewide of naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan. This year, New Jersey launched an initiative allowing anyone 14 and older to anonymously obtain naloxone for free at more than 600 participating pharmacies across the state. Camden County, just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, has also installed secure NaloxBoxes in every public school.


    Hillman Grant for Penn Nursing Professor to Study Virtual Reality & Loneliness

    Penn Nursing, with partners from the Annenberg Virtual Reality ColLABorative and New York University’s Rory Meyers College of Nursing, have been awarded 2023 grant from the Hillman Emergent Innovation: Serious Illness and End of Life program to study the use of social virtual reality (VR) in enhancing the treatment experience and reducing loneliness in people undergoing hemodialysis. This grant is awarded by The Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation.


    NIH Grant for Innovative Study Using Patient Verbal Communication to Detect Deterioration in Heart Failure Patients in Managed Long-Term Care

    To improve the quality of care and reduce healthcare expenditures, heart failure patients in the U.S. are increasingly being treated in community-based programs such as managed long-term care. Although early identification of patients’ risks of negative outcomes, including hospitalizations or emergency department visits, has been shown to prevent these adverse outcomes in settings including hospitals and nursing homes, it has not been studied in managed long-term care.