Dr. Roopali Kulkarni Part of Team Selected for Penn’s Projects for Progress Awards


Dr. Roopali Kulkarni

Philadelphia – Penn Dental Medicine’s Dr. Roopali Kulkarni, Assistant Professor of Oral Medicine, is part of one of the three teams selected for this year’s Projects for Progress (P4P) awards, presented by Penn’s Office of Social Equity and Community (SEC). This is the fourth cohort of recipients. Unveiled in 2020, the initiative provides University funding up to $100,000 for Penn teams piloting practical projects that address social justice issues in Philadelphia.

“We are so proud of Dr. Kulkarni’s work on this project that promises to positively impact members of the West Philadelphia community,” says Penn Dental Medicine’s Morton Amsterdam Dean, Dr. Mark Wolff.

This year, the Office of SEC, which oversees P4P, received 15 applications from 61 Penn community members.

“Word is spreading about Projects for Progress, and it was inspiring to see such a strong group of applicants this year,” says Nicole Maloy, director of the Office of SEC, who has overseen the program since its start. “P4P is a special opportunity for Penn community members with a passion for social equity to team up, hone an idea, flesh it out with a proposal, and bring it to life with funding.”

When the P4P committee considered proposals, which were due at the end of January, they asked: How is the project healing, relevant, unique, developed, and responsible stewardship?

Kulkarni’s team project is the West Philadelphia Sanctuary, which is a daytime gathering place for all West Philadelphians—especially socially at-risk and unhoused individuals—to gain respite in a safe, climate-controlled environment and access resources, including a food cupboard and living supplies pantry. The team aims to reduce stigma, address loneliness, and create a generative space in which community members of all backgrounds can connect and engage with each other.

”The West Philadelphia Sanctuary was envisioned as a much-needed space for community, connection, and care,” says Kulkarni, who explains that the team came together through collaborative work in Penn’s Shelter Health Outreach Program (SHOP). “Through an in-depth needs assessment at SHOP, it was determined that these individuals are in need of community, as we all are. Our goal is to break down the current barriers, to allow all of those in West Philadelphia, especially those who are socially-at-risk, gather together in a safe space.”

In the project’s pilot phase, the team is partnering with Chosen 300’s West Philadelphia Outreach Center at 3959 Lancaster Street to host the Sanctuary and they are also working with nearby facilities and other partners to allow the space to grow.

“This is the first of its kind project in the area, addressing a major and current gap in building community among all in West Philadelphia,” notes Kulkarni, who currently oversees the undergraduate student, Penn Dental Medicine student, and oral medicine resident volunteers at Chosen 300.

In addition to Kulkarni, the West Philadelphia Sanctuary team includes:

  • Aravind Krishnan, undergraduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Wharton School, studying molecular and cell biology, health care management and policy, and statistics
  • Neha Shetty, undergraduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences, studying health and societies
  • Aurora Yuan, undergraduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences studying neuroscience and chemistry
  • Kent Bream, associate professor of family medicine and community health at the Perelman School of Medicine

Read more on all the 2024 P4P award recipients »