Celebration of Fannie Gaston-Johansson Faculty of Excellence Program

Thank you, Sarah [Szanton], and good afternoon.

I am so, so delighted to officially celebrate the Fannie Gaston-Johansson Faculty of Excellence Program, a testament to Dr. Gaston-Johansson’s deep commitment to diversifying the Johns Hopkins faculty.

Today’s celebration is also a testament to Fannie’s impact on so many, including those gathered here today: our School of Nursing colleagues, friends, and advisors; the members of our Diverse Names and Narratives committee; and, of course, Fannie’s family, represented today by her son Christian. We are only missing Fannie, but I believe we are conjuring her remarkable spirit as we celebrate her legacy.

As I’m sure Fannie would be the first to tell you, being remarkable—which she was—is not only about amassing a litany of individual accomplishments. For her, being truly remarkable is rooted in a continued commitment to helping others.

And Fannie was the living embodiment of that commitment, evident in a ceaseless devotion to clinical excellence, a determination to break down—and hold wide open—doors to new fields and unexplored possibilities, and a passion to provide a voice to those too often silenced.

Nowhere was this on better display than in Fannie’s pursuit of her dissertation at the University of Gothenburg.

There, she interviewed patients in Swedish, a language she had just begun to master no less, to understand their experiences of pain.

What she found across these interviews was a shared sense of frustration, a feeling of not being heard by their doctors when describing sensations of aching, gnawing, or burning.

Fannie looked for a way to help—and she found it by developing a portable, eight-inch plastic wand with tabs, affective words, and diagrams, helping patients translate the kind of pain they’re feeling and where they’re feeling it—and providing them with a clear, unmistakable voice in their care.

That small wand—the Pain-O-Meter—has now become a critical tool for pain management, used by physicians and practitioners around the world.

That was quintessential, remarkable Fannie, always in search of ways to help others. And she embraced this commitment time and time again.

Later in her career, she launched Sweden’s first doctoral nursing program at the University of Gothenburg, helping inspire nurses to set a new standard of patient-focused care in communities throughout the country.

And she did it here at Johns Hopkins. Fannie rose in just five years to become the first Black woman tenured full professor in our institution’s history, the first and only among thousands in our professoriate. Although she was often the lone voice, she never hesitated to use hers to advocate on behalf of others.

In her two-plus decades here, Fannie inspired hundreds of nurses to set the example for high-quality patient care in their communities.

She paved a new path 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 once welded firmly shut.

It is only fitting, then, that we renamed our initiative devoted to faculty excellence and diversity in her honor. A core commitment of our second Johns Hopkins Roadmap, the Fannie Gaston-Johansson Faculty of Excellence Program will enable us to hire 30 faculty to leverage their scholarship, spanning disciplines, to address enduring inequities in research and health care.

Through this program, we will continually nurture the scholarly endeavors and professional growth of a new generation of faculty, ensuring they find and use their own voices on behalf of others—as Fannie did.

Christian: from all of us at Johns Hopkins, we are grateful you and the Gaston-Johansson Family have entrusted us with honoring Fannie’s legacy in this way.

Now, I’d like to invite Alexis Bakos, a School of Nursing alumnus and one of Fannie’s treasured mentees, to say a few words.