When Tulane Medical School's Chemistry department was renamed Biochemistry in 1925, Dr. Denis became the first woman to chair a major department of any major medical school in the
United States. Unfortunately, Dr. Denis' tenure ended soon after when she succumbed to cancer in 1929. She was memorialized as "one of the very few really exceptional women in the domain of science."
Dr. Denis was a graduate of Newcomb College, Bryn Mawr and the University of Chicago, where she earned her PhD. In addition, Willey Denis served as Queen of the New Orleans Mardi Gras "krewe" Proteus in 1902.