Sarah Kagan 2024

Sarah Hope Kagan, PhD, RN, FAAN, FGSA, AOCN, GCNS-BC

Professor of Gerontological Nursing

Lucy Walker Term Professor

Abramson Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital

Sarah Kagan knows that the current climate crisis is a health crisis that threatens everyone’s healthy aging. She places all her clinical practice, teaching, and research in the context of planetary health, the climate crisis, and biodiversity.

She specializes in working with older people who are living with and after cancer and focuses her efforts of creating Age-Friendly, Climate Friendly nursing and healthcare.

By bringing together knowledge, science, professional compassion, and personal empathy, I aim to improve the daily life as we grow older.


  • PhD, University of California, San Francisco, 1994
  • MS, University of California, San Francisco, 1989
  • BS, Rush University, 1986
  • AB, University of Chicago, 1984

Social Justice

I’ve been a gerontological nurse for decades now. I’ve become ever more aware of ageism as I’ve worked with people of several generations and many different ages from early childhood to centenarian status. The older I become, the more vigorously I write, talk, and work to dismantle this typically accepted and often invisible form of social and intrapersonal discrimination. The planetary crisis and global warming highlight the profound urgency of addressing ageism and all forms of discrimination and social oppression. My writing on ageism stretches back years, my thinking even longer. My actions to dismantle it span my entire career. People are as likely to negatively stereotype themselves as they are to be agist in interaction with others. Ageism interacts and potentiates all other forms of social discrimination - from racism, sexism, and queerphobia to healthism and ableism. It damages health and hinders well-being. Too often we nurses are ageist, despite our often beneficent intent. My aim is to join forces with others and dismantle ageism along with all forms of discrimination to create an age-friendly, inclusive, pluralistic, and healthy global community living on a healthy planet. I hope you’ll join me.


Helping students step out of their comfort zone and imagine the myriad possibilities of a career in nursing is a key part of Dr. Kagan’s pedagogy. She directs two semester-long Penn Nursing Study Abroad programs at the University of Queensland in Australia and Oxford Brooks University in England. She teaches an intensive two-week course in comparative elder care with the University of Hong Kong, open to Penn undergraduate and graduate students. Dr. Kagan also directs the Benjamin Franklin Scholars in Nursing (BFS-N) program and teaches qualitative research methods in the PhD program.


As Professor in the Clinician-Educator standing faculty track, Dr. Kagan’s research and teaching are closely connected to her clinical practice. Her qualitative research focuses on understanding patient perspectives and experiences to improve clinician knowledge and care delivery. Her current research in Supportive Cancer Care Research is a collaborative effort led by Dr. Kagan, Dr. Jane Evered, Dr. Clare Whitney, and leadership team members from the Abramson Cancer Center.

Clinical Practice

Dr. Kagan uses wisdom that patients and their family members share with her, in concert with her scientific knowledge and clinical acumen, in her clinical practice. She is the Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist for the Living Well Program at the Abramson Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital.

Opportunities to Learn and Collaborate at Penn Nursing

The Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (CURF) offers a wealth of resources and opportunities for undergraduate students at Penn, including those majoring in nursing. In addition to directing BFS-N which is part of BFS, housed within CURF, Dr. Kagan collaborates with the fellowships team and with the leadership team for University Scholars.

Selected Career Highlights

  • Editor in Chief, International Journal of Older People Nursing
  • Marie Hippensteel Lingeman Founders Award for Excellence in Nursing Practice, Sigma Theta Tau International
  • Honorary Doctor of Science, School of Health and Life Sciences, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, United Kingdom
  • University of California San Francisco School of Nursing Centennial Wall of Fame: 100 Distinguished Faculty and Alumni
  • MacArthur Fellow, Class of 2003

Accepting Mentees?

  • Yes

Accepting Fellows?

  • Yes

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