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Sara B. Johnson, PhD

  • Associate Professor

Departmental Affiliations

Center & Institute Affiliations

Contact Information

200 N. Wolfe Street
Room 2017
Baltimore, Maryland 21287


Rales Center for the Integration of Health & Education

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PhD, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 2005
MPH, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 2001
BA, University of California, Los Angeles, 1997


Dr. Johnson’s research interest is in understanding how social experiences (e.g., poverty, family relationships, neighborhood characteristics, life events) shape the biology of child and adolescent development. She has examined the role of early life stress in shaping self-regulatory development beginning in the fetal period. Specifically, she is interested in self-regulation as a key source of resilience. Other research interests include neurodevelopment in adolescence and its implications for adolescent health policy, social influences on neurodevelopmental trajectories, and adolescent injury and violence prevention.

Dr. Johnson serves as the Co-Director of the Rales Center for the Integration of Health and Education in the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. The Center is focused on redesigning school-based health programming to reduce the shared determinants of health and educational disparities. She also directs the Johns Hopkins General Pediatrics Fellowship Program.

Honors and Awards

Advising, Mentoring and Teaching Recognition Award (AMTRA), 2013

JHSPH Excellence in Teaching Award, 2011, 2012, 2013 & 2014

NIH Loan Repayment Program Recipient: 2006-2011

Delta Omega, Alpha Chapter, national public health honorary society,2006

William Haddon, Jr. Fellowship in Injury Prevention, 2004-2005

NIMH Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, Interdisciplinary Research Training on Violence, T32 MH20014, 2001-2003 

Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health Merit Scholarship, 2000-2001 

Phi Beta Kappa, 1997

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Leadership Development Program in Population Health Science, 2105

Named a “Pioneer in Children’s Wellbeing” for "Redesigning school health to address health and educational disparities in Baltimore City", Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Ashoka Changemakers, 2016

  • child health
  • adolescent health
  • lifecourse
  • self-regulation
  • developmental origins of health and disease
  • health disparities
  • neurodevelopment
  • stress and health
  • resilience

Selected publications.

  • Johnson SB, Riis JL, Noble KG. State of the Art Review: Poverty and the Developing Brain. Pediatrics. 2016 Mar 7. pii: peds.2015-3075. [Epub ahead of print] Review. PubMed PMID: 26952506.
  • Riis JL, Granger DA, Minkovitz CS, Bandeen-Roche K, DiPietro JA, Johnson SB. Maternal distress and child neuroendocrine and immune regulation. Soc Sci Med. 2016 Feb;151:206-14.
  • Johnson SB, Riley AW, Granger DA, Riis JA.  The science of early life toxic stress for pediatric practice and advocacy. Pediatrics, 2013;131(2):319–327.
  • Johnson SB, Blum RW, Giedd JN. Adolescent maturity and the brain: the promise and pitfalls of neuroscience research in adolescent health policy. J Adolesc Health. 2009 Sep;45(3):216-21.
  • Bair-Merritt MH, Voegtline K, Granger DA, Ghazarian SR, The Family Life Project Investigators, Johnson SB. Maternal intimate partner violence exposure, child cortisol reactivity and child asthma. Child Abuse and Neglect. 2015; 58:50-57 [PMCID: 4446253]