J. Margo Brooks Carthon, PhD, RN, FAAN

Tyson Family Endowed Term Chair for Gerontological Research

Associate Professor of Nursing

Older minority patients suffer poorer outcomes than white patients when hospitalized, in part because they are sicker when they enter the hospital or more likely to have fewer economic resources. Poor outcomes may also occur due to receipt of care in hospitals with less than optimal nursing care quality. 

Margo Brooks Carthon was one of the first nurse researchers to demonstrate empirical relationships between the quality of nursing care and racial inequities in outcomes. Her work shows that when nursing units in hospitals are inadequately staffed and nurses have insufficient resources, the patients who need the most care may receive the least. This increases the risk of mortality, re-admissions, and reduced patient satisfaction compared to patients who receive higher-quality care. 

Moving Towards Health Equity  

Based on her findings, Dr. Brooks Carthon aims to determine the nursing care needs of vulnerable older adults and recommend ways to change outcomes. For example, investing strategically in nursing in certain hospitals and care environments can result in better care and fewer deaths and readmissions.  

A vision of equitable health care for all guides Dr. Brooks Carthon as she works to improve health care for patients who are marginalized because of their age, race, or economic status. Through her research and teaching at Penn Nursing, Dr. Brooks Carthon works on the problems of inequality in health care from many angles.

The proverb, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,’ has infused my team-based research to reduce health disparities.


  • PhD, University of Pennsylvania, 2008 
  • MSN, University of Pittsburgh, 1998 
  • BS, North Carolina A&T State, 1995

Social Justice

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. 


Using qualitative research methods, Dr. Brooks Carthon is also obtaining direct insights about the perceptions of older minorities following a hospital discharge for use in looking for ways to improve the quality of care. As a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar, she is studying patient and nurse perspectives of hospital readmission disparities.  This three-year $350,000 grant is given to junior faculty who show outstanding promise as future leaders in academic nursing. 

A national leader in creating policy on diversity in nursing education, Dr. Brooks Carthon recently conducted a national survey of 164 U.S. nursing schools to discover how diversity “pipeline” programs help students from underrepresented groups enter the nursing profession. The first large scale analysis of nursing workforce diversity, the study established the relationship between diversity initiatives and improvements in enrollment and graduation for students from underrepresented backgrounds.  The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation highlighted her findings in a policy brief.

Clinical Practice

Dr. Brooks Carthon maintains an active clinical practice providing home-based geriatric assessments. Before that, she spent over a decade caring for patients suffering from neuropsychiatric sequale of neurologic insults.  Her patients efforts to maintain health, and their capacity to do so under a wide range of circumstances, inspires her and impels her health equity research

Opportunities to Learn and Collaborate at Penn Nursing

When she decided to add a doctorate to her clinical experience, Dr. Brooks Carthon chose Penn Nursing.  She joined the faculty few years after earning her degree. Dr. Brooks Carthon values how Penn Nursing exposes students to world-renowned nursing scholars, historians, sociologists, and business professors. As a fellow of the Barbara Bates Center for Nursing History, she now contributes to this broad exposure.

Selected Career Highlights

  • Fellow, American Academy of Nursing 
  • Member, CMS Quality & Efficiency Measures Technical Expert Panel  
  • Member, Diversity Strategic Action Group, National League of Nursing

Accepting Mentees?

  • Yes

Accepting Fellows?

  • No

Featured Publications

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