Deborah Watkins Bruner, RN, PhD, FAAN

Senior Vice President for Research

Emory University


Department of Radiation Oncology

Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Nursing

Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing


Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing



Dr. Bruner is recognized as an international leader in cancer clinical trials and oncology nursing. Dedicated to improving outcomes for cancer patients, she is recognized for her research in sexuality after cancer therapy.

Dr. Bruner serves as Senior Vice President for Research at Emory University. She also serves as  Professor in the School of Nursing and Professor of Radiation Oncology at Emory University School of Medicine and previously served as Associate Director of Faculty Mentorship, Training and Education at Winship Cancer Institute. Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania in 2006, Dr. Bruner had been at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia for 16 years where she was the Director of Symptoms and Outcomes Research and Founding Director of the Prostate Cancer Risk Assessment Program.

She is the first and only nurse to lead an NCI national cooperative group, the RTOG Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP). She is also known for her leadership in the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in assisting setting priorities for symptom management and health related quality of life clinical trials. President Barack Obama appointed Dr. Bruner as one of five new members of the National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB) in 2015.


She received her doctorate in nursing research, with a focus on outcomes research, at the University of Pennsylvania.


Dr. Bruner has been honored with university awards in research and mentorship including national awards such as the Excellence in Radiation Oncology, Oncology Nursing Society/Varian Nursing Award and the Linda Hunter Quality of Life Lecture, Society of Gynecologic Nurse Oncologists, and international awards such as Best New Investigator, International Society for Pharmacoeconomics & Outcomes Research, Poster Presentation. In 2015, she received the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) Distinguished Researcher Award.


Dr. Bruner’s research focuses on quality of life and symptom management across cancer sites as well as decision-making, preferences, and utilities for cancer care. Dr. Bruner also studies methods to eliminate health disparities in clinical trials recruitment.  She is best known for her pioneering leadership in outcomes and symptom research in the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG).

Dr. Bruner has published over 130 peer-reviewed journal articles, and 16 books/book chapters. She has served as editor-in-chief of one book and three editions of an ONS Guidelines Manual for radiation oncology nursing. Her articles have been published in a number of leading journals including the Journal of the America Medical Association, the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of Clinical Oncology, International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics and Cancer and the Oncology Nursing Forum.