NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Joan Bonner Conway (1920 - 2008)
Fondly referred to as the "dean" of hospital social work directors, Joan Bonner Conway contributed pioneering efforts toward the organizing of professional support structures for the discipline and its medical social work specialty. She was a charter member of NASW and prior to that organization, served as a member of the American Association of Medical Social Workers from 1943-1965. Bonner Conway was also a charter member of the Society for Hospital Social Work Directors and served as representative of the Eastern Pennsylvania chapter for several years. She was also its first chairperson. Bonner Conway was Chair of the Medical Social Work Section of NASW, Philadelphia Chapter, from 1962-65, Chair of the Nominating Committee Medical Social Work Section, Philadelphia Chapter, from 1959-1961, First Vice Chair of the NASW Philadelphia Area Chapter from 1971-73, and a board member of the Pennsylvania state chapter from 1975-1981. She was a charter member of the American Hospital Association’s Society for Hospital Social Work Directors from 1966 until her death, serving as its Philadelphia Area Chapter Chair from 1971-73.
Bonner Conway served as director of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania from 1971-1987. Her specialization was in the field of medical social work. While at the University of Pennsylvania, she served as a lecturer and clinical assistant professor of social work as well as contributing to several committees. She was director of the Social Service Department of Magee Memorial Hospital Rehabilitation Center from 1958-1971 and a medical social worker at Albert Einstein Medical Center from 1957-1958. In addition, she taught history at an academy in Venezuela from 1955-57 and was a medical social worker in several Philadelphia-area hospitals in the early 1950’s. Bonner Conway began her career during World War II as a caseworker with the National Red Cross, serving in military hospitals, including Walter Reed General Hospital, from 1943-48.
Biographic Data: Bonner Conway earned a BA degree from Rosemont College (Rosemont, PA) in 1941; her MSW from Catholic University of America in 1943 and her doctorate in social work from the University of Pennsylvania in 1976. Dr. Bonner Conway served on numerous boards, including the Philadelphia chapter of the American Heart Association, the March of Dimes, the American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Community Health Affiliates, and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
A native of Baltimore, Dr. Conway graduated from St. Leonard’s Academy in West Philadelphia. In 1968, she married Thomas Agnew Conway, a widower with three children. When he died six months later, she stayed close with his children.
She was born in 1920 in Baltimore, MD. She died in November of 2008 at the age of 88.
Significant Achievements and Awards
Dr. Bonner Conway received the Eastern Pennsylvania’s Chapter of the Society for Hospital Social Work Directors’ Ida M. Cannon Award in 1984 and 1986. She also received Catholic University of America’s 1985 Alumni Achievement Award in Social Work.
The University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Work honored her with its 1987 Alumni Recognition Award.
Dr. Bonner Conway contributed chapters to The physician’s practice, (John Eisenberg & Shankey Williams, Eds.) and Hospital social work practice (Lynn Hubschman, Ed.)
She also contributed chapters to the Journal of Podiatric Medical Education (Spring, 1976) and the Journal of the Otto Rank Association (Winter, 1979).