Connie B. Scanga, PhD

Practice Professor in Integrated Anatomy/Physiology and Physical Assessment

Connie B. Scanga has been teaching — and developing — human anatomy and physiology courses since the early 1990s. When a Carnegie Foundation report highlighted professional education inadequacies in the 21st century, and an Institute of Medicine report called for nurses to take on more responsibility in the healthcare system, Dr. Scanga and colleagues were inspired to tackle these important issues in nursing education.

By 2010, Dr. Scanga and other nursing faculty were at work revamping the undergraduate nursing curriculum at the University of Pennsylvania to integrate basic science courses with clinical and laboratory work. Introduced in the 2011-2012 academic year, the new curriculum emphasizes an integration of theoretical knowledge and clinical experience, which fosters clinical reasoning ability. One of the new courses, developed and co-taught by Dr. Scanga, is Integrated Anatomy, Physiology & Physical Assessment.  The integrated course provides the foundational science knowledge that underpins nursing physical assessment and is required to situate the understanding of health problems. Each week, students experience three hours of lectures, two hours of anatomy and physiology laboratory work, and two hours of clinical nursing to learn physical assessment skills.

What we have done with basic sciences – teaching integrated anatomy, physiology and physical assessment to nursing students – is unique in nursing education.


  • PhD, Temple University, 1994
  • BA, University of Pennsylvania, 1974

Social Justice

In recent years, Dr. Scanga has coordinated and taught the Nursing Pre-first Year Program (PFP) course, “The Biological Basis & Introduction to Nursing Roles in Diabetes Mellitus.” PFP is an academically rigorous and intensive four-week summer program preceding New Student Orientation which provides an opportunity for participating students to get an academic and social edge, while quickly becoming familiar with campus resources and the Penn community. Each year’s participants are students who are the first in their families to attend college; income-eligible students; students underrepresented in their field of study; and/or from large urban high schools and small rural communities. In addition to her involvement with PFP, Dr. Scanga also serves with a small group of faculty from across the undergraduate schools at Penn on the Faculty Advisory Group which meets regularly to discuss strategies to enhance academic success of students who are the first in their families to pursue a four-year baccalaureate degree or come from modest financial circumstances.


Students take Integrated Anatomy, Physiology & Physical Assessment during the second semester of their freshman year and the first semester of their sophomore year. As Dr. Scanga anticipated, the presentation of course content and information in three different settings — classroom, laboratory, and clinic — promotes the students’ grasp of the information and provides for better consolidation of course content.

Dr. Scanga often consults with other nursing schools about Penn Nursing’s successfully integrated course offerings, particularly in accelerated nursing programs.  She has also developed a massive open online course (MOOC) entitled “Vital Signs: Understanding What the Body is Telling Us” that incorporates aspects of her integrated course. This course is designed as continuing education for registered nurses.

Opportunities to Learn and Collaborate at Penn Nursing

Though Dr. Scanga primarily teaches her course to undergraduate nursing students, every semester she also accepts non-nursing students who take the course for anatomy and physiology credits. Her positive impact on students throughout the Penn campus gives her tremendous satisfaction, and is one of the aspects of her career that she enjoys the most.  

Selected Career Highlights

  • Recipient, Provost’s Award for Teaching Excellence by Non-Standing University of Pennsylvania Faculty
  • Recipient, Dean’s Award for Undergraduate Teaching, School of Nursing
  • Inaugural Member, Academy for the Science & Practice of Teaching in Nursing and
    Clinically-Related Disciplines, School of Nursing

Accepting Mentees?

  • Yes

Accepting Fellows?

  • No