Health Equity & Media Lab

University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing


Meet the Team!

We are an interdisciplinary research lab housed in the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and led by Dr. Robin Stevens, MPH, PhD. We tap into the vast wealth of data that social media sites provide to glean insights into lived experiences and health behaviors. The lessons we learn from users' posts, shares, and networks are reflected in the interventions we design and implement.


Robin Stevens, PhD, MPH

Director, Health Equity & Media Lab

Robin Stevens, PhD, MPH is a health communication scholar focused on achieving health equity in African American and Latino communities. Her research integrates public health and communication science to influence the individual, social and structural determinants that drive health inequity. Her area of expertise is in examining the relationship between new and traditional media and adolescent risk behavior. Her program of research is typified by two lines of inquiry; the quantification of new and traditional media effects on adolescent health behavior and the development of media-informed HIV prevention interventions. Dr. Stevens conducts community-engaged research and includes high school and college students on her research teams. Her current studies examine the role of new and social media on adolescent sexual risk and substance use behavior. Most importantly, Dr. Stevens is a proud Philadelphian and fan of all Philly teams.

Dr. Stevens is an Assistant Professor in Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and the Director of the Health Equity & Media Lab. She received her BA from Harvard College, MPH from University of Michigan, and PhD from the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania. She is also a Visiting Professor at the Center for AIDS Prevention Research at UC-San Francisco and a Senior Fellow at the Penn Center for Public Health Initiatives.

More on Dr. Robin Stevens


Bridgette Brawner, PhD, APRN

Bridgette Brawner, PhD, APRN and her health disparities research team immerse themselves in Philadelphia’s neighborhoods – conducting focus groups, interviewing neighbors, and doing behavior surveys. They combine this information with GIS data on community characteristics such as income and education levels to analyze how social and structural conditions, including the built environment – crowding, green space, and proximity to public transit – affect health. Brawner’s work shows how conditions such as living in disadvantaged neighborhoods or being under stress due to high levels of crime can harm health, while remedying them can effect positive change.

Trained as a psychiatric-mental health advanced practice nurse, she also focuses on how mental health conditions, such as depression in Black youth, correlate with unhealthy behaviors. In her clinical work, Dr. Brawner partners with behavioral health providers on interventions for adolescents with mental illness and works with youth affected by HIV/AIDS. She also studies how community gathering places such as churches and barbershops are important for community health and the spread of information.

Dr. Brawner received her BSN from Villanova University and studied at the University of Pennsylvania for her MSN and PhD.

More on Dr. Bridgette Brawner

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Alexis Phillips, MPH Candidate

Alexis Phillips is a University of Pennsylvania Master of Public Health Candidate (May 2020). She graduated Cum Laude from Portland State University with a dual degree in French and Sociology. She is passionate about advocacy and is extremely interested in bridging the gaps between Health Policy and Administration and Community Health.

Alexis’ previous experiences include program development and implementation, community outreach and organizing, event coordinating, and policy analysis and advancement. Alexis is the Research Lab Manager of the Health Equity & Media Lab; she is very excited to be a part of the team!

In her free time, Alexis enjoys traveling with loved ones, and has a knack for living out of one bag for an extended period of time. She also enjoys painting, reading novels, and binge watching television shows.


Maramawit Abera, BA Candidate

Maramawit Abera is from Los Angeles, California. She is a first year in the Master of Public Health program at the University of Pennsylvania (August 2019). She received her BA in Health and Societies from the University of Pennsylvania. She is interested in evaluating the social determinants of health and examining the ethical, legal, and social issues related to health care.

She is honored to be a member of the Health Equity & Media Lab team, and is excited to witness the progress of their research.

After earning her MPH, she aims to go to law school.

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Sarah Huang, BSN Candidate

Sarah Huang is a senior nursing student at the University of Pennsylvania with a Nursing Health Services Management minor. She began her research with Dr. Stevens after her sophomore year and has continued to work with Dr. Stevens for two years. Sarah is from Illinois - home of the cornfields. In addition to research, Sarah is involved in volunteering for Puentes de Salud and Penn Wissahickon Hospice. She is also in the Service Fraternity on Penn’s Campus.


Elizabeth Lazarus, BA Candidate

Elizabeth Lazarus is a candidate for a B.A in Health and Societies with a Concentration in Public Health at the University of Pennsylvania. She was introduced to the lab during her freshman year and continued working throughout the summer as a PURM student (Penn Undergraduate Research and Mentoring Program). This has been her first introduction to research, both quantitative and qualitative, and her lab experience has helped her determine where her passion lies, improving healthcare for disadvantaged and minority youth.

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Rachel Loth, MSN Candidate

Rachel Loth is an accelerated nursing student at the University of Pennsylvania. She graduated with a dual degree in Integrative Biology and Anthropology from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. She has previously worked as a museum educator at the Franklin Institute and as an OBGYN researcher at the University of Chicago. She is submatriculated to the Nurse-Midwifery Master’s Program, and dreams of working as a nurse-midwife at a school-based health center.

In her spare time, Rachel volunteers at the Bartram’s Gardens Community Boathouse and at Planned Parenthood as a sexual health educator. Additionally, she works as a science and math tutor at a local high school. She is grateful to be a part of the Health Equity & Media Lab team!


Christy Charnel, BSN Candidate

Christy Charnel is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in Nursing and minoring in Africana Studies. She loves to learn about the intersection of health and religion/spirituality.  Christy has been involved in a variety of student organizations and varsity sports including: New Spirit of Penn Gospel Choir and Track and Field. If she is not learning a new sport, you can find her searching for new music or watching cooking shows.