Biography

Paula Johnson

Paula A. Johnson is the 14th president of Wellesley College

Paula A. Johnson is an innovator recognized the world over for advancing, promoting, and defending the education, health, and well-being of women. This critically important work is deeply informed by her broad range of experience as a physician-scientist and educator who is an leader in health care, public health, and health policy.

President Johnson has dedicated her life to furthering our understanding of the fact that biological differences between men and women are crucial to accurate biomedical research and health care. By uncovering gender biases in these arenas and advancing science, she helped revolutionize how medicine is practiced and how research is conducted, touching the lives of countless women.

Before coming to Wellesley, President Johnson founded and served as the inaugural executive director of the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology and was chief of the Division of Women’s Health, both at Brigham and Women’s Hospital—a Harvard teaching hospital and one of the world’s leading academic medical centers. At the Connors Center, she developed the center’s efforts to both undertake cutting-edge research and translate it into outstanding clinical care for women. She also oversaw the center’s work to utilize its research and care models to better educate the next generation of physicians and scientists. Her vision for achieving sustainable improvement in women’s health is reflected in the Connors Center’s unique approach to all aspects of health throughout the lifespan.

A cardiologist, President Johnson was the Grayce A. Young Family Professor of Medicine in Women’s Health at Harvard Medical School (the professorship was named in honor of her mother, Grayce Young) and professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Her research—and the research, health care models, and training programs of the Connors Center—has had an impact on women across the United States through its influence in reforming health care and health policy. Her work’s influence has also reached beyond the borders of the United States through the education of emerging leaders seeking to improve the health of women globally.

In 2017, President Johnson was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, among the nation’s oldest learned societies and independent policy research centers. One of the highest honors in academia, the induction into the academy recognizes achievement in the natural sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities. President Johnson is also a member of the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine), the nation’s leading advisory organization providing expertise on issues relating to biomedical science, medicine, and health. She has been recognized as a national leader in medicine by the National Library of Medicine and has received several honorary degrees and numerous awards for her contributions to science, medicine, and public health. Most recently, she was awarded the Stephen Smith Medal for Distinguished Contributions in Public Health by the New York Academy of Medicine.

She earned international acclaim for her 2013 TED Talk, “His and hers...healthcare,” which has had more than 1 million views, was named by TED as one of the “top 10 TED Talks by women that everyone should watch,” and has helped raise awareness of the crucial need to understand sex differences in treating disease.

Her vision, research, and ability to lead at the intersection of education, health care, and public health have earned President Johnson key leadership roles in local and national arenas, including as chair of the board of the Boston Public Health Commission, as a member of the National Institutes of Health Advisory Committee on Research on Women’s Health, and through membership in numerous national and international boards, including many nonprofit boards.

President Johnson attended Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges, received her A.B., M.D., and M.P.H. degrees from Harvard, and trained in internal medicine and cardiovascular medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. A native of Brooklyn, New York, she and her husband have a son and a daughter and two Havanese, Buddy and Hope.