Announcing the Passing of Helen Conrad Davies, PhD

March 25, 2022

Dear Colleagues,

We write with sadness to let you know of the passing of Dr. Helen Conrad Davies, who died peacefully on March 23, 2022, at 97. Our condolences go out to her family and the entire community. 

Dr. Davies first came to the University of Pennsylvania in 1949. She was a leader in medical education, winning the Medical School’s Excellence In Teaching Award numerous times, and also the prestigious Robert J. Glaser Distinguished Teacher Award from the Association of American Medical Colleges. She was the first woman to receive the National Excellence in Teaching Award from the American Medical Student Association. Dr. Davies is widely remembered by medical students as a teacher—she famously helped new medical students learn the microbial pathogens by leading them in cheerful songs. For example, “Leprosy” was sung to the tune of “Yesterday”! For many Penn Med students, singing with Helen was a high point of their medical education. 

Dr. Davies is also remembered for striving over decades to advance opportunities and fairness for women and minority faculty at Penn. 

She was Faculty Fellow in Ware College House for over two decades and was advisor to the Women in Science and Study of Infectious Diseases Residential Program Communities and beloved by generations of Penn undergraduates. Nobel Laureate Stanley Prusiner highlighted how Dr. Davies had helped him along the way. 

A short film about Dr. Davies' life, told in her own words, is here. She is survived by her two sons, Daniel and Richard Conrad.

Dr. Davies has left a great legacy at Penn with her teaching and activism. She will be greatly missed. A memorial fund in her honor has been established at 


J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD, EVP/Dean

Jonathan A. Epstein, MD, EVD/CSO

Frederic Bushman, PhD, Chair, Department of Microbiology