We are deeply saddened to inform you that our dear colleague and friend, Renée Fox, passed away today, September 23, from leukemia, which came on very suddenly. Renee was a renowned medical sociologist whose impact is felt worldwide. Her teaching and research focused on sociology of medicine, medical research, medical education, and medical ethics. She carried out first-hand, participant observation-based studies not only in the United States but also in Continental Europe, Central Africa, and the People’s Republic of China. She lectured in colleges, universities, and medical schools throughout the United States, and taught in a number of universities around the world.
Renée joined the Penn Sociology Department as a full professor in 1969 after earning her PhD in Sociology in 1954 from Radcliffe College, Harvard University, and spending time at Columbia University Bureau of Applied Social Research, teaching twelve years at Barnard College, and spending two years as a Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Social Relations at Harvard. She served as the chair of the Sociology Department from 1972 to 1978. At Penn, she held joint appointments in the Departments of Psychiatry and Medicine, and in the School of Nursing, and an interdisciplinary chair as the Annenberg Professor of the Social Sciences.
Her many acclaimed books are as relevant today as when they were written, examining such topics as attitude formation among medical students, training for uncertainty, organ transplants, and bioethics. She is an elected member of numerous scientific organizations, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Academy of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. She was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and an Honorary Member of Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society. She is also a recipient of the American Sociological Association’s Leo G. Reeder Award for Distinguished Contributions to Medical Sociology as well as the Lifetime Achievement Award of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities. She holds eleven honorary degrees, and in 1995, the Belgian Government named her Chevalier of the Order of Leopold II.
Renée loved teaching and was a mentor to innumerable undergraduate and graduate students from multiple disciplines. She was beloved by her students and her many successes were acknowledged by numerous teaching awards, including the E. Harris Harbison Gifted Teaching Award of the Danforth Foundation, and a Lindback Foundation Award for Teaching at the University of Pennsylvania.
We are heartened to know that during her last days she was comfortable and with family and friends. The Department of Sociology together with the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Penn are in the early stages of planning a memorial remembrance ceremony. We will share details as soon as they are available.