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Esther Chernak

Esther Chernak, MD, MPH, FACP

Professor; Director, MD/MPH Dual Degree Program

Department: Medicine


  • AB, Comparative Literature - Princeton University
  • MD - UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
  • MPH - Medical College of Wisconsin

Awards & Honors

  • Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching, Drexel University College of Medicine, 2018, 2023
  • Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching, Dornsife School of Public Health, Drexel University, 2017
  • Award for Outstanding Services to the Citizens of the Southeast Region of Pennsylvania and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Regional Anti-Terrorism Task Force, 2005
  • Delta Omega Society (National Honorary Public Health Society, recognition of efforts in public health and preventive medicine), alumni inductee to the Alpha Omicron Chapter at the Medical College of Wisconsin, 2005
  • Art Blackshaw Award for Courage (Contributions to Terrorism Preparedness) Thomas Jefferson University, 2003

Memberships / Professional Affiliations

  • Infectious Disease Society of America
  • Fellow, American College of Physicians (elected March 2010)
  • American Public Health Association
  • Fellow, College of Physicians of Philadelphia (elected April 2014); member, Section on Public Health and Preventive Medicine
  • Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society (inducted 2019)

Esther Chernak, MD, MPH, FACP, is a board-certified physician in internal medicine and infectious diseases, works as a clinician in Philadelphia’s primary care safety net system and contributes to the infection control and emergency planning for this outpatient clinic network. Prior to joining the Drexel faculty in 2010, Chernak worked at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health as medical director and program manager of the Acute Communicable Disease Control and Public Health Emergency Preparedness Programs, overseeing disease surveillance and control programs as well as public health emergency planning for the City of Philadelphia.


  • Internal Medicine - Michael Reese Hospital


  • Internal Medicine - Michael Reese Hospital


  • Infectious Diseases - Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania

Esther Chernak, MD, MPH, FACP, is a professor in the Department of Medicine, as well as the Department of Environmental Health at Drexel's Dornsife School of Public Health. She directs the Center for Public Health Readiness and Communication which focuses on public health capacity-building initiatives and fostering collaborations between public health, medicine and the social services sector; public health preparedness in at-risk communities; and crisis and emergency risk communication. Chernak oversees the Graduate Minor and Certificate program in Infectious Disease Prevention and Control at the Dornsife School of Public Health. She is the course director for Frontiers, a course in population health sciences for medical students in pre-clinical years.


Dr. Chernak currently leads a mixed-methods study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that focuses on the disaster communication needs of children with special health care challenges.

Recent Funding Received

2018 – 2020
Home Assessments for Patients and Families with Special Health Care Needs: Developing Tools, Communication Strategies, and Standards (PI: Turchi)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, BAA 2018 - 67817
Role: Co-Investigator

Public Health Risk Assessment Analysis Project for Southeastern Pennsylvania Region and 5 SE PA counties; sponsored by Chester County Health Department
Role: Principal Investigator

Climate and Urban Systems Partnership (CUSP) – collaboration with Physicians for Social Responsibility and Philadelphia academic health centers, Philadelphia Chapter; grant for educational program development
Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Role: Lead, Drexel University

Effective Communications in Public Health Emergencies – Developing Community Centered Tools for People with Special Health Care Needs
Center for Disease Control and Prevention, BAA 2016-N-17770
Role: Principal Investigator

2014 – 2016
Impact of Public Health Laws on Electronic Disease Surveillance
Grant from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (PI: Buehler/Purtle)
Role:  Co-Investigator

Ethical Issues Related to Vaccine Mandates in Healthcare Professionals (white paper)
Grant from National Vaccine Program Office (PI: Yudell)
US Department of Health and Human Services, January 2013-July 2013
Role: Co-Investigator

2012 – 2013
Integrating Human Service Agencies into Emergency Preparedness Planning and Response
Grant from the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, January 2012 – June 2013
Role: Principal Investigator

Pennsylvania Department of Health Contract with Drexel University
Public Health Risk Assessment and Community Preparedness Projects for the Philadelphia Metropolitan Area and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Role: Principal Investigator

In the Media

2023 Golden Apple Award Winners Announced
(June 7, 2023)

More people are getting COVID-19 tests around Philly as delta spreads and worry rises
Philadelphia Inquirer (August 28, 2021)

More people in Pa. and N.J. started coronavirus vaccinations in August than in July
Philadelphia Inquirer (August 25, 2021)

Pa., N.J., and Del. leaders weigh vaccine-verification options, but largely hold off on mandates
Philadelphia Inquirer (August 7, 2021)

Philly region seeing a ‘substantial’ spread of COVID-19, expanding the area where indoor masks are recommended
Philadelphia Inquirer (August 2, 2021)

Does the coronavirus delta variant mean I’ll need a vaccine booster?
WHYY (July 12, 2021)

Amish put faith in God's will, herd immunity over vaccine
Associated Press (June 28, 2021)

In Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Amish put faith in God’s will and herd immunity over COVID-19 vaccine
Penn Live, WPTV (June 28, 2021)

How many people in Pa. got vaccinated and still got COVID-19? The state isn’t counting
Philadelphia Inquirer (June 25, 2021)

Mobile vaccine clinics ramp up efforts to reach Philly’s most vulnerable communities: ‘Let’s bring vaccine to them’
Philadelphia Inquirer (March 23, 2021)

New Jersey’s vaccine rollout is mostly working. In Pennsylvania, it’s more complicated.
Philadelphia Inquirer (March 23, 2021)

More Philly pharmacies are carrying COVID-19 vaccine, offering a welcome alternative
Philadelphia Inquirer (March 20, 2021)

How to vote in person safely when Pa. isn’t requiring masks at the polls
WHYY (October 7, 2020)


Recent Publications

"The Disaster Information Needs of Families of Children with Special Healthcare Needs: A Scoping Review"
Hipper T, Davis R, Turchi R, Massey P, Lubell K, Pechta L, Rose D, Franks F, Brisenio L, Wolner A, Chernak E
Health Security, volume 16(3), May/June 2018

"Primary Care Medical Practices – Are Community Healthcare Providers Ready for Disasters?"
Peters R, Hipper T, Chernak E
Disaster Medicine Public Health Preparedness, February 2018

"The Impact of Law on Syndromic Disease Surveillance Implementation"
Purtle J, Field RI, Hipper T, Nash-Arot J, Chernak, E, Buehler JW
Journal of Public Health Management and Practice  (published ahead of print) 2017

"CDC Grand Rounds: Addressing Preparedness Challenges for Children in Public Health Emergencies"
Cynthia F. Hinton, Stephanie E. Griese, Michael R. Anderson, Esther Chernak, Georgina Peacock, Phoebe G. Thorp; Nicole Lurie
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 64(35);972-974, September 11, 2015

"Are Human Service Agencies Ready for Disasters? Findings From a Mixed Methods Needs Assessment and Planning Project"
Hipper T, Orr A, Chernak E
Health Security; 13(2)106-114, 2015

Recent Abstracts

"Integrating Community-Based Primary Care Physicians into Disaster Preparedness: Aligning Community Preparedness with Healthcare Preparedness"
R Peters, T Hipper, E Chernak
Abstract, oral presentation, National Association of County and City Health Officials Public Health Preparedness Summit, April 2014, Atlanta, Georgia

"Developing Guidance for Responder Safety in Public Health Emergencies: Protecting Public Health Professionals"
E Chernak
Abstract, poster, National Association of County and City Health Officials Public Health Preparedness Summit, April 2014, Atlanta, Georgia

"Risk Communication and Disaster Preparedness – The Role of Community Pediatric Practices in Conveying Emergency Public Information to Children and Families"
T Hipper, S Needle, S Yunghans, A Wishner, E Chernak
Abstract, poster, National Association of County and City Health Officials Public Health Preparedness Summit, April 2014, Atlanta, Georgia

"Working with Urgent Care Centers in Pennsylvania - New Partners in Community Preparedness for Public Health Emergencies"
J Nash, T Hipper, E Chernak
Abstract, poster, presented at 2015 Public Health Preparedness Summit, Atlanta, Georgia

"The Practice of Syndromic Surveillance for Health Situational Awareness in the United States: Findings from a Case Study Analysis"
T Hipper, J Nash, J Purtle, R Fields, E Chernak
Abstract, poster, Public Health Preparedness Summit, April 2016, Dallas, Texas

"Emergency Risk Communication (ERC) for At-Risk Populations: Preliminary Findings from a Study of Information Needs of Families of Children with Special Healthcare Needs"
Esther Chernak, Jessica Franks, Thomas Hipper, Rebecca Leeb, Keri Lubell, Laura Pechta, Dale Rose, Amy Wolkin
Aabstract, presentation, 2019 Public Health Preparedness Summit, St. Louis, Missouri

"Teaching Health Systems Science and Population Health During Immersion Weeks in Phase 1 Medical Education – The Drexel Experience"
E Chernak, D Russo
Abstract, poster, accepted for presentation at the 2019 Northeastern Group on Educational Affairs, Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Recent Invited Lectures and Presentations

"Public Health Emergency Preparedness"
Lecture for multiple audiences, including Dornsife School of Public Health and College of Medicine, Drexel University; University of Pennsylvania Occupational Health Residency Program, 2013 – present

"Climate Change and Health Impacts"
Seminar Series for Drexel University medical students, sponsored by Climate and Urban Systems Partnership (CUSP), Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 2018

"Public Health Emergency Risk Assessment"
Webinar presentation for Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Public Health Preparedness Directors, June 9, 2016

"HIV Treatment and Testing Update for Primary Care Physicians"
Philadelphia Department of Public Health Division of Ambulatory Health Services, April 22, 2016

"Public Health Emergency Preparedness Tabletop Exercise for Pharmacists and Pharmacy Stakeholders"
Pennsylvania Pharmacy Association Mid-Year Meeting, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 29, 2016

"Introduction to Bio-Pathogens"
Presentation for Confronting the Global Threat: Bioterrorism Conference, Pennsylvania Governor's Office of Homeland Security, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, October 22, 2015

"Managing Healthcare Risks in the Era of Emerging Infections"
Presentation for the Pennsylvania Area Society of Healthcare Risk Management Annual Meeting, Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, April 23, 2015

"Integrating Community Pediatric Practices into Disaster Preparedness in Pennsylvania"
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Grand Rounds Presentation, Atlanta, Georgia, March 17, 2015

"Ebola Virus Disease Update"
Lecture given on multiple occasions, including Drexel University International Café, Drexel University Community Teach-In Forum, Public Lecture at Philadelphia Free Library, October – December 2014

"Integrating Primary Care Physicians into Disaster Preparedness: Preparing Individuals with Special Health Care Needs"
Webinar presentation to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Community Health Resilience Stakeholder Group, Geriatric Disaster Resilience Subgroup, Office of Health Affairs, November 13, 2014

"Ebola Virus Disease – 2014"
Lecture for clinical staff of Ambulatory Health Services, Philadelphia Department of Public Health, October 24, 2014

"Integrating Pediatric Providers into Disaster Preparedness Planning in Pennsylvania"
Invited presentation to Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, webinar-based meeting of state public health preparedness program directors, December 3, 2013; similar presentation given to National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health webinar series and meeting of FEMA Region 3 Children and Disasters Workgroup, June 19, 2014

"Integrating Human Service Agencies into Disaster Preparedness – Challenges and Promises. Recommendations from White Paper"
Invited presentation for Southeastern Pennsylvania Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster Regional Planning Symposium for Human Service Agencies, Arcadia University, Glenside, Pennsylvania, June 6, 2014

"Emergency Preparedness Tabletop Exercise"
Pennsylvania Department of Health Interagency Working Group for Child Health in Disasters, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, May 22, 2014

* This physician's clinical practice is independent of Drexel University.

Contact Information

Division of Environmental and Occupational Health
3215 Market Street, Nesbitt Hall Room 615
Dornsife School of Public Health
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Phone: 267.359.6038