African-American woman with red lipstick and curly hair

Virginia A. Brown


Research Scholar

Virginia A. Brown is a research scholar in social justice and population health. She joined The Hastings Center in September 2023 from the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School where she served as an assistant professor in the department of population health in the division of Community Engagement and Health Equity and as the associate director of the Liberal Arts Honors program in the College of Liberal Arts.

She brings to the Center expertise on protecting the autonomy of persons living with serious mental illness using psychiatric advance directives.  She uses the tools of social science to recognize and respond to ethical issues in health and health care as public issues rather than personal troubles. To that end, as a public sociologist, her scholarship seeks to “engage multiple publics in multiple ways.”    She works to respond to health and health care inequity at the individual, community, and institutional level and as she writes, this gives her “the moral courage to speak truth to power.”

More than 20 years ago her development as a bioethicist began at Howard University’s College of Medicine in the program in health care ethics where the late Marian Gray Secundy, PhD, served as the inaugural director. During her time in the program and with Secundy’s mentorship, her interest in the intersections of race, ethics, community involvement, and social justice evolved. At Howard, she earned a master’s degree in philosophy with a concentration in ethics and public policy and a PhD in sociology with concentrations in medical sociology and race, class, and gender inequality.

At The Hastings Center, Virginia continues her research by expanding her inquiry to include attending to the question, “What does bioethics owe justice?”  This inquiry involves working collaboratively to expand The Hastings Center’s research on public engagement.

Selected Publications

Brown, VA, Trust, A. (2023). What Makes Palliative Mental Health Care Ethical Health Care? AMA J Ethics. 2023;25(9):E674-677. doi: 10.1001/amajethics.2023.674.

Fletcher, F Smith, P., Ray, K, Brown, VA, (2022). A Critical Moment in Bioethics: Reckoning with Anti-Black Racism through Intergenerational Dialogue. The Hastings Center Report, 52(S1) S3-S92

Brown VA, Centering Social Justice for Covid-19 Resources and Research. Hastings Cent Rep. 2021 Sep;51(5):51-53. PubMed PMID: 34529850.

Table B, Thomas J, Brown VA, Psychiatric Advance Directives as an Ethical Communication Tool: An Analysis of Definitions. J Clin Ethics. 2020 Winter;31(4):353-363. PubMed PMID: 33259340.

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