Jason Purnell, PhD

Associate Professor, George Warren Brown School of Social Work

Principal Investigator and Project Director, For The Sake of All


Dr. Jason Purnell is an associate professor in the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis.  He is trained in both applied psychology and public health.  After undergraduate study in government and philosophy at Harvard University, he received his doctoral degree in counseling psychology from the Ohio State University and his Master of Public Health degree from the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry.  Dr. Purnell completed an NCI-funded fellowship in cancer prevention and control and was a research assistant professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Rochester before joining the Brown School 2009.  He is also a licensed psychologist in the state of Missouri and a former director of community engagement with the United Way of Greater St. Louis.


Dr. Purnell’s research focuses on how socioeconomic and sociocultural factors influence health behaviors and health outcomes and on mobilizing community action to address health equity and the social determinants of health.   He is currently leading a Missouri Foundation for Health-funded project called For the Sake of All. A final report was released in May of 2014. The project, now in its third phase, is focused implementation of the report’s recommendations with a broad set of cross-sector stakeholders. Dr. Purnell’s work has been published in leading scientific journals such as JAMA, American Journal of Public Health, Annual Review of Public Health, and Journal of Clinical Oncology. Significant interest in For the Sake of All also has led to coverage by NPR, the Washington PostBloomberg BusinessweekMclean’s (Canada), Korea Times (South Korea), the “Joe Madison Show” on SiriusXM Radio, and vox.com.


Dr. Purnell is very active in the St. Louis community, both personally and professionally, including service on the boards of Beyond Housing, Inc., and the American Youth Foundation. Dr. Purnell is a member of the Leadership Council and co-chair of the Data and Technology Committee for the Ready by 21 St. Louis collective impact initiative focused on positive outcomes for children and youth in the region. He was appointed by Archbishop Robert J. Carlson to the Peace and Justice Commission of the Archdiocese of St. Louis in 2015.  In 2016, he was named Person of the Year by the St. Louis American newspaper.  Also in that year, he received the Dr. Corinne Walentik Leadership in Health Award from the Missouri Foundation for Health, FOCUS St. Louis’s Leadership Award, and Eden Theological Seminary’s Reinhold Niebuhr Award. Dr. Purnell received the Young Leader Award from the St. Louis American Foundation in 2013 and the Young Professionals Awards in Health and Quality of Life Empowerment from the Urban League Young Professionals of Metropolitan St. Louis in 2014.