Dr. Brunger giving a presentation.

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My research is at the intersection of anthropology and ethics. I focus on science, medicine, and bioethics as cultural systems, and examine culture as a place where power relations are constituted and contested.

One of my enduring interests is in the governance of research that poses collective risks to socially identifiable communities, particularly for Indigenous communities and marginalized populations. One important focus of that work, which I developed through a long-standing research collaboration with the Southern Inuit of NunatuKavut, is the examination of the “politics of risk” in community-based research ethics. I have also examined the social and cultural implications of genetic/genomic research in terms of the politics of risk.

My work in cross-cultural clinical ethics examines whether and how to accomodate non-Euro-American healing practices and ways of knowing into mainstream medicine. Here, my research and teaching intersect in my critique of the notion of “cultural competency” in medical education. I ask whether and how we can teach cross-cultural ethics in medicine while also challenging the Euro-American normative assumptions in bioethics.

Other projects span a range of subject matter, some in collaboration with students in the context of course work, some inspired by my clinical ethics work for the NL Provincial Health Ethics Network, and some driven by the needs of the NL Provincial Health Ethics Board. 

Research ethics

Research involving socially identifiable communities

Research in progress

D. Martin (Dalhousie), Nominated PI Co-PIs: A. Bombay, A. Cunsolo, J. MacMillan; Co-Is: G. Baikie, A. Benoit, F. Brunger, H. Castleden, M. Doucette, A. Fox, A. Hudson, L. Jackson, M. Latimer, D. Lewis, C. MacDonald, M. McNally, W. Montelpare, S. Neilsen, N. Pollock, M. Robinson, E. Root, J. Shea, J. Snook, A. Steenbeek, J. Taylor, A. Vukic, J. Whitty-Rogers, P. Williams, T. Young; Knowledge User: C. Wolfrey; Atlantic Indigenous Mentorship (AIM) Network, CIHR Indigenous Mentorship Network Program, $999,990 (5 years), April 2017 – March 2022.

Past projects

A. Hudson, J. Ball, F. Brunger, H. Castleden, B. Chubbs, M. Hudson, D. Martin, M. Paul, A. Procter, J. Shea, & D. Wall. “The Naalak Gathering: A Regional Dialogue on Indigenous Research Governance”, Application to Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Special call: Indigenous Research Capacity & Reconciliation Connection Grant, 2018-2019 (6 months), $50,000.

J. Shea, D. Wall (Co-PIs), F. Brunger, J. Bull, M. Jong, L. Leibenberg, D. Martin, M. Paul, N. Pollock, & C. Wellon (Co-Is), “Enhancing Mental Health Services for Southern Inuit Communities: A Community-Based Approach”, Bridge funding, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, July 2018-June 2019, $100,000.

F. Brunger (PI), J. Bull, J. Graham, D. Pullman, D. Wall, C. Weijer, with D. Wall, NunatuKavut Health and Social Sector Manager. “The Labrador Inuit-Métis Research Ethics Project: An Experiment in Aboriginal Governance of Health Research in Complex Communities”, Canadian Institutes of Health Research Operating Grant, 2010-2013, $180,000.


F. Brunger (PI), “Population Genetics and Protection of Communities: A Critical Inquiry into the Cultural History of a Canadian Policy Controversy”, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Facing Our Future, 2004-2005, $47,400.


Bull J, Hudson A, MacQuarrie C, Beazley KF, Brunger F, Shea J, Shaw K, Kavanagh C, Gagne B. (2020). “Shifting Practise: Recognizing Indigenous Rights Holders in Research Ethics Review”, Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, 15(1): 21-35.

Marshall Z, Welch V, Minichiello A, Swab M, Brunger F, & Kaposy C. (2019). “Documenting Research with Transgender, Nonbinary, and Other Gender Diverse (Trans) Individuals and Communities: Introducing the Global Trans Research Evidence Map”, Transgender Health, 4(1): 68-80.

Webber V, & Brunger F. (2018). “Assessing Risk to Researchers: Using the Case of Sexuality Research to Inform Research Ethics Board Guidelines”, Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung/ Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 19(3). doi:

Marshall Z, Brunger F, Welch V, Asghari S, & Kaposy C. (2018). “Open Availability of Patient Medical Photographs in Google Images Search Results: Cross-sectional Study of Transgender Research”, Journal of Medical Internet Research, 20(2): e70.

Marshall Z, Welch V, Thomas J, Brunger F, Swab M, Shemilt I, & Kaposy C. (2017). “Documenting Research with Transgender and Gender Diverse People: Protocol for an Evidence Map and Thematic Analysis”, Systematic Reviews, 6(1): 35.

Brunger F, & Wall D. (2016). “‘What do they really mean by partnerships?’ Questioning the Unquestionable Good in Ethics Guidelines Promoting Community Engagement in Indigenous Health Research”, Qualitative Health Research, 26(13):1862 –1877. doi: 10.1177/10497323-6649-58

Brunger F, & Russell T. (2015). “Risk and Representation in Research Ethics: The NunatuKavut Experience”, Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, 10(4): 368-379.

Brunger F, Bull J, & Wall D. (2015). “The NunatuKavut Model of Research Oversight: Innovation Through Collaboration”, In Toolbox of Principles for Research in Indigenous Contexts: Ethics, Respect, Equity, Reciprocity, Cooperation and Culture, N. Gros-Louis McHugh, K. Gentelet, & S. Basile, eds. First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission, pp.51-59.

Brunger F, Schiff R, Bull J, & Morton-Ninomiya M. (2014) “Animating the Concept of Ethical Space: The Labrador Aboriginal Health Research Committee Ethics Workshop”, International Journal of Indigenous Health, 10(1): 3-15.

Gustafson D, & Brunger F.  (2014). “Ethics, ‘Vulnerability’, and Feminist Participatory Action Research with a Disability Community”, Qualitative Health Research, 24(7): 997-1005.

Brunger F, & Bull J. (2011), “Whose Agenda Is It? Regulating Research Ethics in the Labrador Context”, Etudes/Inuit/Studies, 35(1-2): 127-142.

Brunger F. (2009). “Why Do Communities Matter in Global Health Research?” In Global Health Research Ethics E-book, J. V. Lavery, ed. Toronto, Ontario:

Brunger F. (2008). “Culture, Religion and Ethnicity: Important Ethical Considerations in Undertaking Research in Vulnerable Populations”, In Handbook for Clinician Scientists: Tools for a Successful Academic Career. R. Bortolussi, ed. The Canadian Child Health Clinician Scientist Program, pp.38-43.

Brunger F, & Weijer C. (2007). “Politics, Risk, and Community in the Maya-ICBG Case”, In Ethical Issues in International Biomedical Research: A Case Book. J. V. Lavery, E. Wahl, C. Grady, E. J. Emanuel, eds. New York: Oxford University Press, pp.35-42.

Brunger F, & Burgess M. (2005). “A Cultural Understanding of Research Ethics Governance”, Health Law Review, 13(2/3): 69-74.

Brunger F. (2003). “Problematizing the Notion of ‘Community’ in Research Ethics”, In Populations and Genetics: Legal and Socio-Ethical Perspectives, B. Knoppers, ed. Leiden/Boston: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, pp.245-256.

Brunger F, & Weijer C. (2002). “The Importance of Context in International Research”, The Forum. Ethics & Behavior, 12(4): 384-387.

Burgess M, & Brunger F. (2000). “Collective Effects of Health Research”, In A Study of the Ethical Governance of Health Research Involving Human Subjects, M. McDonald, ed. The Law Commission of Canada.

Ethics and research in genetics/genomics

Past projects

P. Parfrey (PI), (F. Brunger, Collaborator), Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Human Genetics. Canadian Foundation for Innovation, 2007-2010, $6.8 million.

J. McLaughlin (Toronto) (PI), (F. Brunger, Co-Investigator), CIHR Team in Interdisciplinary Research on Colorectal Cancer, 2006-2010, $718,617 per annum (avg).

M. Samuels (Dalhousie) & T. Young (Memorial) (Co-PIs), (F. Brunger, Collaborator), Atlantic Medical Genetics and Genomics Initiative (AMGGI), Genome Canada, 2006-2009, $2,275,000 per annum.

F. Brunger (PI), “Population Genetics and Protection of Communities: A Critical Inquiry into the Cultural History of a Canadian Policy Controversy”, CIHR, Facing Our Future, 2004-2005, $47,400.

F. Brunger (PI) & M. Burgess (Co-Investigator), “Moral Dimensions of Genetic Risk: Ethnic Identity, Heredity and Experiences around Testing for Hereditary Breast Cancer”, MRC, Genomics Research Program (MELSI), 1999, $9,185.

F. Brunger (Co-Investigator) & K. Bassett (Co-Investigator), Culture and Genetics, MRC, Canadian Genome Analysis and Technology Program (Medical, Ethical, Legal & Social Issues Advisory Committee), 1996, $10,000.


Manual A, & Brunger F. (2016). “Embodying a New Meaning of Being At-Risk: Living with an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator for Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy”, Global Qualitative Nursing Research, 3: 1-10. doi: 10.1177/2333393616674810

Manuel A, & Brunger F. (2015). “‘Awakening to’ a New Meaning of Being At-Risk for Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy: A Grounded Theory Study”, Journal of Community Genetics, 6(2):167-175.  doi: 10.1007/s12687-015-0212-x

Manuel A, & Brunger F. (2014). “Making the Decision to Participate in Predictive Genetic Testing for Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy”, Journal of Genetic Counseling, 23(6): 1045-1055.

Manuel A, Brunger F, & Hodgkinson K. (2010). “Psychosocial Implications of Genetic Investigations”, In Clinical Approaches to Sudden Cardiac Death Syndromes, R. Brugada, ed. London: Springer-Verlag, pp.311-316.

Brunger F. (2006). “Discrimination génétique et éthique de la recherche: consentement et politique du risque”, In Néoracisme et dérives génétiquesM-H Parizeau, ed. Presses de l'université Laval, pp.231-246.

Brunger F, & Cox S. (2000). “Ethics and Genetics: The Need for Transparency”, In The Gender of Genetic Futures: The Canadian Biotechnology Strategy, Women and Health, F. Miller et al., eds. National Network on Environments and Women’s Health Working Paper Series, Toronto: York University, pp.27-31.

Brunger F, & Bassett K. (1998). “Culture and Genetics”, In Socio-Ethical Issues in Human Genetics, B.M. Knoppers, ed. Cowansville, QC: Les Editions Yvon Blais Inc.

Bubela T, Nisbett M… Brunger F… et al. (2009). “Science Communications Reconsidered: Challenges, Prospects, and Recommendations”, Nature Biotechnology, 27(6):514-518.

Caulfield T, Ogbogu U… Brunger F… et al. (2007). “Stem Cell Ethics: Consensus Statement on Emerging Issues”, Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, 29(10):843-848.

Clinical ethics

Ethics and diversity in clinical care

Research in progress

F. Brunger (PI) “The Eastern Health Diversity Project: Examining Needs and Establishing Priorities”, NL SUPPORT Research Grant. September 15, 2017- September 14, 2018, $69,022.

C. Aubrey-Bassler (PI), A. Dunsmore, R. Majid, S. Mulay, F. Brunger, & K. Aubrey-Bassler, “Identifying Missed Appointment Statistics for Government Assisted Refugees to Improve Access to Care”, NL SUPPORT Clinician/Allied Health Professional-Led Research Grant. December 2018-2019, $9,733.

Past projects

F. Brunger (PI), B. Gray and R. Thackrah (Co-Investigators), “Critiquing Ideology and Confronting Power in Cross-cultural Ethics: An Analysis of the Understandings and Uses of ‘Culture’ in Bioethics Deliberations Over Parental Refusals of Treatment”, Phase 1. Dean’s Innovation Grant, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University, 2015-2016, $20,000.


Gray B, & F. Brunger F (2018). “(Mis)understandings and Uses of ‘Culture’ in Bioethics Deliberations Over Parental Refusal of Treatment: Children with Cancer”, Clinical Ethics, 13(2): 55-66. doi: 10.1177/1477750917738109

Bhogal A K, & Brunger F. (2010). “Prenatal Genetic Counseling in Cross-cultural Medicine: A Framework for Family Physicians”, Canadian Family Physician, 56(10): 993-999.

Cultural competency training in medical education

Research in progress

F. Brunger (PI), J. Allison, C. Aubrey-Blasser (Co-Investigators), “The MUN MED Gateway Project: Evaluation of Effectiveness of a Service Learning Strategy for Teaching Cultural Humility”, MRF Cox Award, 2019-2022, $35,000.

F. Brunger, P. Duke, S. Mulay, J. Allison, B. Albrechtsons & Others, “The MUN MED Gateway Project”, 2005-present, unfunded.


Brunger F. (2016). “Guidelines for Teaching Cross-cultural Clinical Ethics: Critiquing Ideology and Confronting Power in the Service of Principles-based Pedagogy”, Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, 13(1): 117-132. doi: 10.1007/s11673-015-9679-8

Duke P, Brunger F, & Ohle L. (2015). “Morning in Refugee Health: An Introduction for Medical Students, International Journal of Migration”, Health and Social Care, 11(2): 86-94.

Duke P, & Brunger F. (2015). “The MUN MED Gateway Project: Marrying Medical Education and Social Accountability”, Canadian Family Physician, 61(2): e81-7.

Brunger F, Duke P, & Kenny R. (2014). “Matching Physicians to Newly Arrived Refugees in a Context of Physician Shortage: Innovation Through Advocacy”, International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care, 10(1): 36-51.

Other projects

V. Maddalena (PI), F. Brunger, V. Kaminksy, C. Kaposy, D. Pullman, R. Singleton (Co-Investigators), “Organizational Ethics in the Midst of Crisis: Examining the Perceived Role and Responsibilities of RHA Boards with Regard to Monitoring Quality”, Commission of Inquiry Research Funding (Eastern Health, The Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Care Foundation and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador), 2013-2014, $58,000.


Borges J, Lee T, Saif A, Sundly A, & Brunger F. (2019). “Overuse of Diagnostic Tests in Canada: A Critical Perspective”, Canadian Journal of Bioethics/Revue Canadienne de Bioethique, 2(2): 39-41.

Campbell VLS, Foley HL, Vianna KW, & Brunger F. (2019). “Folie du Système? Preventing Violence Against Nurses in In-patient Psychiatry”, Psychiatric Quarterly, 90(2):413-420. doi: 10.1007/s11126-019-09636-1

Kaposy C, Maddalena V, Brunger F, Pullman D, & Singleton R. (2016). “The Interactions of Canadian Ethics Consultants with Health Care Managers and Governing Boards During Times of Crisis”, AJOB Empirical Bioethics, 8(2): 128-136.

Kaposy C, Brunger F, Maddalena V, & Singleton R. (2016). “Models of Ethics Consultation Used by Canadian Ethics Consultants: A Qualitative Study”, HEC Forum, 28(4): 273-282. doi: 10.1007/s10730-015-9299-z

Kaposy C, Brunger F, Maddalena V, & Singleton R. (2016). “The Use of Ethics Decision-Making Frameworks by Canadian Ethics Consultants: A Qualitative Study”, Bioethics, 30(8): 636-642.

Webber V, Bartlett J, & Brunger F. (2016). “Stigmatizing Surveillance: Blood-borne Pathogen Protocol and the Dangerous Doctor”, Critical Public Health, 26(4): 359-367.

Olsen C, El-Bialy R, Mckelvie M, Rauman P, & Brunger F. (2016). “‘Other’ Troubles: Deconstructing Perceptions and Changing Responses to Refugees in Canada”, Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 18(1): 58-66. doi: 10.1007/s10903-014-9983-0

Hunter K, Maxwell E, & Brunger F. (2015). “Misogyny in Health Professions? An Analysis of the Dalhousie Dentistry Scandal”, Bioethique Online, 4/21. 

Schiff R, & Brunger F. (2013). “Northern Food Networks: Building Collaborative Efforts for Food Security in Remote Canadian Aboriginal Communities”, Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 3(3): 31-45.

Bonia K, Brunger F, Fullerton L, Griffiths C, Kaposy C, Mason B, Morrison M, Morton-Ninomiya M, & Patten A. (2012). “DAKO on Trial: A Case-study in the Politics of a Medical Controversy”, Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology, 16(3): 275-295.

Boydell KM, Volpe T, Cox S, Katz A, Dow R, Brunger F, Parsons J, Belliveau G, Gladstone B, Zlotnik-Shaul R, Cook S, Kamensek O, Lafrenière D, & Wong, L. (2012). “Ethical Challenges in Arts-based Health Research”, International Journal for the Creative Arts in Interprofessional Practice, 11: 1-17.

Kaposy C, Bandrauk N, Pullman D, & Brunger F. (2010). “Adapting the Hamilton Health Sciences Critical Care Pandemic Triage Protocol”, Healthcare Quarterly, 13(2): 60-63.



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