Faculty diversity program renamed to honor Fannie Gaston-Johansson

Fannie Gaston-Johansson’s friends, family, and colleagues gathered April 1
Fannie Gaston-Johansson’s friends, family, and colleagues gathered April 19
Johns Hopkins University’s faculty diversity program renamed to honor legacy of Fannie Gaston-Johansson

A member of the School of Nursing faculty for more than two decades and the first Black woman to become a tenured professor at Johns Hopkins, Gaston-Johansson was known for her life’s work studying health disparities, pain management, and palliative care, as well as her dedication to fostering inclusion

Family, friends, and colleagues gathered April 19 at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing to celebrate one of its icons, the namesake behind the Fannie Gaston-Johansson Faculty of Excellence Program.

The festive event honored Gaston-Johansson , who died last year, as well as the program that now bears her name. The Target of Opportunity Program, an initiative to increase faculty diversity, was renamed in 2022 for Gaston-Johansson as part of the work of the Diverse Names and Narratives Project , an ongoing effort across the enterprise to more visibly honor and celebrate remarkable people from the institution’s history, with a specific focus on those from historically marginalized and underrepresented groups.

"Fannie lit the way for researchers from long underrepresented backgrounds to ascend to the professoriate, a field with doors that were once firmly shut."

Ron Daniels

In testament to the enduring impact Gaston-Johansson-the first Black woman to become a tenured professor at Johns Hopkins-the room quickly filled with people from her life: colleagues, neighbors, and dozens of family members. As guests waited for the ceremony to begin, they had the opportunity to view a small exhibit on Gaston-Johansson’s life that included such artifacts as yearbooks, research publications, and the Painometer, a revolutionary diagnostic tool she invented that helps patients better convey their pain.

School of Nursing Dean Sarah Szanton , Nurs ’93, ’07 (PhD), gave the welcome address and land acknowledgement. Johns Hopkins University President Ron Daniels then delivered remarks on Gaston-Johansson’s indelible legacy.

"In her two-plus decades here, Fannie inspired hundreds of nurses to set examples for high quality patient care in their communities," Daniels said. "She paved new paths for students to pursue research through the minority global health disparities research training program. And Fannie lit the way for researchers from long underrepresented backgrounds to ascend to the professoriate, a field with doors that were once firmly shut. It is only fitting then that we renamed in her honor our initiative devoted to faculty excellence and diversity, a core commitment of our second Johns Hopkins roadmap."

Other speakers included Alexis Bakos, Nurs ’00 (PhD), a mentee of Gaston-Johansson; Amanda M. Brown , Nurs ’04 (PGF), Fannie Gaston-Johansson Associate Professor, Department of Neurology and Neuroscience; Roland J. Thorpe Jr. , associate vice provost for faculty diversity; and Christian Johansson, School of Nursing Advisory Board Member and son of Gaston-Johansson, who recalled his mother’s tenacious spirit:


"Mom grew up in the deep south at a time when opportunities and education were severely limited for a young Black woman. But she did not limit herself or her expectations of herself. She never took no for an answer. She marched to the beat of her own drummer, and she was committed to being the best and expected that from others, including us kids."

Established as part of the Faculty Diversity Initiative in 2015, the Fannie Gaston-Johansson Faculty of Excellence Program has been a key component in increasing faculty diversity over the past five years. Its impact includes the recruitment of 30 tenure track faculty across the university.


Fannie Gaston-Johansson was an internationally renowned nurse educator, researcher, and clinical practitioner. In 2007, she was named the first chair of the School of Nursing Department of Acute and Chronic Care. Gaston-Johansson directed the school’s now-retired Center on Health Disparities Research, which worked to advance understanding of health disparities across the lifespan. Her research focused on end-of-life issues with an emphasis on strategies to manage pain and other symptoms in patients with cancer and terminal or chronic illnesses. She was named to the Maryland Task Force on Health Care Access and Reimbursement by former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and received the National Black Nurses Association’s Trailblazer Award as well as citations from the U.S. Congress and the government of Sweden for her international and domestic research endeavors.