Drexel's 11th Street Health Center Doubles in Size with Sheller Gift to Expand Community Services

The new wing of the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services Center. Photo credit: Halkin/Mason Photography.
The new wing of the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services Center. Photo credit: Halkin/Mason Photography.

Sunlight streams through the windows into a spacious art studio where community members paint, draw and sculpt as part of a creative arts therapy program. Along the hall – which is decorated with a colorful mural created by students and members of the community – residents participate in dance and movement therapy and exercise in a fitness center that overlooks vistas of downtown Philadelphia. Downstairs, patients receive nutritional support and education, dental services, physical therapy, primary care and more.

These new, fully equipped facilities are thanks to a major expansion of the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services Center of Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions. The community-based, nurse-managed health center is nationally recognized as a model health care home that integrates mind and body and uses a trauma informed approach to serve the residents of North Philadelphia.

Made possible by a gift of $2.5 million from the Sheller Family Foundation, the expanded health center building at 850 N. 11th Street, which includes a new wing and a connector passageway between the two structures, is now approximately 34,000 square feet, nearly double the size of the former space.

“The 11th Street center has been in the vanguard of Drexel’s civic engagement and neighborhood partnership efforts for more than 15 years,” said Drexel President John A. Fry, Drexel’s president. “Just as all our efforts are reaching maturity across the city, it's appropriate that 11th Street is achieving a new level of service and impact, and I’m incredibly grateful to Steve and Sandy Sheller for making it possible.” 

A ribbon-cutting event will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. to celebrate the opening of the expanded building. In addition to remarks from President Fry, Senator Bob Casey, Lt. Gov. Michael Stack, State Senator Shirley Kitchen, City Council President Darrell Clarke, the Shellers and others, the Drexel Color Guard will perform a posting of the colors ceremony in honor of Veterans Day. An open house for community residents will be held on Friday, Nov. 13 from 2 - 4 p.m.

The new two-story wing improves and expands current services offered to patients and the community. In order to facilitate care for a growing patient population and make room for more students to have clinical and practical experiences, the new wing includes space for nursing, nutrition sciences, couple and family therapy and creative arts therapies as well as the expansion of primary care services.

The original building, which is connected to the expansion with a glass atrium, was remodeled to include additional space for dental services.

The expansion of the center was made possible through generous support from The Sheller Family Foundation, founded by Stephen Sheller, a Drexel trustee and prominent Philadelphia attorney, and his wife, Sandra, a Drexel alumni in creative art therapy (’04) and couple and family therapy (’05). 

“Over the years, my husband Steve and I have been so inspired by the vision and care at 11th Street and its life transforming impact on families in one of the most underserved and vulnerable communities in Philadelphia,” said Sandra Sheller. “Now, with this important expansion, this exemplary model of care will not only be able to serve more families, but will be able to enhance and expand its range of comprehensive, integrated and innovative services that address much more than just the physical needs of its patients.”

The center is a comprehensive nurse-managed health care home targeting a medically underserved population. It provides primary care integrated with behavioral health, dental care and a full range of health-promotion programs, while offering Drexel students clinical training opportunities, at the forefront of a rapidly evolving health care system. The center is located in North Philadelphia, in the middle of four public housing developments, offering affordable services to urban residents and to all who seek care.

“This center is a testament to what can happen when a community and a university work together,” said Patricia Gerrity, PhD, professor and associate dean for community programs and director of the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services. “More space opens the potential for developing new programming and services in response to the community’s evolving needs.”

The center also provides a broad array of other services to promote wellness – not just treat illness – including dental care, an on-site pharmacy, a fitness center, physical therapy, yoga, nutrition education and cooking classes, creative arts therapies, social work services and more – at a single location within a community. Specialized programming emphasizes even more areas, including family-centered care and substance abuse screening and treatment in primary care. The center is a hub for many activities not traditionally considered part of health care, including distribution of fresh vegetables grown on a community farm, creating public art in the Porch Light Program and even a law clinic providing legal services and advice from law students in Drexel’s Kline School of Law.