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Emory nursing professor receives prestigious endowed Chair

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Kerry Ludlam

Deborah Watkins Bruner, PhD, RN, FAAN

Internationally-recognized oncology nurse researcher, Deborah Watkins Bruner, PhD, RN, FAAN, has been named the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Nursing at Emory University.  

Named in honor of legendary philanthropist and president of Coca-Cola Company, the Woodruff professorship is one of the highest distinctions for Emory faculty. Bruner is the first nurse to hold a Woodruff professorship since it was established in 1979 with a generous donation from the Emily and Ernest Woodruff Fund.  

“Dr. Bruner is truly an exceptional academic nurse scientist who has had an illustrious career that spans more than two decades,” says Dean Linda McCauley. “She is the perfect candidate to serve as the inaugural recipient of the Woodruff professorship in nursing.”  

Bruner joined Emory in September 2011, where she serves as a professor of nursing at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, as associate director of cancer outcomes research at Winship Cancer Institute and as a professor of radiation oncology at Emory’s School of Medicine.  

Widely recognized for her pioneering leadership within the National Cancer Institute (NCI) supported Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG). She is the first and only nurse to lead one of NCI’s national clinical community oncology programs research bases and is RTOG’s Vice Chair for Outcomes.   

“We are proud to announce that Dr. Bruner has been named to this prestigious endowed chair,” says S. Wright Caughman, MD, CEO of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center.  “Dr. Bruner’s stellar research portfolio, which led to her multiple appointments in the School of Nursing, Winship and Department of Radiation Oncology align perfectly with the Woodruff Health Sciences Center’s collaborative environment.”   

Bruner has devoted her research to improving outcomes for cancer patients. Her areas of focus are quality of life and symptom management across cancer sites, as well as decision-making, preferences and utilities for cancer therapies. She also is well-known for her research in sexuality after cancer therapy.  

Currently, Bruner is leading two National Institutes of Health studies and one NCI clinical trial. Her research has been published in a number of journals including the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, and the International Journal of Radiation Oncology • Biology • Physics.   

Prior to joining Emory, Bruner served as the Independence Professor in Nursing Education at the University of Pennsylvania. Bruner received a bachelor’s degree in nursing from West Chester University. She earned master’s degrees in nursing oncology and administration from Widener University and a doctoral degree in nursing from the University of Pennsylvania. She completed a research fellowship in cancer prevention and control at Fox Chase Cancer Center.    

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