Cardiologist Breaks Barriers To Improve Women’s Healthcare

The doctor, who was the first Black woman president at Wellesley College, focuses on sex and gender and the intersection of race and ethnicity

The first Black woman president of Wellesley College, cardiologist Dr. Paula Johnson, is improving healthcare globally by breaking down barriers for women.

Dr. Johnson’s professional goal is to improve the health and well-being of women and women of color, especially those suffering the most from inequity, Wired reported. Her work centers around sex and gender and the intersection of race and ethnicity.

Johnson’s career trajectory is a real-life example of women inspiring other women. She connected the dots about the male biases in health research studies after taking a course taught by Ruth Hubbard. Hubbard was the first tenured woman in the Harvard University biology department, Wired noted. Johnson called Hubbard a trailblazer and said, according to the outlet, “She [Hubbard] had moved away from her basic science and started teaching more about some of the societal and social issues having to do with biology, and she taught a course called Biology and Women’s Issues. It was transformational in a number of ways.”

Before that, Johnson and her family struggled to get support for her grandmother’s psychiatric illness. It lit the fire that sparked her journey into healthcare. She told Wired, “My grandmother’s psychiatric illness through a good part of my childhood was, when I look back, a motivating force.”

The doctor who founded the Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital had a hand in effecting change across government policies like birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act. She was also involved in policy changes in 2016 and 2017. She advocated for the U.S. National Institutes of Health to create a new policy to include sex as a biological variable in all of its science in 2016. In 2017, she had a part in raising awareness of sexual harassment of women in engineering and science, which also led to policy changes. 

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