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Photo from Leo Charney, Penn Today

Benoit Dubé, a professor of clinical psychiatry, will become Penn's first-ever Chief Wellness Officer, filling a position created by the University in April. 

Today's announcement, made by Provost Wendell Pritchett and Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian, said that Dubé will become the leader of wellness programs on campus in several ways.

"As Chief Wellness Officer, he will be a core member of the University Life team, direct wellness initiatives across the University, and oversee an integrated new division of Student Wellness Services," the email said. 

The email added that the new Student Wellness Services umbrella division will include the Offices of Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives, Campus Health, Counseling and Psychological Services, Penn Violence Prevention, and the Student Health Service.

In addition to his professorship, Dubé holds more than ten other titles at Penn. Most notable are Director of Wellness Initiatives, Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, and Director of Medical Student Education in Psychiatry at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine. As an associate professor, he received a Provost’s Award for Teaching Excellence in 2011.

Dubé began his career at Penn as a medical resident at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in 1997 after earning a medical degree from the University of Montreal in 1997 and a bachelor's degree in Psychology from Concordia University in 1992. 

According to the official announcement, Dubé's new position is the first of its kind in the Ivy League. 

Pritchett emphasized Dubé's many years of excellence in teaching and leadership at Penn in the emailed announcement.

“Benoit Dubé is the ideal leader to galvanize wellness across the Penn community,” Pritchett wrote. “Benoit’s empathy, energy, and vision will be invaluable as President Gutmann and I expand our focus on wellness as a core value of the Penn experience.”

The new division of Student Wellness Services to be led by Dubé will work to both expand mental-health services and increase the accessibility of those services, according to the emailed statement. Among these efforts, the division will work to increase capacity at CAPS and to create "phone, video, texting, and app-based technologies" that will be available to students at all times. Additionally, it will attempt to better distinguish between short-term and long-term care options offered at CAPS, as well as additional wellness options.

In February, Director of Outreach and Prevention Services Meeta Kumar said that CAPS was short on space and might not have room to accommodate the five new full-time therapists who were joining its staff.

Just a month later, data from a mental health survey administered by the Undergraduate Assembly showed that Penn undergraduates wanted to see more short-term options. 

In addition, students in the survey said that they wished for an "embed model," in which students could see CAPS clinicians designated for specific schools for walk-in appointments at buildings on campus rather than at the CAPS office on Market Street. 

“Benoit will build highly visible collaborations that will engage diverse community members in affirming wellness as a central priority of life on our Penn campus with programming that nurtures multiple dimensions, including emotional, mental, physical, financial, spiritual, and social wellness,” Cade said in the emailed announcement. “We are delighted to make this important appointment!”