September 25, 2000
Volume XXXIII, No. 34

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Dr. Margaret Brackley

Photo by Fernando Serna


When Dr. Margaret Brackley, associate professor of family nursing care, was in her first psychiatric nursing class in the 1960s, she became frustrated with the standard of care given to the mentally ill. It was a sign of her future career—stepping past the norm to work for change. "My instructor at the time said I could influence more people by going into teaching, so I did," she says.

Today Dr. Brackley is known for her innovative work with the San Antonio SAFE Family Project, one of the most important violence prevention research programs in South Texas. "Today the School of Nursing has a cadre of students and faculty who are conducting research and clinical practice on prevention of violence," she says. "I believe I have helped to create this situation by continuing to raise awareness about the plight of families living in violent situations. I believe when a persistent teacher/researcher is in what is important to them, more attention to an area of study results."

It certainly has in this case. Dr. Brackley and project founder Dr. Joe Thornton have attracted $1.6 million in grant funding for the SAFE Family Project from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The program is a collaborative effort of the San Antonio Police Department and the University Health System, with a Web site at http://www.ci.sat.tx.us/sapd/SAFamily.htm. "We’re trying to improve the health care response to domestic violence," she says, "so that it is seen as a health care issue with long-term effects such as mental illness, depression, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder."

Dr. Brackley’s research and classroom expertise is well appreciated by nursing Ph.D. students. She teaches the course, "Philosophy and Ethics in Health Care," using original sources and timely critiques from the literature to foster critical thinking about science, research, practice and the emerging role of nursing scientists. In the new doctoral course, "Qualitative Inquiry," she blends core content and recent developments in the field with direct application to each student’s research.

"I have been blessed with many excellent students who have become exceptional clinicians, teachers, researchers and leaders," she says. "In San Antonio and South Texas, many of my former students provide high-quality care as nurse practitioners and clinical specialists in many areas that were underserved prior to their arrival."

Even as Dr. Brackley brings students "state-of-the-science" knowledge, she has the ability to make "nursing theory come alive," says faculty colleague Dr. Yolanda Davila, chronic nursing care. Dr. Brackley took the lead role in the Ph.D. training of Dr. Davila, who was the first baccalaureate  to Ph.D. graduate from the nursing doctoral degree program offered through the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

Graduate student Donna Scott Tilley and Dr. Brackley conducted focus group research for a project called "The Violent Lives of Battered Women: Critical Points for Intervention." "The research was a wonderful learning experience because Margaret explained the process as we went along, but allowed me to learn by taking a large part of the responsibility for the project," Tilley says.

Dr. Brackley, an Advanced Practice Nurse in Psychiatry/Primary Care, has taught at all levels and worked in psychiatric mental health. She received her Ph.D. in 1986 from Texas Woman’s University and joined the Health Science Center faculty in 1988. One of her other major areas of involvement is addiction treatment and research.

— Will Sansom