Bridgette M. Brawner, PhD, APRN (Vice Chair)

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Bridgette Brawner

Dr. Brawner graduated Cum Laude from Villanova University in 2003 with a BSN. While working as a Neonatal Intensive Care nurse at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, she earned an MSN from the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) as a Psychiatric-Mental Health Advanced Practice Registered Nurse in 2005—specializing in children and families. Dr. Brawner earned a PhD in Nursing from Penn in 2009, and was selected as the University’s inaugural Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellow immediately upon completion of the degree. Dr. Brawner is a faculty member in both the Center for Health Equity Research and Center for Global Women's and she completed three years of post-doctoral training in these Centers.

Dr. Brawner began her clinical practice in the hospital setting and has since expanded her work to community-based practice. A recognized behavioral science and intervention development expert, she has worked on a myriad of HIV/STI risk reduction programs both locally and internationally. Dr. Brawner is a passionate community-based researcher who believes “the populations we serve must be an integral component of our work, before our grants are even written.” She conceptualizes that communities are not static entities defined by boundaries in the built environment; but rather communities represent groups of individuals (without the confines of space or time) who have shared experiences, interests or concerns. Thus, her clinical practice ranges from working with youth who are infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS, to partnering with behavioral health providers to develop standardized methods of sexual health assessment and intervention for adolescents with mental illnesses.

Dr. Brawner’s program of research developed through a logical series of investigations; unanswered questions from each study served as the impetus for the next inquiry. Through a health equity lens, her research agenda focuses on multi-level, multi-method, biobehavioral approaches to sexual health promotion in disenfranchised populations. One consistent thread throughout her research to date has been a passion and vision for physical and mental health among urban women and girls, with a commitment to maintain strong community ties. There are four interconnected arms in Dr. Brawner’s research agenda: 1) Elucidate salient individual-level factors that protect against or increase risk for adverse sexual health outcomes, such as HIV and other STIs, 2) Explore the social and structural context in which relationships develop and sexual behaviors occur, 3) Mobilize communities and integrate findings to identify modifiable factors, and 4) Develop, test and disseminate multi-level sexual health promotion interventions. 

Sexual health among women, racial and ethnic minorities, and youth bears significant implications for public health; including the health of future generations. Dr. Brawner believes that innovative research methodologies can be used to understand the decisions people make regarding risk and protective behaviors. As an independently-funded biobehavioral scientist at a research-intensive institution, her long-term goal is to improve health outcomes for historically underserved populations in disenfranchised geosocial settings. To this end, Dr. Brawner has served as Principal Investigator on five research projects since 2006. She is currently funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1U01PS003304) with a grant just shy of $1 million to develop and test an HIV/STI risk reduction intervention for Black adolescents with mental illnesses.

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