Standing Faculty > Allison Werner-Lin, PhD, MA, EdM

Assistant Professor

3701 Locust Walk, Caster Building
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6214
awer@sp2.upenn.edu

Allison Werner-Lin is Assistant Professor at the School of Social Policy and Practice. Her research addresses the intersection of genomic discovery and family life. Dr. Werner-Lin’s research seeks to broaden social work's guiding 'person-in-environment' framework to include genetic variation as a core feature of assessment, one in constant interaction with developmental, sociocultural, and environmental contexts.

Her work is among the first to explore the challenges unique to women and men of reproductive age who carry a genetic mutation (BRCA1/2), which exposescarriers to elevated risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. For her dissertation she interviewed BRCA1/2 mutation carriers aged 21-35 to examine patterns of meaning, medical decision making, and shifts in life plans following genetic testing. Then, she collaborated with an interdisciplinary team based at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) to investigate attitudes of BRCA1/2 mutation-positive women and men about emerging genetically enhanced assisted reproductive technologies, such as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. She has ongoing, collaborative relationships with the leadership of the National Society of Genetic Counselors to evaluate provider needs and with genetic counselors at Yale Cancer Genetics to develop guidelines for clinicians wishing to boost parents’ genetic literacy to support conversations with children. In 2010, she began a collaboration with members of the Clinical Genetics Branch of the National Cancer Institute. Together, their group investigated women who completed BRCA1/2 genetic testing prior to their 25th birthday, an understudied patient group in the literature on inherited cancer risk. Their work identified developing health literacy as a barrier to effective and confident utilization of preventive health care services during the transition to adulthood. This finding sparked her interest in genome-based health literacy.

Dr. Werner-Lin’s present work examines health literacy, genetic diversity, and life cycle growth into adulthood. She is currently pursuing a research agenda that seeks to identify how best the rapidly evolving knowledge base of genomics may be translated into community education and outreach programs for adolescents and young adults, given the social, cognitive, and cultural contexts within which they acquire health knowledge and behaviors. Recently, she began work with the Personal Genomics Education Project at Harvard Medical School to evaluate high school bioethics and science curricula designed to increase adolescent genomic literacy and health communication.

Dr. Werner-Lin received her PhD from the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. She holds a master's degree in clinical social work from the University of Chicago, a master's degree in human development and psychology from the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University, and a Bachelor of Arts in family studies and psychology from Wellesley College. She has presented her research at national and international conferences. Dr. Werner-Lin has practiced in community-based organizations providing individual, family, and group counseling and psychotherapy to families affected by cancer, and she maintains a small private practice. She conducts workshops on direct practice with parentally bereaved children and provides supervision to professional groups.