Deborah Watkins Bruner


Titles and Roles

Senior Vice President of Research
Emory University
Professor and Robert W. Woodruff Chair in Nursing
Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing
Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology
Emory University School of Medicine
Research Program
Cancer Prevention and Control


Deborah Watkins Bruner, RN, PhD, FAAN, is Senior Vice President for Research, Emory University, Atlanta, GA. Dr. Bruner is also Professor and Robert W. Woodruff Chair in Nursing, Professor of Radiation Oncology, and a member and past Associate Director for Mentorship at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. She is an internationally renowned researcher and clinical trialist with a focus on patient reported outcomes (PROs), symptom management, and comparative effectiveness of radiotherapy modalities. Her most current research is focused on the role of the human microbiome in carcinogenesis and cancer treatment outcomes.

Her global work includes a project to assist in preparing for opening the first modern radiotherapy in Ethiopia through 3D treatment planning and quality assurance. She is past chair of the advisory board for the Emory University School of Nursing-Addis Ababa University (AAU) partnership in developing AAUs first doctoral program in nursing and serves on dissertation committees for AAU nurses. Dr. Bruner serves on the board of the Center for Global Health Innovation, Atlanta, GA, and on the Georgia advisory committee of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.

Dr. Bruner’s leadership, especially in the National Cancer Institute (NCI) sponsored National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN) transcends disciplines and has led to improved health and quality of life and decreased cost outcomes for those treated for cancer. Recognition of her work led to her appointment by President Obama to one of only two National Institutes of Health Presidential appointed committees, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Cancer Advisory Board, on which she still serves. She is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and has co-authored several reports including most recently, Radioactive Sources: Applications and Alternative Technologies, and has served as a consultant to the Division of Human Health at the International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna, Austria. 

Dr. Bruner has worked for almost three decades with the NCTN and is the first and only nurse to ever lead a national clinical trials cooperative group, first as the Principal Investigator (PI) of the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP), and currently as multi-PI of the NRG Oncology group National Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP). NRG Oncology was formed by the historic merger of The National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Prostate (NSABP), the RTOG, and the Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) in March 2014. NRG is a consortium of over 1900 institutions and involving over 3,000 physicians, nurses, physicists, and statisticians, in the U.S. and Canada. The NCORP focuses on symptom amelioration, quality of life and comparative effectiveness trials in community settings, where most cancer care is delivered. Dr. Bruner's pioneering leadership in the NCTN led to a paradigm shift from a historically medically dominated focus on survival and toxicity, to a patient-centered bio-behavioral focus that includes patient reported outcomes (PROs) and has changed clinical practice. She also currently serves on NRG Oncology’s Executive Committee.

Dr. Bruner has been continuously funded since 1998 from sponsors including the American Cancer Society, Department of Defense, Oncology Nursing Society, State of Pennsylvania, National Institute of Nursing Research, National Cancer Institute, and the National Institutes of Health. This has culminated in her ranking among the top 5% of all NIH funded investigators in the world since 2012, according to the Blue Ridge Institute.


Dr. Bruner received her PhD in nursing, with a focus on outcomes research, at the University of Pennsylvania.


Dr. Bruner has published over 200 peer-reviewed journal articles, and numerous 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.

  • PublicationsPublication Date


Dr. Bruner has been honored with multiple awards in research and mentorship including induction into the National Academy of Medicine and as a Fellow, American Academy Nursing. In 2021, in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the National Cancer Act, she was recognized among only 14 scientists in the area of cancer prevention and control as Champion and Changemakers.

Dr. Bruner has won numerous awards for research and mentorship 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. She has been recognized by the Oncology Nursing Society with the Distinguished Researcher Award and the Rose Mary Carroll-Johnson Distinguished Award for Consistent Contribution to Nursing Literature. She has also been inducted into Sigma Theta Tau International's Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame.

She has mentored nursing, psychology, epidemiology and medical junior faculty as well as pre- and post-doctoral students/fellows and has served as primary mentor for both nurses and physicians on 9 career development awards.

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