Natasha smiling outside
Natasha Napolitano Leetsdale, PA Nursing and Healthcare Management
I don't let myself be defined by the healthcare side exclusively. I'm a project leader, so I like drawing upon my skills as a nurse in terms of creating good environments, connecting with individuals, and applying them to a lot of very different projects.

Natasha is interested in the business, history, and practice of healthcare. Through the Nursing and Healthcare Management (NHCM) dual degree program, Natasha is concurrently working towards two degrees, one in Penn Nursing and the other in The Wharton School. Natasha’s first and second year nursing coursework, including Nursing 101 and Nursing 102, prepare her for her clinical work in hospitals and medical sites on Penn’s campus. Outside the classroom, Natasha’s advisor, Dr. Julie Sochalski, is an important guide in her work across nursing and business. Dr. Sochalski led the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Division of Nursing and played a role in writing the Affordable Care Act. Through Penn’s “Take Your Professor to Lunch” program, Natasha learned about her advisor’s groundbreaking career and the deeply rooted connection between public health and economics. Like her advisor, Natasha strives to represent both fields; as a visible gesture, she often wears scrubs when rushing from lab to Huntsman Hall for meetings.

Cultural Identity

Growing up in a Russian-Italian household, Natasha developed a passion for Russian language and culture. At Penn, she continues to refine her Russian language skills through classes in the heritage language track. While she can speak fluently, these classes help her improve her writing and grammar. Natasha is also intrigued by the faculty’s academic research into Russian history, culture, and folklore. Outside of class, she attends Russian Tea, a weekly event hosted by the Russian and East European Studies program. While eating Russian treats and sipping tea, faculty and students converse freely, often touching on their scholarship. In this setting, Natasha met professors like Dr. Mila Nazyrova, who studies Russian art and culture. To better understand the differences between Moscow culture and Siberian culture, where Natasha’s family is from, Natasha plans to take Dr. Nazyrova’s course RUSS472: Moscow and Moscovites in Russian History and Literary Imagination.


In the Wharton School, Natasha is concentrating in Healthcare Management and Operations, Information, and Decisions (OID) with a focus on Operations Management. Natasha’s clinical experiences combined with her OID coursework led to an interest in researching hospital operations through the Wharton Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR). During the 10-week program, this small cohort of Wharton scholars independently plan and implement their own research studies. Natasha proposed an exploratory study into medical supply waste at Penn Medicine. Working with her research advisor and Introduction to OID professor Sergei Savin, Natasha collected qualitative data based on interviews with nurses and administrators to amass a fuller understanding of medical waste protocols and communications. Ultimately, Natasha’s research, which she presented to program participants and faculty, brings attention to the potential of tracking software and recycling programs in reducing medical waste.

Residential Life

Natasha found a kind and warm community in Riepe College House, one of three college houses in the Quad. A first-year resident, Natasha returned to Riepe in her sophomore year as the House Manager. For Natasha, the Riepe community is “one big family” and she enjoys getting to know residents, staff, and Faculty College House Fellows, professors who live in the dorms with their families. As part of her responsibilities, Natasha plans community-building events, including an eclectic film series.

Social Impact

Before coming to Penn from the suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA, Natasha explored public health in her research with the World Food Prize Foundation. While investigating obesity in the American Samoa and food insecurity in India and the United States, Natasha developed an enduring interest in studying the social determinants of health. Natasha also recognizes that context can play an outsized role in maternal health. The summer before her freshman year, Natasha traveled to Tamil Nadu to study breastfeeding practices in the local population.She continues to study these connections in one of her favorite Penn Nursing classes Nursing 103: Psychological and Social Diversity in Health and Wellness. Natasha and her peers learn how important their patients’ experiences are to the implementation and success of their treatment plans. External factors, from an individual’s zip code to their income, undeniably influence a patient’s health and prognosis.

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