Headshot of Dr. Jerri Bourjolly

Joretha N. Bourjolly, MSW, PhD

  • Associate Professor/Clinician Educator

  • Associate Dean for Inclusion

3718 Locust Walk, McNeil Building, Room 521
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6214
  • office: 215.898.5524
  • fax: 215.573.2099

Research Interests

The management of multicultural conflict

Social and economic implications of managed care for women with breast cancer

Utilization of medical health services for Medicaid-eligible women diagnosed with breast cancer

Access and clinical outcomes of health care for SMI women in managed care settings

Evaluation of PRIME

Joretha Bourjolly, PhD, is an Associate Professor/Clinician Educator at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) and serves in the role of Associate Dean for Inclusion. Her current scholarship focuses on understanding the origins of critical incidents in multicultural contexts and interventions to de-escalate and manage conflict based on race, culture, and gender. The majority of her research has examined personal, cultural, and social factors that impact healthcare access and disparities. Her particular focus has been on substantive issues for vulnerable populations. For women with breast cancer, she’s investigated provider and patient perspectives of managed care on health seeking behaviors and medical decision making. She has also examined barriers to the recruitment of minorities to clinical trials, racial differences in coping and functioning with cancer, and the use of social and religious supports.

Dr. Bourjolly’s scholarship also includes racial/ethnic differences in perception of illness, service utilization, and support mechanisms for patients and individuals with severe mental illness. Research with women with severe mental illness has highlighted their difficulties navigating the healthcare system and important methodological considerations for using focus groups to collect data with this population. Dr. Bourjolly has also researched staff, agency, and health system factors that contribute to inequities in home healthcare outcomes and examined maternal and provider perspectives related to accessing pediatric healthcare for homeless children living in shelters.


Saint-Louis, N. & Bourolly, J. N. (2018). Narrative intervention: Stories from the front lines of oncology healthcare. Social Work in Health Care. 57(8), 637-655.

Abstract: This study examined the experiences of health care professionals who participated in monthly narrative oncology groups. Ten professionals participated in separate, semi-structured, face-to-face interviews. Using a qualitative research design, the transcriptions of the interviews were analyzed using a phenomenological approach. The analysis yielded descriptive information about the professionals’ positive experiences of participating in narrative oncology sessions and provides insight into the importance of such a group through five themes: (1) Shared perspectives and bearing witness, (2) Comfort in confidentiality and a safe-space, (3) Group-care becomes self-care, (4) Writing gives structure, and (5) Patient stories. Implications for incorporating narrative intervention in an oncology setting are discussed in this paper.

Bourjolly, J., Sands, R. G., Finley, L., & Pernell-Arnold, A. (2015). The emergence of conflict in a multicultural training group: The anatomy of a disorienting dilemma. Journal of Transformative Learning.  3(2), 84-104.

Abstract: Bourjolly, Sands, Finley, and Arnold examine conflict in a multicultural training group for mental health practitioners. They used qualitative research methods to track the process as it unfolded. In this paper, they describe a critical case that elicited conflict and use transformative learning theory and postmodernism as lenses for understanding the event. A succession of comments perceived as insults or microaggressions served as predecessors to a disorienting dilemma that sparked strong emotional reactions and set the group on a course of transformative learning. They also discuss problematic cross-cultural communication styles and group dynamics related to the microaggression and describe the instructors’ reflections. The paper concludes with implications for dealing with the emergence of conflict related to microaggressions in the classroom and the challenges of intense affect in relation to race, gender, and class. Although our critical case took place in a continuing education training class in multicultural practice, situations like this also occur in university courses and other educational settings.

Davitt, J., Bourjolly, J., Frasso, R. & Bowles, K. (2015). Understanding inequities in home healthcare outcomes: Staff views on agency and system factors. Research in Gerontological Nursing. 8(3), 119-29.

Abstract: Results regarding staff perspectives on contributing factors to racial/ethnic disparities in home health care outcomes are discussed. Focus group interviews were conducted with home health care staff (N = 23) who represented various agencies from three Northeastern states. Participants identified agency and system factors that contribute to disparities, including: (a) administrative staff bias/discretion, (b) communication challenges, (c) patient/staff cultural discordance, (d) cost control, and (e) poor access to community resources. Participants reported that bias can influence staff at all levels and is expressed via poor coverage of predominantly minority service areas, resulting in reduced intensity and continuity of service for minority patients.

SP2 News

SaraKay Smullens

Alumni Stories

SP2 Alumna Receives Society for Social Work Leadership’s 2021 Kermit B. Nash Award

SaraKay Smullens, a 1965 alumna of the Master of Social Work (MSW) program at Penn’s School of Social Policy &...

Loran Grishow-Schade

Alumni Stories

SP2 Alum Honored for Ongoing Gender Identity Research, Work

For years, Loran Grishow-Schade, MSW ’20, MSSP ’21, has proven to be a prolific leader and fully-immersed pioneer in work...

MSW Student Alisa Branch

Student Life

“Always Something New to Know”: MSW Student Alisa Branch on Being a Non-Traditional Learner

Even after a three-decade career in the human services field, Alisa Branch still felt that she had more to learn,...

New SP2 faculty, clockwise from left: Tamara Cadet, PhD; Yoosun Park, PhD; Meredith Doherty, PhD; and Milan AbiNader, PhD

Faculty & Research

SP2 Welcomes Four New Faculty Members

Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) has announced the hiring of four new faculty members, who will begin...

Discover More