Winner of the 2018 Wainwright Social Justice Award

Paula A. Johnson

Paula A. Johnson, president of Wellesley College, is an innovator recognized all over the world for advancing, promoting, and defending women’s education, health, and well-being. 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. With a remarkable track record of accomplishments—including founding the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital—she has led in the field of women’s health, taking an approach to biology that integrates insights from sociology, economics, and many other fields.

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

Her research—and the research on health care models, and training programs of the Connors Center—has had an impact on women across the country through its influence on health care and health policy reforms. Her work has also influenced and educated emerging leaders beyond the borders of the United States who are seeking to improve the health of women globally. Recently, President Johnson co-chaired the landmark report of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, entitled Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

President 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.

In her two years as president of Wellesley, 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, and has reimagined how a college can promote 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 across all fields by drawing on the synergies found at the intersection of science, the humanities, and social sciences.

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 are the parents of a son and a daughter.

Past Recipients of Social Justice Award

Year Name Organization
2017 Chau-ming Lee Executive Director, Asian American Civic Association
2016 Marylou Sudders Executive Office of Health & Human Services, Commonwealth of Massachusetts
2015 John E. Rosenthal Meredith Management, Stop Handgun Violence, Friends of Boston’s Homeless, & Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI)
2014 Jeffrey C. Riley Superintendent of Lawrence Public Schools
2013 Mayor Thomas Menino City of Boston
2012 Rebecca Haag AIDS Action Committee
2011 Suzanne Kenney Project Place
2010 Eva Millona Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition
2009 David Waters Community Servings
2008 Mindy Lubber Ceres
2007 Dr. Jim O'Connell Boston Healthcare for the Homeless
2006 Julie Marston & Dr. Cal Cohen Community Research Initiative of N.E. ("CRI")
2005 Carol Rose ACLU of Massachusetts
2004 Mary Bonauto Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders
2003 Anne Peretz & Cheryl Vines The Family Center
2002 Dr. Julia Brody Silent Spring Institute
2001 Jonathan Scott Victory Programs
2000 Sister Barbara Whelan Bridge Over Troubled Waters
1999 Philip Mangano MA Housing & Shelter Alliance
1998 Robert A. Sable Greater Boston Legal Services
1997 Anna Bissonnette, Elsie Frank & Ruth Cowin Committee to End Elder Homelessness
1996 Kip Tiernan Rosie's Place
1995 Todd Summers AIDS Housing Corporation
1994 Sister Jeannette Normandin Ruah
1993 Westy Egmont Greater Boston Food Bank
1992 Loretta Davis Cambridge YWCA
1991 Jackie Jenkins-Scott Dimock Community Health Center
1990 Lisa Chapnick Public Facilities Department
1989 Richard Ring Pine Street Inn