Penn’s Local Commitment

Health Initiatives

The health of West Philadelphia residents benefits from the combined efforts of the University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS) and four of Penn’s twelve schools: Medicine, Nursing, Dental Medicine and Veterinary Medicine. As a good neighbor, Penn is concerned about the health of the greater Philadelphia community and is committed to ensuring that quality healthcare is available to all. It is a tangible commitment, translated into dozens of programs that help thousands of people.

UPHS & the School of Medicine

Penn Medicine integrates the resources of UPHS and the nation’s first School of Medicine resulting in a wide network of over 18,000 physicians, nurses and other clinical personnel with expertise in every area of general and specialized medicine. UPHS’s three hospitals serve tens of thousands of Philadelphia-area residents by providing preventive, acute and emergency health-care and provide more than $100 million annually in charity and underfunded health care through healthcare services delivered in hospitals, health centers and various community clinics.

Health Care FY09

20% LIFE Center
Reduction in Medicare costs (360 elderly served)
6,000 Penn Medicine
Days of health related service to the community
35,700 School of Dental Medicine
Hours of service (8,000 children helped)
$100M UPHS
Charity and unreimbursed health care

West Philadelphia Clinics

In West Philadelphia, the Drew Health Collaborative, the Penn Mobile Trials Unit, the United Community Clinic and the Sayre Health Center are all administered through Penn Medicine with the support of students and faculty from the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, Dental Medicine and Social Policy and Practice. These clinics provide neighborhood health fairs, free testing and screening, and free pre-natal care and counseling support.

“Bridges of Health”

Puentes de Salud, which translates to “Bridges of Health,” is a Southwest Philadelphia clinic specifically dedicated to serving the medical and social needs of the undocumented Latino community through education and treatment. The clinic serves an average of 30-35 patients each day and garners support from the University as well as a strong volunteer base from colleges throughout the area. Puentes de Salud benefits from the collaboration of faculty and students from across the Penn community, including organizations like Penn Language Link, a student-run organization made up of students from the Medical School, the School of Nursing and undergraduates, who translate brochures and other informational materials from English to Spanish.

Bridging the Gaps

nurseOther health initiatives include Bridging the Gaps, a seven-week-long program that last year matched 230 student interns with 105 nonprofit community partners in Philadelphia region. These partnerships allowed students to provide 6,000 days of health-related services to communities that are often underserved and economically disadvantaged, including homeless and runaway youths.

School of Dental Medicine

The School of Dental Medicine works with the School District of Philadelphia as dental students carry out state-mandated dental examinations on children in 14 schools. They also provide preventive and restorative dental care services to school children using the PennSmiles mobile dental bus at 11 schools and summer programs. In all, a total of 8,000 smiling children are reached yearly through Penn’s partnership with the Philadelphia School District.

School of Nursing’s LIFE (Living Independently for Elders) Center

lifeThe School of Nursing’s LIFE (Living Independently for Elders) Center, serves senior citizens in South and West Philadelphia with nursing, medical, psychiatric, therapeutic and pastoral care from its location on the border of the University’s West Philadelphia campus. Between July 2008 and July 2009, 160 Penn students in Nursing, Medicine, Education and Wharton devoted 2,820 hours to community-based service learning at LIFE. Their efforts contributed to the care of more than 360 senior citizens afflicted with medical conditions that threatened their ability to live independently.

The LIFE Center opened in 1998 and, since then, has served as a model for 10 other health care centers in Pennsylvania. LIFE has been credited with enabling elderly members of the local community to remain in their own homes longer by providing improved access to routine medical care, a community of recreational and social support and individualized treatment. Clearly achieving gains in the quality of life for the seniors who depend on the Center’s daily services and support, it is also estimated that the LIFE Center is responsible for up to a 20% reduction in annual Medicare payment costs because of its emphasis on preventive measures and lifestyle changes that reduce the risks of chronic and costly medical conditions. It is the only center of its kind owned and operated by a school of nursing, and has been recognized by world health leaders for its exceptional delivery of quality care to the elderly, and for being a living example of the Penn Nursing motto: “Care to change the world.”


Since the early 1980’s, Penn students, faculty, staff and their therapy-certified dogs have made weekly visits to the Ronald McDonald House to spend time with critically ill children and their families. The therapy dog program, known as VETPETS, is a collaborative effort between the School of Veterinary Medicine, Penn’s Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House and brings companionship and comfort to children and parents grappling with the stress, discomfort and uncertainty that accompany life-threatening illness. The presence of these companion animals provides much-needed diversion, recreation and emotional support to families by providing a human-animal bond that can have a positive impact on physical and mental health.

Shelter Animal Medicine

vetHumans are not the only species that benefit from Penn’s medical resources. Shelter Animal Medicine, is an integral part of the School of Veterinary Medicine’s ABCS curriculum and provides valuable medical assistance to the vulnerable animal population of the Philadelphia area. As part of the program, each of the school’s 245 third- and fourth-year surgical students perform neutering on shelter, foster and rescue dogs through the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS). The program also provides Penn Vet students firsthand experience with important urban animal issues such as pet overpopulation, infectious disease control and animal abuse. This unique partnership in animal welfare has developed a model program that continues to be a force behind the rescue of thousands of adoptable animals in the city.


The School of Dental Medicine works with the School District of Philadelphia as dental students carry out state-mandated dental examinations on children in 14 schools.