Women Who Inspire Us: Paula Johnson, M.D., M.P.H.

portrait of Paula Johnson

This month we're inspired by Paula Johnson, M.D., M.P.H. Previously Chief of the Division of Women's Health at Harvard Medical School and now the President of Wellesley College, Dr. Johnson has devoted her career to thinking about health from a woman's perspective. 

"There are major differences in the ways that women and men experience disease," she has said. "Men and women are different down to the cellular and molecular levels." 

A cardiologist by training, Dr. Johnson was a pioneer in asking whether standard cardiac care works for women. Her work uncovered key differences in how men and women experience heart disease and respond to treatments. 

Her discoveries also led her to become a health policy expert, focused on advancing the well-being of women. 

"Women's health is an equal rights issue as important as equal pay, and it's an issue of the quality and integrity of science and medicine," Dr. Johnson said in her 2013 TED talk

She advocates for researchers to take women into account from the very start of their work, and to always analyze their data and findings for sex differences. 

Dr. Johnson also has advice for all women to help push health care in the right direction: 

"Ask your doctor, is this disease or treatment different in women? Your doctor may not know the answer, but will likely go looking." 

Dr. Johnson is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, one of the highest honors in the field, and was elected this year to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a high honor in academia.