For a better experience, click the Compatibility Mode icon above to turn off Compatibility Mode, which is only for viewing older websites.

Nancy Epstein, MPH, MAHL

Rabbi Nancy Epstein

Community Health and Prevention
Download CV


BA, Human Development, Colby College; MPH, Health Education, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; MAHL, Hebrew Letters, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College


Professor Nancy E. Epstein has served on the Dornsife School of Public Health faculty since 2000 and worked in the public health field for 40 years. Originally trained as a community health educator, she held leadership positions in health policy, legislative advocacy, community organizing, non-profit management, and community health education. Her work spanned a diverse range of topics, including access to health care for underserved communities, health insurance disparities, patients’ rights in managed care, long term care, hunger and nutrition, physical and intellectual disabilities, oral health, and sustainable agriculture. She is a trained mediator, facilitator, and spent 18 years studying systems-centered training (SCT) and group dynamics with Yvonne Agazarian. In 2006, Professor Epstein was ordained a rabbi by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.

Professor Epstein spent 16 years in Austin, Texas, where she was involved in developing and passing state health and human services legislation. She was appointed jointly by the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Speaker of the House of Representatives in 1985 to oversee the implementation of five innovative statewide indigent health care programs, two of which became national models and were subsequently enacted at the federal level by the U.S. Congress. She served as Executive Director of the Texas Senate Committee on Hunger and Nutrition and Director of the Texas Disability Policy Consortium. When she left Austin in 1998, she returned to Washington, D.C. where she served as Director of Health Policy and Programs for the Center for Policy Alternatives, a national non-profit organization that worked extensively with state-elected officials and legislators in about 40 states across the country. Prior to her arrival in Philadelphia in 2000, she was serving as a full-time consultant to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation on its Community Voices: Health Care for the Uninsured initiative—at the time, the largest initiative in the foundation’s history. She has also directed an award-winning hospital-based community health promotion program, been a public interest lobbyist for the disability community, worked as a grassroots community organizer with farmers and directed an international program in sustainable agriculture.

Professor Epstein is fluent in many areas of public health policy and practice. In all of her work, she emphasizes the importance of synthesis and building bridges across disciplines to identify strategic opportunities for meaningful impact. She served as the Principal Investigator to evaluate Philadelphia’s large-scale Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) program and is a contributing author to the first textbook on religion spirituality and public health. She has dedicated her career to relationship-building at the grassroots, community and policy levels to successfully bring the best of evidence and research into practice and policy.

Professor Epstein is a three-time award winner (2002, 2005 and 2014) of the Dornsife School of Public Health’s Golden Apple Teaching Excellence Award. In 2017, she received one of Drexel University’s top teaching awards, the Barbara G. Hornum Award for Teaching Excellence and Pedagogical Innovation.

Professor Epstein received her Master of Public Health (MPH) degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1980, a Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters (MAHL), rabbinic ordination and chaplaincy certificate from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 2006, and Bachelor of Arts degree in human development from Colby College in Waterville, Maine.

Research Interests

  • Community-engaged research
  • Behavioral Health
  • Religion, Spirituality and Health
  • Arts and Health


“Implications for Community Health Practitioners: Framing Religion and Spirituality Within a Social-Ecological Framework,” a chapter in Why Religion and Spirituality Matter for Public Health:  Evidence, Implications and Resources edited by Doug Oman, Springer Publishers (2018)

 “Incorporating Religion and Spirituality into Teaching and Practice: The Drexel School of Public Health Experience,” a chapter in Why Religion and Spirituality Matter for Public Health:  Evidence, Implications and Resources edited by Doug Oman, Springer Publishers (2018)

 "Three Jewish Lenses for Work and Health”, a chapter in Judaism and Health: A Handbook of Practical, Professional and Scholarly Resources edited by Jeff Levin, Ph.D. and Michele Prince, MSW, MAJS, (2013)

People with Developmental Disabilities and Oral Health in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, A Research Report to the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council (2006)

Aching Teeth and Vanishing Dreams: The Dental Problems of Philadelphia’s At-Risk Children and Youth, Drexel University School of Public Health (2003)