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Faculty Spotlight: Juanita Gardner

April 26, 2021

Juanita Gardner, PA-C, joined the Physician Assistant Department as an assistant clinical professor in 2012. She graduated from Drexel’s Physician Assistant programPA Faculty Juanita Gardner in front of mountains in 1988 and received a Master of Public Health from Drexel in 2005 with a focus in community health and prevention.

Gardner began a career of service immediately after PA school by accepting positions working in underserved, high crime, low income and drug infested communities. During her career, she developed a love for community health centers and spent much time as a clinician, program developer and mentor for inner city youth. She provided care in homeless shelters, helped to find resources for displaced families and developed teen programs to decrease the high school dropout and teen pregnancy rates in the community. On several occasions, she accompanied colleagues to Capitol Hill and met with then Senator Joe Biden to advocate for healthcare for underserved Delawareans. Her work alongside Civil Surgeons helped immigrants access healthcare and get permanent residency or visas. She has managed and provided care in school-based health centers, allowing students to have access to care without compromising their education. Her work alongside traditional medicinal healers on the Navajo reservation opened her eyes to the high rates of diabetes, alcohol use, obesity, oppression and lack of resources that plague our Native communities, and she convinced pharmaceutical companies to donate glucometers to help her Navajo patients. In 2000, she accepted a position at the University of Pennsylvania Student Health Services providing care to Penn students and chaired the department’s Emergency Preparedness Committee during the SARS epidemic.

PA Faculty Juanita Gardner in front of pondIn 2006, Gardner was hired by the National Health Service of Scotland and travelled throughout the country promoting the PA profession. She developed an asthma/COPD clinic, provided primary care at outpatient practices in Edinburgh and taught physical exam skills to nurses at Queen Margaret College. Her work at the Edinburgh Cancer Center led to managing patients, organizing the day-to-today operations of the head/neck and lung cancer teams while working alongside clinicians from all over the world. In 2008, Gardner was asked to join a delegation of Scotsmen and women to South Africa. She trekked seven days along the Indian Ocean, witnessing the remnants of apartheid and meeting with residents in rural communities. She raised money to help support schools, spent time helping at an orphanage, visited a senior center and listened to stories from victims of domestic abuse. Her friendship with a South African journalist led Gardner to meeting and working alongside relatives of Nelson Mandela while distributing books and school supplies to students at a school with no walls. She was privately escorted through informal settlements meeting with residents and witnessing firsthand the extreme poverty and the impact of apartheid on healthcare, housing and the lack of resources available to Black South Africans. She was invited to speak to a group of physician assistant students at the Walter Sisulu PA program and shared her experiences as a PA from America.

Since joining the PA program, Gardner has been clinical coordinator for several clinical rotations. She has been co-course director for Health Policy and Ethics. She lectures on the patient centered medical home and health literacy and continues to volunteer as guest faculty in helping to teach Social Determinants of Health in Underserved Communities. She worked as the lead PA in Parkway Health and Wellness. Gardner is a member of several committees in the PA program and is the program’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion representative. She works collaboratively with other departments to develop pipelines for improving diversity within the PA program. She currently serves as a member of the CNHP Curriculum Visioning Committee with a focus on improving student experiences in terms of equity and inclusion in the classroom and clinical settings. Gardner is a member of the tri-state area Lupus Foundation board of directors where she sits on the medical advisory council and community service committee. She aims to use her expertise as a clinician and patient advocate to further the understanding of Lupus in the community, especially in people of color.

In 2016, Gardner was inducted into the Alpha Eta and Pi Alpha National Honor Societies. In 2012, she received the Drexel University Sherry L. Stolberg Alumni Award and has also received the Southbridge Medical Advisory Council Award for Healthcare to the Underserved, the Shero Award for Community Service and Mentoring Youth and the Henrietta Johnson Medical Center Commitment Award.

Gardner is a member of the American Academy of Physician Assistants and the Physician Assistant Education Association.