Allison Werner-Lin

Allison Werner-Lin, PhD, LCSW

  • Associate Professor

  • Faculty Director, Social Work in Health Care Specialization

  • Senior Advisor, National Cancer Institute

  • Fellow, Society for Social Work and Research

3701 Locust Walk, Caster Building, Room C16
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6214

Research Interests

Psychosocial oncology

Genetics and genomics

Assisted reproductive technology


Emerging adulthood

Medical family therapy

Qualitative health research

Allison Werner-Lin is Associate Professor at the School of Social Policy and Practice. Her research addresses the intersection of genomic discovery and family life. Her work is among the first to explore the psychosocial challenges unique to women and men of reproductive age who carry a genetic mutation that confers elevated risk of cancer. Dr. Werner-Lin has served as an investigator of multiple interdisciplinary, NIH-funded grants examining dissemination and implementation of emerging genomic technologies in reproductive, pediatric, adolescent, and emerging adult contexts. Presently, Dr. Werner-Lin an investigator on a Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot Grant with the Hospitals at the University of Pennsylvania where she is examining barriers to cascade genetic testing in families of pediatric cancer survivors. She is a Senior Advisor to the Clinical Genetics Branch of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute where she oversees psychosocial research addressing hereditary tumor predisposition syndromes, including Li-Fraumeni syndrome and inherited bone marrow failure syndromes. She is a member of the Scientific Committee governing the International Meeting on Psychosocial Aspects of Hereditary Cancer, and in 2019 she was a visiting scholar at the Hastings Center for Bioethics. In 2021 she will assume the role of Director of Research for the Association of Oncology Social Work.

Dr. Werner-Lin has held multiple training grants to build and evaluate interdisciplinary educational programs in oncology, genome-based health literacy, and health care social work practice. She has partnered with local and national agencies that seeks to identify how best the rapidly evolving knowledge base of genomics may be translated into education and outreach programs for teachers and families. At SP2, she is Founder and Director of the Advanced Certificate in Oncology Social Work continuing education program and Director of the Social Work in Health Care Specialization for the MSW program. She regularly advises MSW and DSW students and teaches advanced clinical social work practice, family caregiving, and qualitative research methods. In 2020 she won SP2’s Excellence in Teaching Award.

Dr. Werner-Lin received her MSW and PhD from the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. She earned a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University, and a Bachelor of Arts in family studies and psychology from Wellesley College. She is a Fellow of the Society for Social Work and Research and a Distinguished Scholar and Fellow of the National Academies of Practice in Social Work. She was recently honored by the CSWE’s Council on the Role and Status of Women in Social Work Education for outstanding mentorship. Dr. Werner-Lin is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker practicing in New York and Pennsylvania. She 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 for parentally bereaved children and teens.

Werner-Lin, A., Young, J. L., Wilsnack, C., Merrill, S., Groner, V., Greene, M. H., Khincha, P. P. (2020). Waiting and weighted down: Anticipatory grief and loss in family life with Li-Fraumeni Syndrome. Familial Cancer doi: 10.1007/s10689-020-00173-6

Werner-Lin, A. McCoyd, J. M., & Bernhardt, B. (2019). Actions and uncertainty: How prenatally diagnosed variants of uncertain significance (VUS) become actionable for children, parents, and in social life. Hastings Center Report, 49, S61-S71.

Werner-Lin, A., Ersig, A., Young, J., Desai, R., Mueller, R., Hoskins, L., & Greene, M. (2018). Catalysts towards cancer risk management action: A longitudinal study of reproductive-aged women with BRCA mutations. Journal of Psychosocial Oncology, 36(5), 529-544.

Werner-Lin, A. & Merrill, S., & Brandt, A. (2018). Talking with children about adult-onset hereditary cancer risk: A developmental approach for parents. Journal of Genetic Counseling, 27(3), 533-548.

Werner-Lin, A., Zaspel, L., Carlson, M., Mueller, R., Walser, S., Desai, R., Bernhardt, B. (2018). Gratitude, protective buffering, and cognitive dissonance: How families respond to pediatric whole exome sequencing in the absence of actionable results. American Journal of Medical Genetics, 176(3), 578-558.

Young, J.,  Werner-Lin, A., Mueller, R., Hoskins, L., Epstein, N. & Greene, M. (2017). Following BRCA1/2 mutation-positive women during their reproductive years: A longitudinal case series. Journal of Psychosocial Oncology.

Werner-Lin, A., McCoyd, J., Doyle, M. H. & Gehlert, S. (2016). Leadership, literacy, and translational expertise in genomics: A grand challenge for social work. Health and Social Work. 41 (4): 275-280. doi: 10.1093/hsw/hlw045

Werner-Lin, A., Tomlinson, A., Miller, V. & Bernhardt, B. (2016). Adolescent engagement during assent for exome sequencing: Like, I want to know, but I don’t…American Journal of Bioethics: Empirical Bioethics. Doi: 1080/23294515.2016.1197983

Werner-Lin, A., McCoyd, J., & Bernhardt, B. (2016). Recommendations for psychosocial genetic counseling during prenatal cytogenetic microarray analysis: Addressing uncertainty with more than just information. Journal of Genetic Counseling. (epub) DOI 10.1007/s10897-016-9966-5

Werner-Lin, A., Barg, F., Tomlinson, A., Kellom, K. & Bernhardt, B. (2015). Couple’s narratives of communion and isolation following abnormal prenatal microarray testing results. Qualitative Health Research, 26(14), 1975-1987.

Werner-Lin, A., Rubin, L.R., Doyle, M.H., Rapp, R., Stern, R., Savin, K., Hurley, K., & Sagi, M. (2012). ‘My funky genetics’BRCA1/2 mutation carriers’ understanding of genetic inheritance and reproductive merger in the context of new repro-genetic technologies. Families, Systems & Health, 30(2), 166-180.

Werner-Lin, A., & Biank, N.M. (2012). Holding parents so they can hold their children: Grief work with surviving spouses to support parentally bereaved children. OMEGA: Journal of Death & Dying, 66 (1) 1-16.

Werner-Lin, A., & Wilsnack, C. (2020). “He only has three months to live:” Anticipating the death of a sibling in the context of inherited cancer risk. In J. McCoyd, & C. Walter (Eds.). Grief and loss across the lifespan: A biopsychosocial perspective, 3rd Edition. New York: Springer Publishing.

Werner-Lin, A., Doyle, M., Merrill, S., & Gehlert, S. (2019). Social work and genetics. In S. Gehlert & T. Arthur Browne. Handbook of Health Social Work, 3rd Edition. (pp. 499- 534). Wiley & Sons, San Francisco, CA.

Werner-Lin, A. & Merrill, S. (2016). A role for social workers in helping families with inherited cancer predisposition: A Case of Li-Fraumeni Syndrome. In J. McCoyd (Ed). Social Work in Healthcare Settings, 2nd  Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications

Werner-Lin, A., McCoyd, J., & Bateman, D. (2015). Genetics, health, and well-being of people of color. In V. C. Copeland (Ed.) Contemporary Issues of People of Color: Living, working, learning in the US.

Werner-Lin, A. (2015). Social work with families affected by hereditary cancer. In. G. Christ, C. Messner & L. Behar (Eds.). Handbook of Oncology Social Work. Oxford University Press: New York, NY.

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