(Philadelphia, PA) - Helen C. Davies, PhD, MS, Professor of Microbiology and Ombudsman for Students at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, is the recipient of an Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) Robert J. Glaser Distinguished Teacher Award. Davies is being recognized by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) for her efforts to provide the nation’s next generation of doctors with an exceptional educational experience.

“I was thrilled to learn that I won the award. It’s terrific; a wonderful feeling,” said Davies, who will receive the award at a dinner reception at the AAMC Annual Meeting on October 28.

“I am very pleased that Dr. Davies’ efforts on behalf of medical students have been honored in this way,” said Robert Doms, Chair of Penn’s Department of Microbiology. “Dr. Davies is among our most distinguished teachers, and scores of Penn medical students - past and present - count Dr. Davies as an inspirational and life-altering educator, mentor, and friend.”

For 35 years, Davies, 81, has incorporated unique methods into her lessons to help her students learn and retain the symptoms and mechanisms of various infectious diseases. Davies writes original song lyrics and performs them to the tunes of popular songs, which are hits among her medical students. One of her more famous songs, “Leprosy,” is set to the tune of the Beatle’s “Yesterday.”

During her 40-year teaching career, Davies has achieved many “firsts.” She was the first female faculty member named to Penn’s department of microbiology (1965), the first woman faculty member to be designated “master of a college house” at Penn (1995-2002), and the first woman to ever receive the American Medical Student Association’s National Excellence in Teaching Award (2001).

Davies’ educational efforts have been focused on recruiting, mentoring, and retaining minority groups and women in biomedical careers. From 1968 to 1976, she headed the High School Education Program of the University of Pennsylvania - a program that helped bring disadvantaged students to university laboratories. In that period, she also helped found the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), the International Association for Women Biochemists and Biophysicists, and the Women for Equal Opportunity at the University of Pennsylvania.

Davies received her PhD in Physical Biochemistry from Penn, her BA in Chemistry from Brooklyn College, and her MS in Biochemistry from the University of Rochester. Her research interest is in the biochemistry of prokaryotic organisms, with particular focus on bacterial energetics, electron transfer, and the cytochrome system.

With her dedication to students and obvious passion for teaching, Davies has touched the lives of many. According to one former student, now a practicing physician, “She single-handedly shaped my life more than any professor I have ever known through her teaching, through her stimulation, her sharing, and her love.”

The Alpha Omega Alpha Robert J. Glaser Distinguished Teacher Awards were established by the AOA medical honor society in 1988 to provide national recognition to faculty members who have distinguished themselves in medical student education. Named for the long-time AOA executive secretary Robert J. Glaser, MD, the awards are based on a national competition conducted annually through the offices of the deans of U.S. and Canadian medical schools, and are designed to recognize distinction in medical student teaching.


PENN Medicine is a $2.9 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and high-quality patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Penn's School of Medicine is ranked #2 in the nation for receipt of NIH research funds; and ranked #3 in the nation in U.S.News & World Report's most recent ranking of top research-oriented medical schools. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System includes three hospitals, all of which have received numerous national patient-care honors [Hospital of theUniversity of Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital; and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center]; a faculty practice plan; a primary-care provider network; two multispecialty satellite facilities; and home care and hospice.

Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $9.9 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top medical schools in the United States for more than 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $546 million awarded in the 2021 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities include: the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center—which are recognized as one of the nation’s top “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report—Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Medicine Princeton Health; and Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional facilities and enterprises include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Medicine at Home, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, among others.

Penn Medicine is powered by a talented and dedicated workforce of more than 47,000 people. The organization also has alliances with top community health systems across both Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey, creating more options for patients no matter where they live.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2021, Penn Medicine provided more than $619 million to benefit our community.

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