Headshot of Dr. Jerri Bourjolly

Joretha N. Bourjolly, MSW, PhD

  • Associate Professor/Clinician Educator

  • Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

  • Director, MSW Program

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 roles of Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Faculty Director of the MSW Program. 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.

In her role as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Dr. Bourjolly oversees current and new academic initiatives, several dual degree and certificate programs, while making sure all academic requirements are met for these programs. She collaborates with the faculty directors of SP2’s other degree programs, participates on their governance committees, and the school’s executive committee to coordinate academic procedures and policies across all programs. She heads the Academic Affairs Office and has responsibility for the academic performance of the school. This office also ensures procedures and plans are in place for international courses, the school’s commencement, waiver examinations, orienting new faculty, field liaisons and teaching assistants, and maintaining course materials. As Faculty Director of the MSW Program, Dr. Bourjolly provides oversight to curricular development and implementation as well as assessment and evaluation of educational outcomes for the MSW Program. She also ensures that the MSW program is in compliance with the educational policy and accreditation standards set forth by the Council on Social Work Education.


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

Dr. Jerri Bourjolly

Faculty & Research, Student Life

SP2 Task Force on Race and Social Justice

Earlier this year, Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) launched the SP2 Task Force on Race and Social...

SP2 alumna Xiaorui Hou

Alumni Stories

MSSP Alumna Shares United Nations Internship Experience

Ever since she was an undergraduate student, Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) alumna Xiaorui Hou, MSSP ‘19,...

School of Social Policy & Practice sign on the Caster Building seen with pink azaleas.

Faculty & Research

Two SP2 Faculty Members Receive Promotions

In recognition of their exemplary contributions to research and pedagogy, two standing faculty members from Penn’s School of Social Policy...

Rachael Neff

Alumni Stories

SP2 Alumna Named Southeast Division Representative of NASW-PA

Rachael Neff, a 2004 alumna of the Master of Social Work (MSW) program at Penn’s School of Social Policy &...

Discover More