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Why Study Public Health in Philadelphia?

View of Center City Philadelphia from Drexel University's campus

Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health brings diverse communities and academics together so students really learn about the value of public health and about prevailing public health issues in Philadelphia.

Connection to the city is fundamental to our school’s identity. Dornsife students put public health into practice through hands-on experiential learning in their classes, working with faculty on Philadelphia-based research, and on their own independent projects with our many Philadelphia partners.

“Our school was founded as a ‘school without walls’ and has maintained a fundamental commitment to civic engagement and, particularly, to our partnerships here in Philadelphia,” said Jennifer Kolker, MPH, Clinical Professor and Associate Dean for Public Health Practice and External Relations.

Philadelphia has been home to Dornsife for over 25 years, and it’s an excellent place to study public health and to launch your career.

“There is so much to be done to improve the lives of Philadelphia residents,” said Yolande Greene, MPH ’15. “With all the innovation happening in Philadelphia, there is an enormous opportunity for us to apply our knowledge and skill sets to transform healthcare in the region.”

Benefits of Studying Public Health in Philadelphia

Your work as a student and practitioner of public health in Philadelphia has enormous potential to make an impact.

“It was rewarding to know that what we created would be used by community leaders and service providers to further their work within West Philadelphia, ” said Jay Budd, MPH '21, who helped create a digital dashboard to map COVID-19 vulnerabilities as an Urban Health Collaborative Master’s Fellow.

Philadelphia offers students an experience in an urban environment and exposes them to opportunities and challenges through the large number of Dornsife faculty whose research, service, and practice directly improve the health of Philadelphians.

Well over half of Dornsife’s faculty are engaged in community service or practice, with roughly 30 percent serving in a leadership or advisory role in a Philadelphia-based organization. That includes such organizations as the Latino Health Collective, Greater Philadelphia YMCA, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Together for West Philadelphia, Philadelphia’s Home Preservation Initiative, and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

"Faculty members are comprised of some of Philadelphia's most influential professionals with solid backgrounds in my areas of interest such as clinical health, policy, and health management," said IDEA Fellow Laney Sullivan, MPH ’21.

Renowned Health Networks

Through Dornsife’s large network of over 100 Philadelphia partners and the school’s strong relationship with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, our students are “keyed into the city of Philadelphia” says Amy Carroll-Scott, PhD, MPH, associate professor and chair of the department of Community Health and Prevention.

The benefits of career development and networking while at Dornsife can propel your success. “I was thrilled to have the chance to work in [infection control] at a large academic medical center right after graduating,” said Kevin Smith, MPH ’18 (Epidemiology with a minor in Infectious Disease Prevention and Control). Smith gained valuable experience through his Applied Practical Experience (APE) at Mercy Hospital and was hired by Temple University Hospital as an Infection Control Practitioner after earning his MPH.

“Philadelphia is so full of public health connections. There are important relationships to be formed everywhere around the city,” notes Sierra Cuellar, MPH ’21, about the school’s local research partnerships and Dornsife’s networking opportunities.

Urban Health Initiatives

Dornsife's urban health research center—the Drexel Urban Health Collaborative (UHC)—is one significant way that the school advances its commitment to improve health in cities. The UHC leverages the school’s expertise in public health practice in urban settings. Dornsife students engage in the work of the UHC as research assistants, APE placements, and through regular speakers and brown-bag discussions.

Dornsife also works towards co-created, community-acceptable, sustainable solutions for Philadelphians through our public health research and our other centers and programs like the Ubuntu Center on Racism, Global Movements and Population Health Equity, Maternal and Child Health program, Center for Hunger-Free Communities and the Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice.

“Dornsife's dedication to improving the health of Philadelphia's disadvantaged and most vulnerable populations resonates with my own career goals. As a Philly native, I chose Drexel as my new home once I discovered that Dornsife has deep roots and connections with overall public health research, programs, and projects throughout the city,” said Isabel De Ramos, MS '21, who used funding that she received from Sallie Mae for epidemiological research on HIV/AIDS in Philadelphia’s low income neighborhoods.

Industry Organizations and Opportunities

Many public health-related industries have extensive networks throughout Philadelphia, as well as the surrounding areas of suburban Philly, New Jersey, and Delaware.

Dornsife students and alumni find employment throughout the region at government organizations, hospitals, universities, cancer centers, nonprofits, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, and more.

Dornsife continues to cultivate regional partnerships in health sectors—as well as adjacent sectors like labor and transit—to create more job opportunities for our public health students.

Pennsylvania offers many different and diverse paths for a career in public and urban health. Learn more about regional public health career opportunities in the Career Services section.

What Else Does Philadelphia Have to Offer?

Philadelphia’s universities attract a large population of students, making it a lively city with a good college town feel.

Philadelphia’s cost of living is lower than other East Coast cities like Boston, New York City, and Washington DC, and the city’s diverse neighborhoods ensure that you will never tire of exploring the sights, the sounds, and the food (obviously).

“I love history and if I want to know more about American culture, Philadelphia is the best place,” said Dornsife Ambassador and international student Line Pascale Gonel, MPH '21, on choosing Dornsife. “It's rich in history, and Dornsife is the number #1 school of public health in Philadelphia."


If you are interested in learning more about life in Philadelphia and Drexel Dornsife’s opportunities, request more information to speak with our admissions team.

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