Dr. Donna Gentile O'Donnell
Special Assistant to the President, Vice President for Innovation Partnerships and Programs, Thomas Jefferson University
Dr. Donna Gentile O’Donnell has led a diverse and successful career in health care, life sciences and public service concentrated in the Greater Philadelphia area.
Dr. O'Donnell is special assistant to the president and vice president for innovation partnerships and programs at Thomas Jefferson University. Formerly a principal with O'Donnell Associates, her clients included nonprofit organizations, universities and life science companies, including Cephalon. She was previously the managing director of the Eastern Technology Council for nine years. There, she played a significant role in developing and creating BioAdvance, a state entity designed to grow the life sciences industry in southeastern Pennsylvania, as well as many other key life science initiatives. She is a special limited partner in PA Early Stage Partners.
As former president of Franklin Health Trust, Dr. O’Donnell was instrumental in leading the negotiations for the merger of $50 million of the foundation's assets into the Drexel University College of Medicine. She served as Deputy Health Commissioner for Policy and Planning for the City of Philadelphia in the mid-1990s under former Mayor Ed Rendell. During that time, she obtained a $1.2 million federal grant to increase the rate of immunization for at-risk children, newborn to 2 years old and received the Clara Barton Humanitarian Award from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Red Cross. She left that position in 1998 to run for City Council in 1999, narrowly losing an at-large seat. She returned to city government until joining the Technology Council.
In 2005, she was awarded Philadelphia Business Journal’s Women of Distinction Award. She has also served as a member of the Tobacco Health Advisory Committee at the Pennsylvania Department of Health, which advises on the distribution of 19 percent of the $11 billion tobacco settlement that goes to health and life-science-related research. In addition, Dr. O’Donnell serves on the Women's Financial Services Network Advisory Board for PNC Bank and has served on the Regional Editorial Board of ADVANCE For Nurses. A commentator in local, regional, and national media venues, Dr. O’Donnell writes the column “Biopharma Beat” for the Technology Times, and she is the author of “Provider of Last Resort: The Story of the Closure of the Philadelphia General Hospital.” She has authored guest opinions by invitation for The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Philadelphia Daily News and has co-authored and published multiple research-based studies.
While Dr. O’Donnell was a PhD student at the University of Pennsylvania, she penned a bi-weekly column, “Vox Populi,” which was published in the Daily Pennsylvanian. As a Democratic strategist and political commentator for NBC in Philadelphia and an at-large commentator for MSNBC, Dr. O’Donnell remains extremely active in civic, social and political arenas. She was elected the first trustee emerita of the Drexel University College of Medicine and also serves on the boards of trustees of Drexel University and the Family Charter School in Mantua. She also holds a seat on the board of The Big House Foundation, which owns and operates the Allman Brothers Band Museum at The Big House in Macon, Ga.