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International Award for Penn Nursing Professor

The International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses (ISPN) recently awarded Penn Nursing’s Bridgette M. Brawner, PhD, MDiv, APRN, Associate Professor in the Department of Family and Community Health, its Diversity and Equity Award. The award was presented during the ISPN 23rd Annual Virtual Conference on March 24. Brawner will present the Diversity/Equity lecture at next year’s conference.

The Diversity and Equity award recognizes an ISPN member who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in providing culturally-sensitive mental health services to individuals, families, and/or groups through the development of innovative and significant contributions to teaching of, research about, and/or practice of culturally sensitive mental health care in nursing; the development of knowledge that contributed to improved understanding or strategies regarding the influences of culture on mental health; and/or the establishment of a culturally sensitive program to promote access to services for diverse individuals, families and groups.

“I do the work that I do because it is my life’s calling. My motivation isn’t for commendation, so it is truly an honor to receive international recognition for my commitment to improve health in disenfranchised populations and communities,” said Brawner. “Humbled and overwhelmed are understatements of what it means to receive this award. I am grateful to those who nominated me, as well as to all of the people who believed in me and supported me along my journey.”

About Dr. 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.

Along with her extensive federally-funded research into the factors influencing HIV and AIDS among Black residents of Philadelphia, Brawner focuses on how mental health conditions, such as depression in Black youth, correlate with unhealthy behaviors. In her clinical work, she partners with behavioral health providers on interventions for adolescents with mental illness and works with youth affected by HIV/AIDS. She also studies how community gathering places such as churches and barbershops are important for community health and the spread of information.

Brawner is chair of the National Advisory Committee of the American Nurses Association (ANA)/Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association Minority Fellowship Program, and a member of the ANA’s National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing. She received her PhD (2009) and Master in Nursing Science (2005) degrees from the University of Pennsylvania; and her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Villanova University (2003). Brawner also holds a Master of Divinity degree from the Palmer Theological Seminary of Easter University (2017).