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Dr. Joann Elisabeth Manson

Year of Birth / Death

b. 1953

Medical School

Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine



Career Path

Internal medicine
Research: Endocrinology
Dr. Joann Elisabeth Manson


Dr. Manson received Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s first annual Mary Horrigan Connors Award for "outstanding leadership in women’s health."
Dr. Manson was the first woman to be chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School.


Joann Manson was influenced by her high school chemistry teacher, a woman who supported the idea of women pursuing a career in medicine.


Dr. JoAnn Manson has been a leading researcher in the two largest women's health research projects ever launched in the United States—the first large scale study of women begun in 1976 as the Harvard Nurses' Health Study, and the National Institute of Health's Women's Health Initiative, which involved 164,000 healthy women. Until the early 1990s, research on human health was usually done from all-male subject groups, and the results generated were thought to apply to both sexes. Federal regulation now mandates the inclusion of women in all research studies, as men and women may react differently to certain diseases and drug remedies, a fact Dr. Manson's research efforts have helped to establish.

JoAnn Elisabeth Manson was in 1953, in Cleveland, Ohio. She comes from a strong scientific background; her mother was a medical social worker and her father worked as an engineer for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Her high-school chemistry teacher encouraged her to train in the sciences, yet her school friends knew her artistic side best, particularly her painting, sculpture, and musical talents playing the harp.

She was able to develop all her interests at Harvard University, reviewing dance and theater for the Harvard Independent while studying pre-med. Her well-rounded approach to life and to work has earned her the respect of colleagues and patients alike.

Dr. Manson is best known to the public for her sensible advice on healthy living, which stems from her research on women and heart disease. With co-author Patricia Amend, she recently published The 30-Minute Fitness Solution: A Four-Step Plan for Women of All Ages, which explains her key idea of the preventative health benefits of gentle exercise. She has long been advising her patients to take up small lifestyle changes for long term health benefits, recognizing that no-cost activities like brisk walking can be a simple way of improving the health of women of all backgrounds and fitness levels. She often uses her prescription pad to write up an exercise regime for a patient instead of a course of pills.

Patients applaud her "bedside manner." Her medical practice serves 400 patients, yet she takes time to tailor her care to fit in with individual schedules and interests. Such attention to the individual, not simply the medical problem, has recently been honored by Boston Magazine who listed her as one of their "Top Docs for Women" in 2001

Dr. Manson's colleagues also credit her ability to deal with "difficult personalities" and competitive environments. Such qualities serve her well at work—in 1999 she was appointed full professor at Harvard Medical School, where women hold only 9 percent of faculty professorships.

Not withstanding her own professional achievements, Dr. Manson is still well aware of the gender disparities in academic medicine. As she commented in The Houston Chronicle, "[w]omen are still confronting barriers to their success. The glass ceiling may have some cracks in it, but it hasn't yet come crashing down." Dr. Manson is playing her own part in making a change by participating in mentoring programs and giving young practitioners extensive guidance and support. She is extremely proud of the students she has helped, and lists their professional achievements in her C.V.

In 1997, along with Oprah Winfrey and former First Lady Betty Ford, she was honored by American Health for Women magazine at a ceremony for their "Ten Heroes in Women's Health." Ladies Home Journal named her one of their top ten "Champions of Women's Health" in 2000.

As well as her numerous roles as researcher, physician, teacher, and writer, Dr. Manson is a mother. She and her husband, Christopher Ames, try to balance work and family life with their two children.

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