In Memoriam: Fannie Gaston-Johansson, 1938-2023

Fannie Gaston-Johansson, a long-time faculty member of the School of Nursing at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, died at her home in Baltimore on January 7. She was 84 years old.

Dr. Gaston-Johansson grew up in Hickory, North Carolina, and was valedictorian of her high school class. She earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from nearby Winston-Salem State University. Dr. Gaston-Johansson continued her studies at the University of California, San Francisco, where she received a master’s degree in medical, surgical, and psychiatric nursing. She traveled to Sweden as an exchange student where she met her husband, Dr. Sonny Johansson and raised a family. While raising her four children and working full-time, she earned a Ph.D. in 1985 at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

Dr. Gaston-Johansson was a member of the University of Nebraska Medical Center faculty from 1985 to 1993 where she served as an associate professor and the director of nursing research and quality improvement. She joined the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing in 1993 as an associate professor and held the Elsie M. Lawler Endowed Chair throughout her tenure. In 1998, Professor Gaston-Johansson became the first Black woman to become a tenured professor at Johns Hopkins University. For a time, she held joint appointments at Johns Hopkins and the University of Gothenburg.

Her work and research focused on symptom and pain management, quality of life, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, and racial and ethnic health disparities. A scientist who authored upwards of 100 scientific articles, Professor Gaston-Johansson was also an inventor, holding U.S. and international patents on the Pain-O-Meter, an assessment tool that provides a standardized way to measure pain. It has been used by hospitals in the United States and overseas.

In 2007, Gaston-Johansson was named the inaugural chair of the department of acute and chronic care at John Hopkins Nursing, as the school’s faculty was organized in academic departments for the first time. She also served as director of the school’s Center on Health Disparities Research. She was named professor emerita upon her retirement in 2014.

In May 2022, Johns Hopkins University renamed the Target Opportunity Program, the Fannie Gaston-Johansson Faculty of Excellence Program. Since 2015 this program has played a key role in increasing faculty diversity at Johns Hopkins University.

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