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 Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences Department

Developing Industry Leaders

Through technology-enhanced practice facilities and cutting-edge research labs, Drexel’s PT programs allow students to develop advanced skills through evidence-based clinical practice, teaching and research.

Physical Therapy Department

For over 30 years, Drexel’s nationally ranked Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Programs have provided a rich, technology-infused environment for students to develop skills in evidence-based clinical practice, teaching, and research. Drexel’s faculty, through structured instruction and mentorship, strives to develop leaders who excel in health care settings, classrooms and research labs.

Drexel’s nationally and internationally recognized faculty members are among the most highly respected and productive academicians, researchers and clinicians in the country with expertise in a variety of specialty areas. Through their work, they have developed numerous local, national and international clinical teaching and research collaborations and garnered funding from a variety of different agencies. Drexel’s research laboratories and funded researchers provide students with the opportunity to pursue exciting initiatives in multiple areas. 

Many of our faculty have won numerous teaching awards and over half of the faculty members continue clinical practice. The department’s faculty practice, Drexel University Physical Therapy Services, has sites at the 11th Street Family Health Services, in the Drexel University Recreation Center on Drexel’s University City Campus and in the Parkway Building on Drexel’s Center City Campus. Students in the department’s programs get the opportunity to work with faculty in these clinical settings to help refine their patient care skills.  The faculty believe that co-treating patients with developing clinicians helps to foster strong, innovative clinical decision making skills in its graduating clinicians.

Additionally, Drexel’s clinical practice facilities are closely aligned with its research labs and other disciplines within the college so that faculty and students have the opportunity to make connections between patient care and discoveries in the lab as well as appreciate the interaction amongst the entire healthcare team.  The College of Nursing and Health Professions includes Nurses, Physician Assistants, Couple and Family Therapists, Nutritionists, and Creative Art Therapists.  A 37,000 square foot multidisciplinary clinical and research facility on the center city campus helps facilitate interaction amongst these groups and provides opportunities for each discipline to contribute to optimal patient care.


Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
Become a competent, compassionate and innovative physical therapist.

Doctor of Health Science in Rehabilitation Sciences (DHSc)
Take a leadership role as an educator and master clinician in Rehabilitation Sciences.

Doctor of Philosophy in Rehabilitation Sciences (PhD)
Prepare for a leadership role as a researcher and educator in rehabilitation sciences.

Certificate in Advanced Practice in Hand and Upper Quarter Rehabilitation
If you are a PT or an OT, participate in advanced study of the hand and upper quarter rehabilitation—designed for occupational and physical therapists.

Certificate in Advanced Practice in Pediatric Rehabilitation
Participate in advanced study of pediatric rehabilitation—designed for occupational and physical therapists.

Orthopaedic Physical Therapy Residency Program
Participate in a comprehensive curriculum of didactic and structured mentorship to develop into evidence-based practitioners ready and able to advance the profession and patient care in the community.

Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Faculty

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News & Events



Stephen and Sandra Sheller watched proudly as the ribbon was cut on their “miracle” in the fall. The couple gifted $2.5 million to expand Drexel’s 11th Street Family Health Services, which now has the space to accommodate more patients and more training for Drexel students.

By Alissa Falcone

Although the official name of Drexel’s health center at 11th and Parrish streets is the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services of Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, it has adopted a more endearing moniker.

“Sandy and I wanted to be certain that 11th Street would have the best possible facilities to continue to expand and deliver what we call ‘The Miracle on 11th Street,’” said Stephen, a Drexel trustee and lawyer who cofounded the Sheller Family Foundation with Sandra, his wife and a Drexel alumnus. “We have had several years now to watch this miracle grow.”

The Sheller Family Foundation gifted $2.5 million in 2014 to expand the quality, comprehensive health services offered to residents of public housing units in the 11th Street Corridor in North Philadelphia. Sandra has been involved with what is now the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services Center since 2006. While interning at a nearby Salvation Army family homeless shelter, she often referred clients to the facility as she worked toward a post-master’s certificate in the College of Nursing and Health Professions’ Couples and Family Therapy Program.

A November ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated the expansion of the “Miracle on 11th Street.” 

This expansion, which broke ground in June of 2014, provides double the space for more patients to receive clinical and practical care, as well as expanded capacity for more Drexel students to be trained. The space has doubled to over 34,000 square feet, thanks to a new two-story wing and a connector passageway between the two structures.

Now, community members can participate in art, music and dance and movement therapies and exercise in a fitness center on the upstairs level of the new wing. Downstairs, they can receive nutritional support and education, dental services, physical therapy and primary care.

“You do not come here just for a pill to treat a symptom, but for expert, committed delivery of health care services of the highest quality,” said Stephen. “When treating health, one must also treat the emotional and social well-being of a client, patient and family.”

Sandra, the director and president of the Sheller Family Foundation, received a master’s degree in art therapy from the College of Nursing and Health Professions in 2004. After she graduated with her post-master’s certificate two years later, she continued to supervise Drexel creative arts in therapy graduate-level students, one of which conducted her internship practice at Drexel’s 11th Street Center.

“What I appreciated at that time was the holistic view and comprehensive care that 11th Street adopted, and their awareness of the importance of considering trauma in their treatment of their patients. Plus, 11th Street provided such a rich education for Drexel students in a multitude of disciplines,” she said.

After both Shellers joined the advisory board of the College of Nursing and Health Professions, they learned more about the facility through several presentations made by Patty Gerrity, PhD, professor and associate dean for community programs in the college.

“Patty’s unique perspective to consider behavioral health as important when treating primary care for an inner-city population was an important factor in encouraging my husband and I to want to help expand 11th Street’s potential,” said Sandra.

Through their involvement with the Advisory Board, the Shellers started the “Friends of 11th Street” group to raise interest for an expansion.

“My husband and I knew we wanted to take a front seat and spearhead moving the expansion of 11th Street to fruition. Patty’s creative ideas for healing and wellness were greater than the space 11th Street could contain, and we wanted to ensure that this beacon and model for the entire country would have the best possible space and resources to continue and expand its work,” said Sandra.

Last year, the facility provided care during 32,000 visits. With the expansion now fully completed, the space is even better equipped to provide more services.

Story first appeared in Drexel Magazine


New employment projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show the impact of the national movement to improve health and care delivery. Over the next 10 years, health care occupations will be the leading source of job creation in the United States. The health care sector and social services sector will account for nearly 40% of the net increase in employment through 2024, adding 3.8 million jobs. Wow!

The 10-year forecast also highlights important increases in specific health professions.

  • The nurse practitioner occupation is expected to grow at an extraordinary rate of 35% -- that is five times that of the overall rate of growth in employment in the nation’s economy. 45,000 jobs will be added. As home and office delivery of services becomes increasingly important in health care, much of this gain will be in the ambulatory care sector.
  • The demand for new RNs is also high, with a projected 16% rise in employment adding about 440,000 new positions and accounting for about half of all health diagnosing and treatment job gains.
  • Physician Assistants are expected to see employment rise by 31%, adding about 28,000 jobs over the decade.
  • Physical Therapy employment is projected to grow by 72,000 jobs over the decade, representing a 34% rate of growth.

As we start a new year full of new resolutions, I encourage everyone to reflect on their career aspirations. You are a part of a phenomenal industry with more opportunity than most. I commend you all for choosing professions in the health care sector, and I look forward to seeing the innovations and improvements in health care this increase in labor force will allow.

Begin your winter term knowing you made a good decision that will afford you a sound future.

Gloria F. Donnelly, PhD, RN, FAAN, FCPP

Dean and Professor


How do you combine backgrounds in physical therapy and epidemiology to find a career that allows you to call upon both skill sets? Dana Olzenak ’06, an alumna of Drexel’s Post Professional DPT, carved a path that does just that – and on the front lines of public health, no less. 

Olzenak is part of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) new class of Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officers, a group more commonly referred to as “disease detectives.” EIS officers work across the United States and around the globe to keep the population safe from a variety of health threats. Olzenak sounds like a superhero to us, too, and she’s about to take on chronic illnesses – like stroke, obesity and heart disease – which she says are as grave and threatening as any outbreak.
“For the next two years, I’m focusing on understanding how health equity or disparity might play a role in how people achieve the physical activity guidelines,” said Olzenak, who works in the National Center for Chronic Disease, Health Promotion and Prevention’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. “Currently, I’m really examining people with disabilities. How might they be able to meet the guidelines? What supports do they need? What barriers are keeping them from achieving physical activity?”
This project falls in line with the new call to action released by the Surgeon General in September promoting walking and walkable communities. In fact, Olzenak’s branch was responsible for writing the call to action and evaluating it here in the United States.
“We want to make sure that people can walk (or roll) more. We’re collaborating with a variety of national partners to make communities safer with better sidewalks, crossings and lights, so that people can get active on a regular basis,” she said.
In February, a new project will have Olzenak taking the intent of the call to action to the U.S. Virgin Islands. On the islands, less than 40% of the population meets the recommended guidelines for physical activity, compared to a problematic 50% in the United States. The number indicates a major issue and tremendous potential for chronic illness.
“They’re known to have very high rates of heart disease, stroke and obesity, so the USVI Department of Health is interested in working with us to learn what environmental factors could be preventing people from walking or biking to get out there and meet the guidelines and prevent disease,” said Olzenak. For three weeks, she will join a team to do a baseline assessment of the landscape to see what barriers there are to physical activity and what interventions can help improve the statistics. “It’s a great integration of what’s going on at the branch and my knowledge of the importance of physical activity from a physical therapist’s point of view.”
Pursuing her passion for public health as a member of this elite group (only 60 EIS officers are selected annually from a national pool of over 600), Olzenak hopes to affect change for people with disabilities. “I’m really interested in making sure that people with disabilities have the opportunity to meet the guidelines and do activities they’re interested in. It can be challenging for them to find something they like and can do regularly.” 
She first dove into this interest with her dissertation while studying epidemiology at the University of Rochester. “My research explored the association between motor proficiency and participation in kids with autism.” This work was the springboard for Olzenak’s career in public health and ultimately, as an EIS officer. 
“I started to think, ‘Wow! It’s been great to work with patients one on one, but it would be even greater if I could try to focus on a larger population.’ ” 
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