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Emory appoints Deborah W. Bruner as senior vice president for research

Effective Oct. 1, Deborah Watkins Bruner, RN, PhD, FAAN, will serve as Emory's senior vice president for research.

Emory University President Claire E. Sterk has announced the appointment of Deborah Watkins Bruner, RN, PhD, FAAN, as the university’s senior vice president for research, effective Oct. 1. In this new executive position, Bruner will report directly to the president and serve on the President’s Leadership Team.

An internationally renowned researcher and clinical trials expert with a focus on patient-reported outcomes, Bruner currently serves as the Robert W. Woodruff Professor and Chair in Nursing and assistant dean for faculty mentoring at Emory’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. Bruner also holds a faculty appointment in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Emory’s School of Medicine, and serves as associate director of faculty mentorship, training and education at Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute.

“Dr. Bruner’s new role will be essential to Emory achieving its aspirations to be recognized as a renowned research university by helping us to continue to attract top scholars who are committed to academic prominence and interdisciplinary collaboration in all we do,” says Sterk. “With Bruner’s leadership and expertise, Emory will be even better positioned to address 21st century challenges through increased discovery and intellectual imagination and innovation.”  

Dwight A. McBride, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, says that in order for “the Emory community to achieve our shared aspirations for academic eminence, we must continue to attend to the centrality of research and scholarship in our work and to make strategic investments that support their advancement at the very highest levels. These strategic investments will be facilitated by the enterprise-wide view and approach to research and scholarship that Deb Bruner will be able to lead in this newly created role.”  

“I am honored by the appointment and cannot think of a more exciting time to be at Emory under the leadership of President Sterk and Provost McBride,” says Bruner. “Helping Emory reach its aspirations is exhilarating, especially with the ability to leverage the already stellar health sciences research and expand its innovation through scholarship and creative expression in the arts, law, basic sciences, business and theology.” 

“Dr. Bruner brings an impressive track record of innovative and cross-disciplinary research to this position,” says Jonathan S. Lewin, Emory’s executive vice president for health affairs. “Her creativity and vision will help drive the university’s strategic research initiatives to new heights.”

As senior vice president for research Bruner will partner with other research leaders across Emory to identify and facilitate interdisciplinary research, including breaking down institutional and cultural barriers to encourage opportunities for collaboration through academic activities that reach across schools, colleges, centers and institutes.  A critical mission of the office is to develop best practices for education, training and guidance to promote the responsible conduct of research, and to ensure compliance in all areas of research administration across Emory. 

Since Bruner’s arrival at Emory in 2011, she has served on a number of key Emory task forces and committees including serving as vice-chair of the Commission on the Liberal Arts (COLA), the University Senate and Faculty Council, and the Task Force on Shared Faculty Governance. In 2016 she chaired the Ad Hoc Implementation Committee of the Tenure Promotion and Appointment Committee, and currently serves as chair of the Class and Labor 2 Implementation Committee. 

In terms of leadership and funding, Bruner is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and was appointed by President Obama to one of only two National Institutes of Health (NIH) U.S. presidential appointed committees, on which she continues to serve.

She is the first and only nurse to ever lead as principal investigator (PI) on one of the NCI Clinical Trials Cooperative Groups, first as PI of the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG)-Community Clinical Oncology Program, and now as multi-PI of the NRG Oncology-National Clinical Oncology Research Program. NRG is a consortium of over 1,800 sites and thousands of clinical and translational investigators.

Bruner’s research has been continuously funded since 1998, contributing close to $95 million as PI, and over $86 million as co-PI in funding from sponsors including the Department of Defense, National Institute of Nursing Research and National Cancer Institute.  Her research funding has led to her ranking among the top five percent of all NIH-funded investigators world-wide since at least 2012, according to the Blue Ridge Institute statistics. 

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