Paula A. Johnson

President Paula A. Johnson is a respected and passionate leader, deeply committed to women and to sustainably improving their lives. She is recognized internationally as an innovator who has brought her broad range of experience as a researcher, educator, and expert in health care, public health, and health policy to bear in the effort to advance the well-being of 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 as well as chief of the Division of Women’s Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital—a Harvard teaching hospital and one of the world’s leading academic medical centers. 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. This model encompasses discovering how disease is expressed differently in women and men; integrating leading-edge research about women’s health into the delivery of care; influencing health policy; addressing the health of women globally; and developing the next generation of leaders in the field of women’s health through innovative interdisciplinary education and working successfully across complex systems.

A cardiologist, President Johnson was the Grayce A. Young Family Professor in Women’s Health at Harvard Medical School. (The endowed professorship was named in honor of her mother.) She was also professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Her research has had an impact on women across the United States through its influence on health care reform. She also led the development of a case-based curriculum, which is influencing the development of emerging leaders seeking to improve the health of women globally.

In 2017, President Johnson was elected to 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 numerous awards for her contributions to women’s health and public health. Her 2013 TED talk, “His and,” which has had more than 1 million views, was recently named by TED as one of the “top 10 TED talks by women that everyone should watch,” and has helped raise awareness of the importance of sex differences to understanding women’s health. Most recently, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education honored her as one of the top “25 Women in Higher Education and Beyond.”

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 the local and national arenas, including the chair of the board of the Boston Public Health Commission, member of the National Institutes of Health Advisory Committee on Research on Women’s Health, and membership in numerous national and international boards and committees. She is a respected board leader, serving on numerous nonprofit boards, most recently including the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the newly formed Mary Christie Foundation, whose mission is to have an impact on policy focused on the health and wellness of students globally.

President Johnson attended Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges, received her 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 puppies, Buddy and Hope.


TED Talk