For a better experience, click the Compatibility Mode icon above to turn off Compatibility Mode, which is only for viewing older websites.

Kathleen Fisher

Contact Information

  • 267.359.5821
  • 267.359.5843 F
  • Health Sciences Building, Room 10W52

Kathleen Fisher


Professor; Director, PhD in Nursing

Graduate Nursing
Nursing PhD
Advanced Practice Nursing

Kathleen Fisher, PhD, CRNP, is a tenured nursing professor, a skilled clinician and educator. She has over 35 years of clinical nursing experience, most of those working with underserved populations as a certified registered nurse practitioner (CRNP) specializing in the family. Her commitment as a nurse is to provide compassionate, holistic, person-centered care to all people, inclusive of at-risk populations, like people with memory loss, dementia and people experiencing an intellectual or developmental disability (IDD). Fisher’s research centers on the needs of these underserved and at risk populations, and provides an opportunity to explore and examine issues of concern to people who are marginalized by society or experience stigma because of their illness or disability.

Fisher has been a principal investigator (PI) or co-investigator on several funded studies including: federal, state and foundation grants. Working within a model advancing research, education and clinical practice, she utilizes a transformative emancipatory paradigm that employs participatory action research strategies. This means that Fisher leads transdisciplinary groups in the practice of team science, with the mission of empowering others (e.g. individuals, families, clients) toward change. A goal of her research is to support at-risk groups, by respecting and understanding difference, while enabling them to realize their full potential in health situations. Fisher’s transformative approach supports the development of strong academic-clinical and research partnerships with community partners to create relevant research, clinical experiences and internship opportunities for interprofessional students at Drexel University.

Fisher is the author or coauthor of more than 50 publications, a position paper for the American Nurses Association Ethics Advisory Board, coeditor of a 2016 book, and author or coauthor of over 60 published conference abstracts and proceedings at national and international research conferences. Her scholarship has focused on health outcomes, health promotion, quality of life and advocacy with at-risk, diverse populations.

Academic Distinctions

At the invitation of the ethics advisory board of the American Nurses Association (ANA), Fisher cowrote a position statement entitled Nurses’ Role in Providing Ethically and Developmentally Appropriate Care to Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (December 2019). For that work, she received a certificate of appreciation from the ANA. Working with three nationally known nurse ethicists, and building on experiences with the ANA position statement, they recently published “A Nurses’ Ethical Commitment to People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities” in Nursing Ethics, an international journal for healthcare professionals.

As an NIH funded researcher, Fisher has explored decision making by proxy across the state of Pennsylvania for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). With funding from the Health Research Formula Fund (i.e. Tobacco Fund), she studied the parents’ perspective and future care planning for those with I/DD. This qualitative phenomenology received an international research prize. Along with two other Drexel faculty, and with funding by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), they convened a conference culminating in a coedited book titled Creating Integrated Healthcare Services for People with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Fisher was a featured nurse on the Philadelphia Coordinated Health Care (PCHC) web page. PCHC is a core program of the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health/Intellectual disAbility Services, the Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery County Offices of Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities and the Office of Developmental Programs, Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.

Fisher was recruited to mentor for the Golisano Fellowship in Developmental Disability Nursing (ID/DD) for the Wegmans School of Nursing at St John Fisher College in Syracuse, NY. The Golisano Fellowship is a 12-month program designed to develop nursing thought leaders who support and promote the health and well-being of persons with ID/DD across their lifespan and settings. GIDDN Fellows (nurses with interest in disability nursing) are mentored by nursing scholars over the year for an evidenced based project in DD.

Internationally, the Global Intellectual Disability Nursing Research Collaboratory (GlDNRC) is a networked organization of the following countries: USA, Canada, Ireland, England, Wales, Switzerland, Finland, Cyprus, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia; led by Fisher. The GIDNRC promotes improvements in the health and quality of life for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and seeks to establish educational and core competencies for nurses working within the field of intellectual and developmental disability.

Professional Society

• International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IASSID)
• Developmental Disabilities Nursing Association
• Research Council for the Developmental Disabilities Nursing Association.
• National Task Group on Intellectual Disabilities and Dementia
• Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing
• Eastern Nursing Research Society

Selected Publications

Fisher, K., Desroches, M.L., Marsden, D., Rees, S., Northway, R., Horan, P., Stych, J., Ailey, S.H., Trip, H., Wilson, N., (2022) International Nursing Actions to Reduce Health Inequities Faced by People with Intellectual and Developmental Disability OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing Vol. 27, No. 3, Manuscript 7 DOI: 10.3912/OJIN.Vol27No03Man07

Desroches, M. L., Fisher, K., Ailey, S., Stych, J., McMillan, S., Horan, P., Marsden, D., Trip, H., & Wilson, N. (2022).Supporting the needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities 1 year into the COVID-19 pandemic: An international, mixed methods study of nurses' perspectives. Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, 1–16. (Published Jan 2022)

Horan, P., Desroches, M., Marsden, D., Fisher, K., Stych, J., Ailey, S., McMillan, S., Tripp, H., & Wilson, N. (2022) Caring for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) during the COVID-19 pandemic: A transcontinental study. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 76: A56. (Published September 2022)

Fisher, K., Bonacquisti, L., Alhazmi, R., Shattuck, M. & Parker, P. (2021) Exercise as a Strategy for Healthy Brain Aging: A Pilot Study Austin Journal of Nursing & Health Care 8(1) ISSN : 2375-2483

Giarelli, E., Fisher, K., Wilson, L., Bonacquisti, L. Chornobroff, A.M., DiPietro, M.J., Weiss, M., & Bannett, G.,(2021) Developing and pilot testing decision-making tools to improve nursing care of adults on the autism spectrum using simulation. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities.

Grant participation:

Desroches, M. L., Fisher, K., Ailey, S., Stych, Establishing Best Practices in Telehealth for Adults with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities Working for inclusive & Transformative Healthcare (WITH) Foundation. Grant Award $35,000 Funding Period: Fall 2022 – Fall 2023. [Funded June 2022] Role: Co-I

Shim, M., Fisher, K., Park, S., Zhang, F., Ramakrishnin, A., Levitas, N. & Gonzalez, A. At- Home Telehealth Mindfulness-based Dance/Movement Therapy for Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Feasibility Study. Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement (CURE) 2021 Formula Grant Program; Pennsylvania Department of Health Grant Award: $96,600 Funding Period: 6/1/2021-5/31/22 [Funded Jan 2022] Role: Co-I

Diez Roux, A., & Gitlin, L.N. Catalyzing Systemic Change at Drexel University to Support Diverse Faculty in Health Disparities Research NIH Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation (FIRST) grant. Supports hire/retention of 12 early-stage investigators from diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds to engage in health disparities research from population to intervention science. Funding Period: 10/1/21-9/30/26 Role: Faculty Sponsor

Giarelli,E., Wilson,L. & Fisher, K. COVID-19 Assessment of Patients from Underrepresented Minority Groups Diagnosed with Developmental Disabilities: Training the Tracer. Working for Inclusive and Transformative Healthcare: WITH Foundation: Grant Award: $25,000 Funding Period: 1/1/2021 – 6/30/2021 Role Co-I

Giarelli, E., Fisher, K. & Wilson L. Developing Algorithms of Nursing Care for Hospitalized Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Working for Inclusive and Transformative Healthcare WITH Foundation. Grant Award: $45,000 Funding Period: 01/11/19 – 10/ 31/20. Role: Co-I.

Research Interests

Fisher’s research has centered on ethical considerations and the needs of underserved and at-risk populations, including people with intellectual and developmental disability (IDD) and people aging with dementia and chronic illnesses.

The Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg, PA
School of Public Affairs
Doctor of Philosophy - 1997
Dissertation: Assessing Integration in Health Care Systems: A Study of Two Emergency Services Departments.

University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Master of Science Degree in Nursing – 1980
Concentration: Family Nurse Practitioner Graduated – Cum Laude

Trenton State College, Trenton, NJ
(Now – The College of New Jersey)
Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing – 1978
Graduated – Cum Laude

Chestnut Hill Hospital, Philadelphia, PA
Registered Nurse Diploma Program
Graduated 1975