Kathleen Marie Brelsford, Ph.D.

Research Assistant Professor

Faculty Appointments
Research Assistant Professor of Health Policy
Ph.D., Applied Anthropology, University of South Florida, Tampa, FloridaM.A., Anthropology, Northern Arizona University , Flagstaff, ArizonaB.A., Cultural Anthropology, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FloridaM.P.H., Community and Family Health, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida
Office Address
2525 West End Ave. Suite 400
Nashville, TN 37203
Research Description
Kathleen Brelsford is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Policy at Vanderbilt University’s School of Medicine and faculty member of the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She received her B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Miami and an M.A. in Applied Anthropology from Northern Arizona University. She obtained her Ph.D. in Applied Anthropology and MPH in Community and Family Health from the University of South Florida.

Dr. Brelsford has more than 15 years of experience designing and conducting ethnographic research and analyzing mixed-method data on a variety of bioethical and health-related topics, such as HPV vaccine decision-making; HIV risk behaviors; adolescent drug and alcohol use; and research use of clinical records. She is particularly interested in reproductive health and maternal and child health and has collaborated on studies conducted with diverse stakeholder groups throughout the United States, as well as in Costa Rica, Kenya, the DRC, South Africa, and Canada. Dr. Brelsford is an expert on social science research methods, and enjoys developing innovative research designs using a wide array of methods, including participant observation, in-depth interviews, cognitive interviews, surveys, focus groups, structured elicitation techniques, deliberative dialogue, and social network analysis. She has taught university-level courses in social theory, research methods, and reproductive health and won awards for excellence in teaching.

Prior to joining Vanderbilt, Dr. Brelsford was the Senior Social Scientist in the Program for Empirical Bioethics at Duke University, where she took a lead role in the design, conduct, and analysis of several NIH-funded studies on research recruitment, informed consent, and confidentiality protections in large-scale genomic research.
Research Keywords
Medical anthropology, qualitative methods, reproductive health, empirical bioethics, social science
Beskow LM, Hammack CM, Brelsford KM, McKenna KC. Big Data, Health Law, and Bioethics. Cohen IG, Lynch HF, Vayena E, Gasser U, editors. Cambridge (United Kingdom): Cambridge University Press; 2018.Thought leader perspectives on risks in precision medicine research.

Weinfurt KP, Bollinger JM, Brelsford KM, Bresciani M, Lampron Z, Lin L, Topazian RJ, Sugarman J. Comparison of Approaches for Notification and Authorization in Pragmatic Clinical Research Evaluating Commonly Used Medical Practices. Med Care. 2017 Nov; 55(11): 970-8. PMID: 28650924, PMCID: PMC5640464, DOI: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000000762, ISSN: 1537-1948.

Topazian R, Bollinger J, Weinfurt KP, Dvoskin R, Mathews D, Brelsford K, DeCamp M, Sugarman J. Physicians' perspectives regarding pragmatic clinical trials. J Comp Eff Res [print-electronic]. 2016 Aug; 5(5): 499-506. PMID: 27417953, PMCID: PMC4975022, DOI: 10.2217/cer-2016-0024, ISSN: 2042-6313.

Weinfurt KP, Bollinger JM, Brelsford KM, Crayton TJ, Topazian RJ, Kass NE, Beskow LM, Sugarman J. Patients' Views Concerning Research on Medical Practices: Implications for Consent. AJOB Empir Bioeth [print-electronic]. 2016; 7(2): 76-91. PMID: 27800531, PMCID: PMC5085261, DOI: 10.1080/23294515.2015.1117536, ISSN: 2329-4515.

Mack N, Evens EM, Tolley EE, Brelsford K, Mackenzie C, Milford C, Smit JA, Kimani J. The importance of choice in the rollout of ARV-based prevention to user groups in Kenya and South Africa: a qualitative study. J Int AIDS Soc. 2014; 17(3 Suppl 2): 19157. PMID: 25224616, PMCID: PMC4164014, PII: 19157, ISSN: 1758-2652.

Baldwin JA, Brown BG, Wayment HA, Nez RA, Brelsford KM. Culture and context: buffering the relationship between stressful life events and risky behaviors in American Indian youth. Subst Use Misuse. 2011; 46(11): 1380-94. PMID: 21810073, DOI: 10.3109/10826084.2011.592432, ISSN: 1532-2491.