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Rachel Lyn Johnson Thornton, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Languages: English, Spanish
Expertise: Adolescent Medicine, General Pediatrics, Pediatrics
Research Interests: Racial and ethnic disparities in health and health care; Childhood obesity; Social determinants of health
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Dr. Rachel Johnson Thornton is an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She holds a joint appointment in the Department of Health, Behavior and Society at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Dr. Thornton graduated from the New York University College of Arts and Sciences, where she was also named valedictorian of her class. She received her M.D. from Johns Hopkins, where she also completed a residency in pediatrics and a postdoctoral research fellowship on behavioral aspects of heart and vascular disease. Dr. Thornton earned her Ph.D. in health policy and management from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
She is a former White House Fellow and served as a health policy advisor to senior staff at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Her policy work addresses Health in All Policies with an emphasis on housing, community development and urban planning policy.
Dr. Thornton’s research focuses on childhood obesity and cardiovascular disease risk, health disparities, and social determinants of health. She has expertise in racial/ethnic disparities in health and health care. She is committed to informing the development of novel interventions to eliminate health disparities by addressing individual-, family- and community-level factors that contribute to disparities in child and adolescent obesity and cardiovascular disease risk.
With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, she directed a 2009 health impact assessment (HIA) of Baltimore City's comprehensive zoning code rewrite, which was highlighted in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2014 Health Equity Guide. Dr. Thornton is a board-certified general pediatrician and maintains a primary care practice at the Children’s Medical Practice at Johns Hopkins Bayview, where she also teaches residents.
- Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Centers & Institutes
- MD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (2004)
- Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine / Pediatrics (2007)
- Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine / Pediatrics (2009)
- American Board of Pediatrics / Pediatrics (2007)
Research & Publications
Dr. Thornton’s research examines racial and ethnic disparities in health and health care, with a focus on childhood obesity. She has been the PI and project director on a qualitative pilot study in 10 Baltimore City neighborhoods funded by the DC-Baltimore Research Center on Child Health Disparities to examine parents' and children's perceptions of neighborhood influences on child diet and physical activity behaviors.
Her research emphasizes social determinants of health, interdisciplinary approaches to research, and use of mixed methodologies to identify modifiable mechanisms for racial/ethnic disparities in child health. Dr. Thornton is committed to informing the development of novel interventions that improve population health by addressing individual-, family- and community-level factors to reduce and eliminate child health disparities in general and disparities in child and adolescent obesity in particular.
Activities & Honors
- Small Grants Program, Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute, 2011
- White House Fellow, 2010 - 2011
- Pilot Grant Program Recipient, The Center for Behavior and Health, The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine