Johns Hopkins School of Nursing (JHSON) Professor Sarah L. Szanton, PhD, ANP, FAAN, has been named the inaugural Endowed Professor in Health Equity and Social Justice. This is the school’s second endowed professorship to have been established in 2018 and a meaningful reflection of strong capital support for JHSON’s mission and goals.
Through the professorship, a permanent position will be created to solidify the school’s influence and leadership in advocating for universal health access, equity in care locally and globally, and understanding how gender, race, and other social determinants impact health and well-being.
“Dr. Szanton is qualified, committed, and an excellent fit to forge this important and transformational agenda,” says Patricia Davidson, PhD, MEd, RN, FAAN, dean of JHSON. “Her work with low-income, older adults throughout Baltimore has expanded across the nation and world and has reformed how we look at access to health care, especially among the most vulnerable populations. This is an opportunity for her to continue the good work and further advocate for equity and justice in health.”
Established and funded by JHSON alumna and current Nursing Advisory Board member Susan Epstein, class of 1966, the gift also came with the request to have the professorship named in honor of Dean Patricia Davidson for her deep commitment to health equity and social justice. In accordance with university policy, the chair will be named the “Patricia M. Davidson Health Equity and Social Justice Chair” upon completion of Davidson’s tenure as dean.
“This is a well-deserved tribute to Dean Davidson and a true reflection of her work that has prioritized health and well-being for all,” says Epstein. "After a few conversations with Dean Davidson, I recognized our shared interest in the role of nurses as advocates for health equity and social justice. Her commitment to global welfare and equity is evident in everything she does, and this professorship will carry her legacy forward among Hopkins nurses and beyond. I’m also excited to see Dr. Szanton step into this role and bring the school forward in an area that is so critical to nursing and today’s health care environment.”
Recently named director of JHSON’s Center for Innovative Care in Aging, Szanton leads the school’s efforts in advancing and supporting the health and well-being of older adults and their families. Her early career taking care of homebound, low-income elderly patients in Baltimore led her to develop the Community Aging in Place Advancing Better Living for Elders (CAPABLE) program. By combining home visits from a nurse, occupational therapist, and handyman, CAPABLE helps older adults live more safely and comfortably in their homes. It has been shown to decrease disability and depression and improve self-care among participants while offering 10 times its return on investment. CAPABLE has been expanded to 22 cities in 11 states and in Australia.
Szanton also investigates the impact of food and energy access on health outcomes, strategies for preventing falls among older adults, and policy changes for cost-effective, tax-saving programs that improve health. She has been a recipient of the American Academy of Nursing Edgerunner Award, the Baltimore City Health Equity Leadership Award, the Senior Service America Research Award and named a National Influencer in Aging by Next Avenue.
“I am deeply thankful and humbled by the donation of Susan Epstein and the honor I have to be the inaugural chair for the professorship,” says Szanton. “I have received immeasurable support from the university, my colleagues across divisions and schools, and my family and friends to make this opportunity possible. My passion is to drive equity in aging so that all can live to their fullest capacity. I’m excited to expand the possibilities in research and policy through this new professorship.”