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University Professorship for Penn Nursing Professor

George Demiris, PhD, FACMI, a Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor (PIK), with joint faculty appointments in Penn Nursing’s Department of Biobehavioral Health Sciences and in Perelman School of Medicine’s Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Informatics, will become the Mary Alice Bennett University Professor. University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann made the appointment.

Mary Alice Bennett was a physician and the first woman to obtain a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. In addition, she was the first female superintendent in the women’s section of the state mental hospital in Norristown, Pennsylvania, and the first woman president of the Montgomery County Medical Society.

Bennett argued strongly for the ethical treatment of the mentally ill and introduced occupational therapy such as music, painting, and crafts to the Norristown hospital. Bennett’s then-revolutionary policy of humane and respectful care for patients became widely adopted and won her broad professional recognition.

“It’s an immense honor to receive a professorship in the name of Dr. Bennett, who was a trailblazer, leader, and innovator. Her work highlighted the importance of respecting patients’ privacy and dignity and demonstrated her passion and commitment to improving people’s lives,” Demiris said. “In my own work, I aim to pursue a patient- and family-centered approach to designing and evaluating health information systems for older adults. I could not think of a greater inspiration than Dr. Bennett, and I hope my research and teaching will honor her remarkable legacy.”