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Honorary Degree Recipients- 2022

Paula A. Johnson, MD, MPH, is a cardiologist, scientist and educator who in 2016 became the first African American to serve as president of Wellesley College. Throughout her career, Dr. Johnson has improved health outcomes for women. She was a pioneer in developing the evidence and advocating for consideration of biological differences between men and women in health, disease and medical treatments. Her work has revealed how gender biases have hampered medical research and, at times, limited women’s ability to participate in scientific research. In 2018, she co-chaired the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine’s landmark report Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Prior to joining Wellesley College, Johnson was the Grayce A. Young Professor of Medicine in Women’s Health at Harvard Medical School, professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and led the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology and the Division of Women’s Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Johnson has served on Governor Baker’s Higher Education Working Group and chairs the Massachusetts Higher Education Testing Group. A member of the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Johnson holds AB, MD and MPH degrees from Harvard University.

James O’Connell, MD, MTheol, is the president of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP). His work as a “street doctor,” serving some of Boston’s poorest and most medically frail residents, began in 1985 when he founded BHCHP with a staff of eight. Since then, the program has grown to more than 500 employees and includes two hospital-based clinics; more than 30 shelter-based clinics; a 124-bed medical respite program; and street outreach across the City of Boston. Under his leadership, BHCHP cares for more than 11,000 individuals and families each year, providing high-quality integrated medical, dental, behavioral and mental health care and case management services. Grounded in his commitment to serving the medical and social needs of some of the city’s most vulnerable individuals, Dr. O’Connell is recognized nationally as one of the foremost leaders and advocates for homeless people to have greater access to health care. He was instrumental in designing and implementing the nation’s first computerized medical record for a homeless program; serves as editor of the seminal document The Health Care of Homeless Persons: A Manual of Communicable Diseases and Common Problems in Shelters and on the Streets; and authored the book Stories from the Shadows: Reflections of a Street Doctor. The recipient of the 2012 Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, O’Connell holds degrees from the University of Notre Dame, Cambridge University and Harvard Medical School, where he is assistant professor of medicine.