Experts at Drexel University are available to comment for news stories about autism for Autism Awareness Month in April. Drexel recently established the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, the nation’s first autism center focused on public health science.
Autism Public Health: Epidemiology, Risk Factors, Environmental Exposures
Dr. Craig J. Newschaffer , director of the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, is a professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in Drexel’s School of Public Health.
Expertise: Newschaffer is an epidemiologist studying the causes of autism spectrum disorders.
Research: He directs the Early Autism Risk Longitudinal Investigation (EARLI), an NIH Autism Center of Excellence project following a cohort of mothers of children with autism at the start of subsequent pregnancies in order to reveal environmental and genetic risk factors for autism.
Additional Credentials: Newschaffer is a member of the Science Advisory Board for Autism Speaks and serves on the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program’s Autism Research Program Integration Panel. He is a fellow of the American College of Epidemiology.
Dr. Brian K. Lee , an assistant professor in the School of Public Health, is focused on examining the epidemiology of neurological development, maintenance and decline.
Expertise and Research: Prenatal environmental exposures and autism risk, gene-environment interaction, maternal antibody exposure in utero and fetal outcomes.
Dr. Igor Burstyn , an associate professor in the School of Public Health, is an educator and researcher in the field of environmental and occupational health, with training in epidemiology and occupational hygiene.
Expertise and Research: Identifying sources and the health impacts of occupational and environmental exposures, with particular interest in the effect of environmental in utero exposures on health of pregnant women and their children.
Nursing Care for Autism Throughout the Lifespan
Dr. Ellen Giarelli , an associate professor in Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions is an advanced-practice nurse with extensive research experience.
Expertise and Research: Life-long medical, psychological, social and healthcare needs of people with genetic disorders diagnosed in childhood, including autism, that require life-long enhanced surveillance and self-management. Giarelli was principal investigator for the Pennsylvania Autism and Developmental Disabilities Surveillance Program (PADDSP) funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Philadelphia site of a systematic surveillance study of the prevalence of autism in 14 states.
Book: Giarelli is editor of Nursing of Autism Spectrum Disorder: Evidence-based Integrated Care across the Lifespan (Springer, April 2012). This is the only text, to date, that addresses nursing care of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by examination professional nursing skills applied to the specific problems arising from the delivery of health care to people with ASD.
Developmental Psychology and Support for College Students on the Autism Spectrum
Dr. Felicia Hurewitz , an assistant professor of Psychology in Drexel’s College of Arts and Sciences, specializes in developmental psychology and autism spectrum disorders. She also directs a peer-support program for college students on the autism spectrum.
Expertise and Research: Developmental psychology of autism spectrum disorders, sentence processing, language acquisition, numerical cognition and dyscalculia, and computerized interventions for learning.
Additional Expertise: College students with autism spectrum disorders. Hurewitz serves as the Director of the Drexel Autism Support Program, which provides peer mentoring and other support services for college students on the autism spectrum.
Autism History, Risk Communication, and Ethics
Dr. Michael Yudell , an associate professor in the School of Public Health, is a researcher in the fields of ethics, genomics and history of public health.
Expertise and Research: Yudell’s work focuses on the history, risk communication and ethics of autism spectrum disorders, as well as emergency preparedness, vaccines and the history of the race concept in biology.
Book: He is currently writing a book about the history of autism, has a book forthcoming on the history of the race concept in biology and has previously published two books on the mapping of the human genome.
Additional Credentials and Expertise: Yudell also serves on the Ethics of Vaccines Project and is a member of the Newborn Screening Advisory Board in the Department of Health in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He is an author of the Philadelphia Inquirer blog, “The Public’s Health” (http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/public_health/).
Special Education for Autism in Grades K-12
Dr. Michel L. Miller , an assistant professor in the Drexel’s Goodwin College, School of Education, is an educator and researcher in the field of special education. Miller was a supervisor of special education before coming to higher education and supervised K– 12 programs for students with autism in public schools.
***To schedule an interview with any of Drexel’s autism experts, contact the Drexel University Office of University Communications at 215-895-2614 or
Expertise and Research: Autism spectrum disorders, technology for students with disabilities, and special education leadership.
Additional Expertise: Dr. Miller developed the Master of Special Education and the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Drexel Certificate program that is offered by the School of Education. The ASD program provides educators with a comprehensive program on students with ASD in the K – 12 environment.