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Dr. Paula Johnson  

President of Wellesley College; Innovator Known for Advancing the Education, Health & Well-Being of Women

Paula A. Johnson is the 14th president of Wellesley College. She is an innovator recognized globally 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 pathbreaking physician-scientist and educator who is an expert in health care, public health, and health policy.

Johnson has dedicated her scientific and medical career to furthering our knowledge of the biological differences between women and men. She has led the way in ensuring that research findings are effectively translated in order to improve health care for women and has used her voice to effect important changes in policy so that sex differences are included in research. By uncovering gender biases in these arenas and advancing science, she has helped transform how medicine is practiced and how research is conducted, touching the lives of countless women.

Before coming to Wellesley, 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.

Johnson is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy 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 received the Stephen Smith Medal for Distinguished Contributions in Public Health by the New York Academy of Medicine.

Since becoming president of Wellesley in July 2016, she has advanced women’s higher education, championing cross-campus efforts to integrate the ideals of inclusive excellence into every aspect of academic and residential life. She has matched that with a belief that health and wellness are crucial to academic and personal success, reimagining how a college promotes resilience, resolve, and balance in its students at a time when this is needed most. Under her leadership, the College is also developing new opportunities in STEM fields by drawing on the synergies found at the intersection of science, the humanities, and social sciences.

In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down schools and college campuses across the country, Johnson joined Massachusetts Governor Baker’s 14-member Higher Education Working Group (HEWG) to develop a framework to safely reopen campuses. She also chairs the Massachusetts Higher Education Testing Group. Her 2021 essay, “Learning the lessons of Covid, in order to teach them,” was published by the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership.

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. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York.

Speech Topics


Every Cell has a Sex

Global Women's Health/Leadership

Leadership to Improve Women's Health

Healthcare Reform and Affordable Care Act and Women's Health

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