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L. Johnson

Senior Associate

Contact Info

Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, 5200 Eastern Avenue

Research Interests

health disparities; childhood obesity; social determinants of health; patient-provider communication
Experiences & Accomplishments
Rachel L. J. Thornton, MD, PhD is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University in the Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.  She is a board certified pediatrician and public health researcher who previously served as a Health Policy Advisor to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and has worked on the National Prevention Strategy and Implementation Plan. Her policy work addresses Health in All Policies with an emphasis on housing, community development, and urban planning policy. Her research focuses on childhood obesity and cardiovascular disease risk, health disparities, and social determinants of health. She has expertise in racial/ethnic disparities in heath and health care and 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. She directed a health impact assessment (HIA) of Baltimore City's comprehensive zoning code rewrite, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which was highlighted in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2014 Health Equity Guide and has been selected by the Society of Practitioners of Health Impact Assessment (SOPHIA) as a model HIA Report. This HIA also contributed to significant revisions in Baltimore City’s proposed zoning code related to alcohol outlet location and density.

After receiving her B. A. from New York University, Dr. Thornton received an M.D. from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and a Ph.D. in Health Policy and Management from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She then completed residency training in Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She received additional fellowship and postdoctoral training in behavioral aspects of cardiovascular disease and general academic pediatrics and later in public policy as a White House Fellow. 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.
Honors & Awards
Phi Beta Kappa, National Honors Society, Inductee (1996)
Delta Omega, National Public Health Honors Society, Inductee (2004)
Ambulatory Pediatric Association, New Century Scholar (2005-2007)
The Francis F. Schwentker, M.D. Award for Excellence in research by Residents and Fellows in the Department of Pediatrics at The Johns Hopkins Hospital (2006)
Select Publications
My research contributions to date are reflected in my publications in the following areas: 1) understanding the relationship of medical visit communication and health system bias to racial/ethnic disparities in health and health care, 2) using zoning policy in improving the health-promoting potential of neighborhood environments with an emphasis on child health outcomes, and 3) understanding the role of interventions targeting social determinants of health in general and housing policy interventions specifically in addressing health disparities.
  • Showell NN, Washington Cole KO, Johnson KA, Thornton RLJ. Understanding the impact of neighborhood characteristics on parental preferences and diet and physical activity behaviors in low-income minority preschoolers. Clinical Pediatrics. (in press).
  • Johnson RL, Roter D, Powe NR, Cooper LA. 2004. Patient Race/Ethnicity and Quality of Patient-Physician Communication During Medical Visits. American Journal of Public Health, December; 94(12):2084-2090. PMCID: PMC1448596
  • Thornton RLJ, Greiner A, Fichtenberg CM, Feingold B, Ellen JM, Jennings JM. 2013. Achieving Healthy Zoning Policy in Baltimore: Results of a Health Impact Assessment of the TransForm Baltimore Zoning Code Rewrite. Public Health Reports. November/December 128(S3):87-103.
  • Bostic R, Thornton RLJ, Rudd EC, Sternthal MJ. Health in All Policies: The Role Of the US Department Of Housing And Urban Development And Present And Future Challenges. Health Affairs. September 2012 31:2130-2137; published ahead of print August 22, 2012. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2011.1014. PMID: 22914341
  • Thornton RLJ, Glover C, Glick D, Cene CW, Henderson J, Williams D. Evaluating Strategies for Reducing Health Disparities by Addressing the Social Determinants of Health. Health Affairs. August 2016;35(8):1416-1423.