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Health Sciences Department

Bridging The Gap

Health sciences bridge the gap between scientific research and the application of this knowledge to help patients. Tailor your degree to meet your interests and needs to become a pioneer in this ever-changing field.

Health Sciences Department

The undergraduate Program in Health Sciences prepares students to enter a wide variety of careers in health care and related professions. Examples of careers and graduate programs our students pursue include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology, cardiac rehabilitation, physician assistant studies, nursing, exercise physiology, nutrition sciences, clinical research, public health, health advocacy, bioethics, health psychology, and others.

Why Drexel?

Dedicated and highly-qualified faculty – Our diverse faculty hold doctoral degrees in several specialty areas including  Anatomy, Physiology, Medicine, Pharmacology, Physical Therapy, Statistics, Clinical Research, Embryology, Exercise Science, and more. They have extensive experience teaching and mentoring undergraduate students in the health professions.

Curriculum choices – Our Health Science Program allows students to tailor their undergraduate degree to meet the needs of a variety of health care related graduate programs and careers. Furthermore, the integrated co-op experience provides our students the opportunity to work with health care professionals in the workplace.  Qualified students may participate in accelerated dual-degree programs with Physician Assistant Studies and the Physical Therapy programs.

Employment opportunities – Health care professions are the fastest growing job sector for the upcoming decade. There is tremendous demand for trained health care providers at all levels. In the Health Science Program, the multidisciplinary faculty, flexible curriculum, and co-op experience provide students with a competitive edge in the market place and in the pursuit of graduate studies.


Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences
Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences

Two Accelerated Track Options

Articulation Agreement Options

Health Sciences Faculty

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Drexel undergrad students Valerie Iovine and Lauren CertoLauren Certo and Valerie Iovine have a lot on their plates. The third year Health Sciences students go to classes, work part time jobs, are involved in student organizations, volunteer, and on top of it all, are co-investigators on a research project they came up with.

Iovine knew she wanted to go to Drexel from the start. “Drexel was my top choice all along. It was my first college visit ever and it was at the end of 10th grade. It was a rainy day, and I totally loved it. My parents were like, `Relax. It's your first college visit. You'll like other colleges, too.’” She continued to visit other schools, but kept coming back to Drexel. “I just knew, for some reason, that I loved it here so much. I just liked that everybody here knows what they want to do and they're so passionate about it and want to get going with their goals,” she said. 

Iovine’s Drexel career didn’t begin quite how she expected. She knew about Drexel’s quarter system, but knowing and experiencing are two different things. Iovine found that she struggled with one class in particular, and even after dedicating all of her time and energy to homework and studying, her GPA at the end of the quarter wasn’t quite what she had hoped for.  She was able to use that as motivation and drastically improved her GPA in the second quarter, and by the third, she had earned a 4.0.

“Now I feel like I've finally got a hang of this. CNHP is a place I take a lot of pride in—it isn't easy work and I think that people know that. It’s a really satisfying feeling to hear that reaction whenever I say ‘I go to Drexel University’” she said.

Her enthusiasm led her to become a member of the executive team of student ambassadors as well as a member of the Dragon Recruitment Team. “I really love it. It’s so exciting to be able to share my experience with all the people who are coming into the school.” Though, Iovine makes sure to manage expectations. “I remember being on my college tour and hearing `Oh, your average class size is 18,’ but then getting here and having a lecture and it wasn’t 18 at all.” Now I'm the tour guide. So I tell them, `The average class size is 18 but you're going to have these lectures. This is how this really works. It’s not easy, but you'll get used to it.’”

Certo’s experience was very different. She didn’t have a particular school in mind when she began her college search. “I looked up schools that had an accelerated PA program, and Drexel was in the top three.” The Pittsburgh native made her way to Philadelphia to visit Penn, Philadelphia University and Drexel. After visiting all three, her choice was clear. “I liked it so much! I love how fast-paced Drexel is and how really passionate about their careers everybody is, too. Our professors are actually practicing in whatever discipline they teach, and that's really important. Also, the cadaver lab was a big draw for me.”

Certo credits the quarter system with improving her time management skills. Not only did she take the regular health sciences course work, but during her spring quarter, Certo also took an EMT course and received her certification. She is now the treasurer of the Drexel EMS club, volunteers as an EMT with a station in Lancaster and works in the Drexel College of Medicine Emergency Medicine department teaching EMT and CPR classes.

As if her coursework, work and volunteering wasn’t enough, Certo is also the president of the Dragon Recruitment Team (DRT), an organization specific to College of Nursing and Health Professions. As president, she works to advance the mission of the DRT— to increase the awareness for both current and prospective students of the outstanding opportunities the College of Nursing and Health Professions offers like a wide variety of courses, unique co-op experiences and programs that facilitate a smooth transition between undergraduate and graduate/doctoral programs. She also recruits and trains members of the organization—including Iovine!

As an executive ambassador and president of the DRT, the two have the opportunity to work together during University recruitment events such as open houses and accepted students days. “I think that our roles, hers as an executive ambassador and mine at DRT, kind of collide and create something awesome. We work together because no one represents Center City Campus except for the Dragon Recruitment members. Having presence on this campus as well as in University City is kind great because we're able to work together and represent both campuses and everything they have to offer,” said Certo.

Certo’s and Iovine’s next joint venture is as co-investigators on a research project inspired by Certo’s study abroad trip to Greece. Certo is currently participating in a ten-day intensive study abroad course called Mediterranean Crossroads for which the final project is a ten-page reflection paper. She and Iovine decided that if she had to write the paper, they should make it worthwhile. “We came up with the idea to assess the difference between Greek and American cultures based on body appreciation and intuitive eating and how that affects depression, anxiety and stress in those two cultures,” said Iovine.  The two will use Qualtrics to survey Greeks and Americans and SPSS Statistics software to analyze the results. Though the results are not yet finalized, they do have a hypothesis. “We think that Greek people will likely have lower depression anxiety and stress because their body appreciation is higher and they intuitively eat in a better sense that Americans do,” said Certo.

Drexel study abroad in Greece with Lauren Certo

Both Certo and Iovine have applied for accelerated programs, Certo in physician assistant and Iovine in physical therapy. While the coursework, jobs and extracurricular activities may seem overwhelming, both want to assure prospective students that it becomes manageable and a new normal.

“My advice is to stick through it because there was a little while where I was like, `I can't do this. I'm going to have to look at other schools. This is insane,’” said Iovine. “But it's so worth it. Everything that I've done since then has been beyond worth the work I put in. I have learned so much about myself, about my work habits, about how to manage time and to really mature and be an adult. I feel like I couldn't have learned those skills at any other school, and I'm so happy with my choice here.”

Certo wholeheartedly agrees. “You just have to stay strong, believe in yourself, and realize that you're investing so much time into yourself, and your education is the most important thing you will ever put your time into. So don't cheat yourself, take everything seriously, and seize all opportunities.”

  By Maggie Rowan McCrea


Health sciences alumnus Vincent Russell `15 is a planner who doesn’t shy away from a challenge when it comes to taking care of his family. It’s what motivated him to join the U.S. Navy Nuclear Power School right out of high school. It’s also what motivated him to quit his civilian job and attend Drexel University as a full-time student.

Nuclear Power School isn’t easy to get into, nor was it something Russell really liked. He chose it because he wanted to go to college and the nuclear field would give him the most money toward his education. It’s an academically demanding program, notably one of the toughest in the U.S. military. Students spend upwards of 50 hours a week on their studies of engineering fundamentals, nuclear physics, chemistry, health physics and more. He may not have known this at the time, but this fast paced, exacting curriculum was the best preparation for CNHP’s health sciences program and eventually physician assistant school.

Alumnus Vince Russell '15He remained in the Navy until 2009 before moving into commercial nuclear power at PSEG in southern New Jersey. “I stayed in a little bit longer than I had planned to initially because one, I was doing pretty well, and two, I had a family to take care of,” Russell offered. He was really good at what he did, but he didn’t enjoy it. “It really didn't seem to make a difference whether I was in the military or in commercial, so I talked to my wife, and with my veteran's benefits, we both agreed I could pursue a career in medicine,” he added. He applied to Drexel with the ultimate goal of being a physician assistant. It took nearly 18 months to get everything in place. Remember, he’s a planner. They sold their house to downsize and moved closer to Philadelphia and when he was accepted at CNHP, he quit his job and went to school full-time. CNHP’s advisors were very helpful in figuring out what would transfer from the undergraduate degree in human resources management he got at The New School while still in the Navy. “I was able to basically take a full load for seven quarters and received a Bachelor of Science in Health Science while I was getting all my prerequisite courses done for PA school,” Russell said. “And we had a baby. My daughter was born December of the second quarter that I was at Drexel,” he beamed.

Russell was under the gun to finish his degree. There are constraints with the GI Bill, so in order to finish, he didn’t do any co-ops. “I barely finished it in time. I actually had ten days overlap between my last quarter at Drexel and my first term at PA school,” he remembered. Despite how quickly his time went at CNHP, he got the most of every single minute. Russell admits that he’s always been good at the sciences, but he said where he saw the biggest growth was in his enthusiasm for research. Required for health sciences, he took a third part of the research practicum and was able to work directly with Janell Mensinger, PhD who does her research work with obesity among other things. “I’d taken one of her classes before. Another student and I got to do an analysis of some of her past research and were able to present it at one of the Renfrew conferences,” he said. “I saw the ins and outs of research, statistical analyses and how the whole process works. Then to be able to explain it to people who are interested in this research was a really good experience for me,” Russell added. Even for someone as educated as Russell, he confessed that some of his courses, like genetics, were difficult but really good. Between that, the research and the pace of the quarter system, he found himself well-prepared for what would be expected of him in PA school. 

Russell was delighted to see so much of the work he did at Drexel pay off at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) where he completed his physician assistant studies. He had to finish a meta-data analysis at Drexel which ended up being very close to his thesis at PCOM. “Every step of the way, I felt like I had already done my master’s paper,” he stated. At Drexel, Michael Kirifides, PhD taught Russell’s physiology course, and remarkably ended up teaching Russell the graduate-level version at PCOM. The parallels he makes between Drexel and PCOM are testament to the foundational education he received in the health sciences department.

What led Russell to want to be a physician assistant in the first place? After that initial conversation with his wife about changing careers, while they were setting themselves up to be able to live on one salary, he started volunteering in the emergency department (ED) at Christiana Hospital. He thought about going to medical school at the outset, however, working in the ED side-by-side doctors and PAs gave him ample opportunity to talk with them. “The more I talked to them, the more I considered where I was in my life (at this point he was in his 30s). In talking again with my family, it just made a lot more sense and it was a better fit to be a physician assistant,” Russell said. He knew he would get to interact with and diagnose patients which he feels are all the good parts of being a doctor. One thing he knew he wasn’t interested in was the business side of medicine. “Every physician assistant I spoke to really, really love their jobs. They loved what they did and I can honestly say that was not the case with some of the physicians I talked to.” Where Russell found himself at that time, it just didn’t feel right for him to worry about business when he’d rather help people.

Russell has recently accepted a job at Christiana Hospital specifically into the Doctors for Emergency Services. This free-standing emergency department that treats thousands of patients each year seems to be the best place for him. He was a somewhat hyperactive kid and got bored easily. As an adult, his desire to constantly be doing something is a perfect match for emergency medicine. The only thing he doesn’t like about it is that he doesn’t get to follow patients to the end. “While I do get to dig through my base of knowledge in the ED, I’m either discharging a patient because we took care of them and they will get better or you decide to admit them and get to interface with other departments. But I might never see a patient I see in the ED again,” Russell articulated. “I don’t get to follow a patient through follow-up care. Whereas in family practice or internal medicine, I’d get to track a patient’s progress and see how they’re doing.”

When asked if there is a stigma in the emergency department that a PA or nurse practitioner aren’t as qualified as doctors, Russell has a very quick and passionate answer. “It’s a fair question. I say that the accreditation and schooling that we go through as physician assistant is every bit, if not more, rigorous as medical school. We have essentially the first three years of med school condensed into a two-year program,” he replied. “And while it’s not med school, whatever you need to learn if you specialize or go into general practice medicine, you’re going to learn underneath a trained and licensed physician,” he added. Addressing the question about education, a PA has a master’s degree and is board certified (every bit as hard and rigorous as med boards), they just don’t do residencies. “But if you are comparing apples to oranges, when you get out of PA school and go into practice, you’re a first-year resident.” The American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) offers a lot of information about PAs and what they do. That’s a good thing since PAs and NPs seem to be filling in roles that a shortage doctors have left open. People, in fact, have been looking specifically for PAs and NPs for primary care. “You feel like you get a better experience because the person in front of you is not worried about the business aspect. They’re not worried about the 15 minutes they have to spend with you as much as the problem they’re coming in to see you for,” said Russell. He is not saying that doctors aren’t concerned about their patients. They are, but he thinks that they just have a lot more on their minds. “When I find a person who has chosen to see a PA, it’s generally for that reason. They feel like the experience they got was more personal and that the care they received was as good as or better than what they were receiving from the doctor they saw before.”

Where does this former youth lacrosse and football coach see himself in five years? He’ll still be working out a busy schedule with his wife, a neonatal intensive careAlumnus Vince Russell and family nurse who has a master’s degree in nursing leadership and education and caring for their three-year-old daughter and thirteen-year-old son. He also hopes to have built his knowledge base up so that he can work in the higher acuity end of the ED. “I see myself being some of the trauma coverage during the week and probably accepting leadership roles,” Russell commented. He likes the idea of being in the thick of it, but because of his experience teaching both in the Navy and in the private sector, he doesn’t see being an adjunct professor as a stretch. As far as other areas of medicine that interest him, general surgery is one because of the variety, however, trauma surgery and working in an ICU are a possibility. No matter what he chooses, it will add to this naval nuclear specialist turned physician assistant and his family’s adventures.


Things I like or would recommend:

Book: Complications by Atul Gawande
He put his first year of residency in a book. It’s an easy read and is well-written.

Podcast: Physician Assistant Exam Review, EM Basic: Your Boot Camp Guide to Emergency Medicine and US Lacrosse

TV Show or Movie: Game of Thrones, Different Day and Super Troopers


By Roberta Sheronas Perry


It’s pretty common to hear from young people that they have an idea of what they will study in college before they go. But it’s likely that they might change their major at least once after they get there. That was the case with Michael Bruneau, Jr., PhD, a relatively new assistant teaching professor in the Department of Health Sciences.

In 2005, Bruneau started his studies at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) as a history major with the hope of teaching psychology in high school—it was suggested that he would be more employable with a history degree with some specialization in psychology. He ended up changing his major three times before he found something that really piqued his interest. He played football in high school and a little in college and had an interest in personal training and exercise,Michael Bruneau, Jr., PhD specifically as it related to clinical populations. After some searching, he found exercise science through his mentor and now good friend Sean Walsh, PhD, professor of physical education and human performance. “Something clicked for me around 2007. I said ‘that’s what I’m supposed to be doing’,” Bruneau shared. While working on his undergraduate degree, he decided to become a certified personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine and was able to get a job with a large chain health club. The need for personal trainers at this club was low, so he worked more on the operational side and by the age of 19, Bruneau became the assistant general manager. Working 80 to 100 hours a week while going to school wasn’t sustainable, but what he was doing in class translated well into the club and, ultimately, what led him to exercise science.

He graduated in 2010 and connected with Linda Pescatello, PhD, professor in the department of kinesiology at the University of Connecticut (UCONN). “I did my internship with Dr. Pescatello as I was transitioning out from CCSU and got offered a graduate assistantship in her lab, which is from where I graduated in 2013. I found it to be a valuable experience because I got to work on a lot of NIH R01 research trials with her,” he said. When he entered Springfield College to begin his doctoral work in 2013, Bruneau was confident in the experience he accumulated in research. Where he felt he needed additional education was in physiological mechanisms. “I knew exercise was important to treat chronic disease, but I was having a hard time verbalizing and connecting how that happened—how exercise causes the biology to change positively,” Bruneau articulated. By the time he finished his work at Springfield in 2016, all the gaps, for him, had been filled. He was ready to begin his first teaching position at Drexel University.

When it comes to the health sciences, it’s important to have people look beyond the program as pre-physician assistant or pre-physical therapy though that seems to be the intent of a large number of CNHP students. A health sciences degree is a broad-based science degree that gives students many options when they graduate. “It’s not necessarily a generalist degree because you can get a job, maybe as a research coordinator or clinical associate, or work on a grant right out of college,” Bruneau explained. “There are many avenues which students can take and co-op can help them figure out what they like and don’t like.” He also commented that if a co-op reveals a job that is not what you expected, you won’t be behind. “It’s just a shift in their focus. It’s why I think health sciences is like a science liberal arts degree,” he said. And it’s why co-op is so important. Co-op provides a valuable experience for all Drexel students and it’s one of the things that attracted Bruneau. Reflecting on his own experience before coming to Drexel, his students asked, time and again, how they could stand out more on graduate school applications. “You need to have academics to back it up, but if all you’ve got are grades and you don’t bring anything else to the table, I would say that’s not the type of person I would want,” he cautioned as someone with former hiring experience. Being competitive means having meaningful engagement and relevant work experience. And that work experience, for Drexel Co-op students, is a pre-requisite for graduation. “To be able to take learned content into the workforce after six months then flip back to the classroom, I think, shows the quality of student and their grit,” Bruneau remarked. He said that students mature and learn a lot about responsibilities beyond themselves during this time.

A claim Bruneau made about student success was that becoming involved with a profession’s organization early on is a key factor. It was through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) that he found Stella Lucia Volpe, PhD. Now the chair of CNHP’s nutrition sciences department, she had been working at University of Massachusetts Amherst and part of the New England regional chapter of ACSM where he served as the processing coordinator under the tutelage of Dino Costanzo, MS and executive director of the NEACSM chapter. “It's really important to realize that if you are, let’s say, a physician assistant aspiree, you should join your professional organization, American Association of Physician Assistants (AAPA), at least, if not on the national level, on the regional level, and try to become more engaged in learning how you can become informed and optimally fulfilled in the profession,” Bruneau remarked. It’s helped him immeasurably throughout this journey and his passion for exercise and his relationship with Volpe has helped open up a few doors.

The research Bruneau has been involved with, while it covers an expanse of populations, has a common tie—the effects of exercise. He considers himself an interventionalist, more specifically, a clinical exercise physiologist. “I've worked with people with substance use disorders (SUDs) and people with HIV. I've worked with people with hypertension and now and chronic kidney disease. So using this intervention, for a lot of different populations, allows me to pivot pretty nicely,” he said. In 2007, the ACSM and the American Medical Association (AMA) came out with a new initiative. Exercise is Medicine calls for physicians to advocate the use of exercise and lifestyle measures as first-line, non-pharmacological therapies to treat chronic disease before medication becomes necessary. “I consider myself very much subscribed to that Exercise is Medicine approach because I really think—yeah, exercise might not control your body weight, but it might control your blood pressure, right?” When it comes to exercise, there are a variety of opinions, many of them all or nothing. Bruneau is interested in research that could identify what the minimum effective dose is to get most of the benefit—much like the Pareto 80/20 principle. “What's the 20% effort that I can put in to get 80% of the benefit, right? I think people are very binary. They say, ‘Well, I know that the recommendations are 150 to 300 minutes a week, so that's what I've got to do.’ When they don’t meet that expectation, they quit the program within six months,” he noted. Bruneau went on to say that physical activity guidelines previously established, for 2018, will be updated to be more focused on evidenced based exercise prescriptions for different populations.

Now that he and Volpe find themselves at the same college at the same university, Bruneau has been able to join her on some of her projects. “I serve primarily as a committee member on many of her master’s and doctoral students’ theses and dissertations. She had gotten a large grant from Independence Blue Cross a few years back for the Healthy Futures Study. I’ve worked on that. We are taking some time to look at some of the data she's gathered from a study here in Philadelphia,” Bruneau explained. (Called the athlete’s study, Volpe recruits and performs some block food frequency questionnaire type-data along with VO2 Max fitness based testing in different tiers of athletes.) And now that it’s official, he’s been offered a courtesy appointment in Volpe’s department because of all the projects on which they’re collaborating.

You’re not alone in wondering how Bruneau manages all these ventures (and some that aren’t even mentioned here). He follows some general principles he feels helps him with balance, something he lacked in graduate school. “I noticed I was happier when I started implementing things other people did routinely. I've recently read Tim Ferriss' Tools for Titans and have sort of picked some of the things he writes about out that I think really help set me up for my day.” His go-tos are daily physical exercise, understanding expectations, planning his day out, mindfulness/meditation practice, reading a book for pleasure (hey, even if it’s one page a day, the goal is moving forward) and daily writing. These are also recommendations he gives his students when asked. He’ll add to that that it’s good practice to work backwards on things, like papers, so you don’t get to the day before something’s due and just then wondering what you should write about. And lastly, and he wanted this clearly recorded, “I cannot stress enough how important it is to strategically find good mentors who will put you in a position to be successful. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it were not for some of my mentors along the way,” Bruneau avowed. “And I could tell you key people along the way, to this day, I still keep in touch with. They're not superiors anymore, they've become my personal friends.”

When Bruneau thinks about the future, he first recalls his immediate past. His first year at Drexel flew by faster than he expected and he’s equally amazed at what he’s been able to accomplish in less than twelve months. “I never thought I would have a courtesy appointment or be involved with so many theses and dissertations. I’m very fortunate to even have been asked.” He wants to continue moving his research lines forward which would include applying for grants through possibly the NIH or American Heart Association. “I really also want to continue to develop the exercise science concentration into a minor to offer more classes for our students to engage in and I want to continue being a quality educator,” Bruneau explained.


Things I like or would recommend:

Book: Anything by Seth Godin or Tim Ferriss

TV: I’m a big fan of Larry David and Curb Your Enthusiasm

Podcast: Reply All and the Tim Ferriss Experiment


By Roberta Sheronas Perry

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