Who We Are
Debra Schwinn

Debra Schwinn

President and Professor of Health Sciences, Palm Beach Atlantic University

Dr. Debra A. Schwinn became Palm Beach Atlantic (PBA) University’s ninth President on May 4, 2020.

Previously she was Associate Vice President for Medical Affairs, Dean of the Carver College of Medicine, and Professor of Anesthesiology, Pharmacology and Biochemistry at the University of Iowa. Prior to those appointments, Dr. Schwinn served in senior leadership roles at the University of Washington and Duke University.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the College of Wooster in her native Ohio, Dr. Schwinn earned a medical degree from the Stanford University School of Medicine where she has also been honored as a distinguished alumna. A physician scientist and member of the National Academy of Medicine, Dr. Schwinn’s laboratory was funded for 27 years by the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Schwinn started leading PBA at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. She quickly assembled a team of medical professionals who developed a system of safeguards and procedures to protect the health and safety of students, faculty and staff for in-person, transformative education. As a result, the University was able to be amongst only approximately 20% of universities open for in-person instruction and experienced much less COVID-19 impact than local health leaders expected.

What drew Dr. Schwinn to PBA was its caring community and innovation in its institutional DNA. A recent example is the launch of “Wordship,” the practice of Godly, uplifting conversation that promotes dialogue and healing instead of division. The combination of Worship, Workship (long-standing PBA tradition of community service as a form of worship, with >3.7 million hours served), and Wordship, provide a strong, unique foundation at PBA upon which the integration of faith and academics rests. With $426 million economic impact in the local community, this year PBA also received an incredible $2.5 million donation from Karl Watson Sr., and Karl Watson, Jr. The beautiful new 510 bed residence hall now proudly bears the name, “Watson Hall.”

On a more personal note, Dr. Schwinn’s interests include CrossFit, reading, and violin. She is married to Dr. Robert Gerstmyer, a religious scholar. They have two adult children and two grandchildren and have settled in the Flamingo Park neighborhood in West Palm Beach. An innovator at heart, Dr. Schwinn is excited to be leading an organization that graduates Christian servant leaders who positively change our world.