Sarah Johansen MED’89/’90 – Medicine, Mentorship, and Pies

Sarah Johansen sat in the breakfast nook at her home in Hanover last October, chatting on the phone, when Rebecca Stern MED’19 walked in. Rebecca and her husband were among three alumni couples staying with Johansen and her husband, Tom, for a fall leaf getaway.

“I’m talking with a reporter,” Johansen said. “She wants to know about some of the things I do as a volunteer at Dartmouth.”

Rebecca smiled and took the phone. “What doesn’t Sarah do is the easier way to describe it,” she said. “She’s just an incredibly supportive mentor.”

An assistant professor of emergency medicine and of community and family medicine, Johansen is a longtime member of the Alumni Council and has also served as its president. She participates in the White Coat & Stethoscope Campaign program, advises Dartmouth’s Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) chapter, chairs the Alumni Recognition Committee, and has chaired the Syvertsen Fellows and Scholars Committee.

She was also named to the Geisel Academy of Master Educators, but she waves it off, preferring to talk about her PHR students who have developed, over five years, a health clinic to assist immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S. “The students find not just friends, but heart colleagues with mutual interest in things that are bigger than themselves.”

A Cornell graduate, Johansen arrived at Dartmouth in 1985 with Tom and their 6-month-old daughter, making her the first mom enrolled in the medical school. “My mother was supportive, but a realist. She said to me, ‘You know, you can’t save the world and have a baby.’”

But Johansen had felt a spirit of community on the Dartmouth campus and recognized it as a place where people’s unique values are supported. Jonathan Ross, MD, a professor of medicine and of community and family medicine, invited Johansen and Tom to his home and introduced them to his family. He reached out periodically to ask about her progress. “He believed I was going to do important things. And he helped me believe in myself.”

Flip through Johansen’s photos now, and you’ll see students toasting holidays in the home where she and Tom raised their three kids. You’ll see bonfires, pumpkin carving, and pies—lots of pies. How many students have pulled up a chair at their table? Johansen lost count long ago.

Written by Ann Hinga Klein