Professor creates certificate to fight human trafficking | The Triangle

Professor creates certificate to fight human trafficking

A professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions is developing a program in human trafficking to help health care professionals recognize warning signs and assist victims. Donna Sabella, a mental health nurse who started working at Drexel in February, is embarking on a mission to lessen human trafficking locally and globally through her advocacy on campus and efforts elsewhere.


Sabella initially became interested in the topic of human trafficking through her work with female mental health patients in Philadelphia, where she discovered that many of them had a history involving prostitution. Pursing this issue, Sabella moved to Phoenix, where she worked with DIGNITY, a safe house for women who were prostitutes. Following this model, she helped to create “Dawn’s Place,” a residential treatment facility in Philadelphia that is a safe house for women who have been trafficked..Sabella became the center’s first program director.

Sabella returned to work in global studies within Drexel’s CNHP with the opportunity to teach mental health and raise awareness about human trafficking. She is now in the process of proposing and designing a certificate program in human trafficking. To earn the certificate, students will take three classes. The curriculum will include everything from what human trafficking is to policies and agencies aiding in the fight. Plans currently have the certificate open only to CNHP students, but Sabella said she hopes to open the program to all Drexel students eventually, then maybe even to people outside the Drexel community.

Sabella said she encourages Drexel students to get involved and take action against this worldwide problem.

“We have to realize that we are all connected somehow. Even if it isn’t fighting human trafficking, it is our responsibility to look out for someone else. We are receiving an education, and we need to use this to help someone else,” Sabella said.

When asked how to get involved, her answer was frank and to the point: “Stop watching a movie and do something.” She explained that it is fine to watch a movie or read an article or book, but that does not accomplish anything. Change happens when people who feel passionately about a cause donate money and give their time and services.

Aside from the up-and-coming certificate program, Sabella is mentoring international area studies major Kaelee Shepherd in the process of starting a student organization that will address the issues of human trafficking and work to raise funds to be dispersed to local and global agencies.

Students interested in joining can contact Shepherd at [email protected].