Wellness, Health, and Safety

Penn organizes comprehensive wellness programs, which can be found on the Wellness website.  In addition, Penn’s Graduate Student Center organizes a guide to Thriving at Penn, a range of wellness-focused resources.  Some of the key campus resources relating to wellness, health, and safety are listed below.


Penn provides a wide range of care through Student Health Service at 3535 Market Street, 215-746-3535.  The cost of this care is largely covered by the Penn Student Health Insurance plan and the clinical fees paid as part of the BGS fellowship.

The Office of the Provost provides grants to reimburse 50% of the cost of Penn Dental insurance (Penn Dental plan only, the Aetna Student Dental plan is not eligible) for all PhD students who purchase insurance for the full academic year by the deadline set each year. BGS will reimburse the remaining 50% for students who enroll by the deadline. Because this grant is intended as a reimbursement and not an up-front subsidy, students are responsible for the full cost of purchasing insurance and may incur late fees if these are not paid on time. The reimbursement will be issued by early November. More information is available at https://gsc.upenn.edu/resources/graduate-funding-and-finances/insurance-subsidies-and-grants#dental; please contact gradcenter@upenn.edu with any questions.

Alternatively, discounts are available for dental care services within the teaching clinics for all University of Pennsylvania undergraduate and graduate students who do not have dental insurance. Routine preventive and restorative services will be discounted 30% and all specialty services, including oral surgery, orthodontics, periodontics, endodontics, and prosthodontics will be discounted 20% for self-pay students with a valid University ID.  Payment plans are also available. Appointments are made through the patient appointment line at 215-898-8965.


Counseling Services

Student Health and Counseling has a variety of in-person options and some virtual options.

Call 215-898-7021 anytime (24/7) to make an appointment or talk with a licensed counselor.

On campus appointments are available 9am-5pm Monday-Friday.  Virtual appointments are available Mon-Thurs, 9am-6pm, Fri, 9am-5pm, and Saturday, 10am-2pm. Press 2 to make an in-person or virtual appointment.

You may also use Let's Talk drop-in conversations.

Use 215-898-7021, press 2, to schedule a Let's Talk session.

Embedded Counselor for BGS Students

Chelsea Minsky is the embedded counselor for BGS. She is the BGS point-of-contact at Counseling and has set aside several appointments per week for BGS students. To schedule an appointment, please write to her directly at cminsky@upenn.edu.

Peer Support

Graduate students may also receive peer-to-peer support via Penn Franklins or through many of the student-organized groups available to BGS students. 

BGS students may also want to connect with a member of the IDEAL Research Trainee Advocacy Alliance for support.

BGS students may also use the Penn "Reach-a-Peer" ("RAP") hotline . Students may call a peer mentor every night from 9PM to 1AM at 215-573-2727. Students may also text 215-515-7332 at any time, and they'll be connected with a RAP volunteer as soon as possible.


Penn’s Division of Public Safety provides comprehensive safety initiatives, including:


Penn Recreation offers gyms, fitness programs, and many outdoor facilities and activities.  The cost of gym membership is free to PhD students. 


It is sometimes necessary for a graduate student to request a leave of absence for personal or medical reasons.  The University allows graduate students to take leaves of absence with the permission of the graduate group chair and the graduate dean. Students must write to the graduate group requesting the leave; if the chair approves, the request will be forwarded to the graduate dean (i.e., the BGS Director) for approval. Students should complete this form.  The main types of leave are medical, family, and paid time off for the birth or adoption of a child. Under medical and unpaid family leaves, stipends are suspended during the leave period and are guaranteed upon return from leave under the conditions of the original award guarantee, i.e., as long as the student remains in good academic standing; students who wish to continue their health insurance coverage past the current cycle may arrange to do so. Note that students who have passed the candidacy exam may need to arrange fellowship support from a mentor in order to return; there is no guarantee that the original mentor will be able to provide financial support when the student returns from leave. Students receiving NIH NRSA support in the form of a training grant appointment or individual fellowship must also obtain permission for a leave from NIH.

Please refer to the University's PhD Leave of Absence Policy and the Procedures and FAQs.

Leaves of Absence for Medical Reasons

Students who wish to take a leave for medical reasons should submit a request to their graduate group chair, including the leave start date and anticipated return date. The student should consult with their lab advisor regarding the timing of the leave, if possible. The graduate group chair will forward the request to BGS, which will follow up with Student Health and Counseling to obtain a recommendation for the leave. Students who are being treated outside of Student Health and Counseling should arrange for a letter from the treating professional(s) justifying the leave to be sent to Student Health and Counseling.

Medical Contacts for Students on Leave

Students on medical leave are expected to seek and follow the advice of the graduate group chair or his/her designate to remediate any work and to devise a course of study for re-enrollment. Students are also expected to make appropriate arrangements to continue any necessary treatment during the leave and to arrange for an appropriate support system. In order to return from medical leave, students should contact their graduate group chair, advisor, and BGS at least 60 days prior to the expected date of return. Students must also submit paperwork (links to forms below) and arrange for their treating professional(s) to provide documentation of treatment and progress to Student Health and Counseling. Students may not return from leave until arrangements are approved by the graduate group to resume the course of study and until BGS approves the return, in consultation with Student Health and Counseling.

Student Health and Counseling: https://upenn.box.com/s/6jtt2ejwfo0q85ybnwap0euz2vwc7o5n

Return from Medical Leave: https://upenn.app.box.com/s/ds8x9g4wtpk0876sl5uqv8fxzohxzxom

Students may use this this form to request a leave of absence. Questions regarding the processes for leave approvals and returns from leave may be sent to the BGS Administrative Director, Judy Jackson.

Family Leave and New Parent Accommodation

University policy allows PhD students to take an unpaid Family Leave of Absence for the birth or adoption of a child, child care, or care of an immediate family member (spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent) with a serious health condition. PhD students who are eligible for up to 8 weeks of paid time off in association with the birth or adoption of a child; the process is managed by the Family Center.  Details for Family Leave and New Parent Accommodation are provided here.

Personal Leave

A leave of absence for personal reasons may be approved under rare circumstances, such as the need to care for a relative. A student wishing to take a personal leave should discuss the situation with their lab mentor and graduate group chair, who will consult with BGS about the logistics.



All members of the Penn community are required to adhere to University policies, including the Sexual Misconduct Policy.  

Anyone who believes that they have been treated inappropriately is encouraged to use one of the University’s resources, including the confidential resources listed below, to address their concerns: 

Individuals may report their concerns about having been treated in a biased or discriminatory manner by completing a Bias Incident Reporting form.  In addition, the University has resource offices available to respond to complaints and concerns, including the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs , the Office of Student Conduct , the Office of Staff and Labor Relations , in the Division of Human Resources, and the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty.



Penn Violence Prevention (PVP) is a collaborative program that grew out of the Penn Women's Center. It is now managed by the Director of Sexual Violence Prevention and Education, housed in the Division of the Vice Provost of University Life. PVP aims to engage the Penn community in the prevention of sexual violence, relationship violence, and stalking on campus. The goal is to not only ensure students have access to safe and effective resources, but to provide preventative education focused on building healthy relationships, understanding consent, reaching out to friends in need, and being an active bystander.

The director works closely with a team of colleagues across campus to provide education and outreach. The Director also serves as a confidential resource for students affected by sexual violence, relationship violence, and stalking. PVP issues a comprehensive Resource Guide describing relevant policies, procedures, and resources. 

PVP also maintains a list of other relevant resources for students. Note that the offices of Special ServicesPenn Women’s Center, Student Health and Counseling, and Student Health Services are permitted to treat information disclosed by students confidentially.

Paige Wigginton of Special Services is an excellent contact for any questions or concerns: she works very closely with all the central University offices that provide support to students, is the designated liaison with the Penn and Philadelphia police departments, and can address any reporting requirements. She may be reached at 215-573-3333 or pwigginton@publicsafety.upenn.edu.