Shellers pay it forward, help to expand Drexel facility in North Philly

Stephen and Sandra Sheller (sharing the shovel) donated $2.5 million to expand a Drexel University community health center in North Philadelphia. (David Sell / Staff)

Philadelphia attorney Stephen Sheller is a scourge of the pharmaceutical industry because he and other lawyers in his firm help whistleblowers expose bad or illegal activities of drug companies and bring product liability lawsuits.

The laws designed to help protect patients and taxpayers also encourage whistleblowers by giving them a portion of the penalties paid by drug companies. An attorney then gets paid from the whistleblower's share.

Sheller and his wife, Sandra, passed on some that cash recently with a $2.5 million gift to expand the Drexel University 11th Street Family Health Services Center in North Philadelphia. The gift was announced in February and the groundbreaking was Friday at the center, which is a couple blocks south of Girard.

"We love the 11th Street Health Services Center because it is truly an anchor for the neighborhood," said Sandra Sheller, a Drexel graduate. "It is a stellar model for providing affordable healthcare for an under-served population....It saves the government thousands of dollars a year in emergency room visits."

Run by nurses, with Drexel students gaining clinical training, the center provides primary care integrated with services that are crucial but are sometimes left out of the mix. Proper dental care can lead to better eating habits, which can lead to lower incidence of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Mothers can get help with pre-natal care, but also with postpartum challenges.

"I just want to correct my wife on one thing," Stephen Sheller said. "It's not thousands of dollars, but millions of dollars saved because fewer people have to go to the emergency room.....This is the future of healthcare in this country."

The Shellers also gave money to establish a center for social justice at Temple Law School. Stephen Sheller graduated from Penn and Penn Law, but also serves on the Drexel Board of Trustees.

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