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Rebecca A. JohnsonPhD, RN, FAAN, FNAP

Dr. Johnson completed her Associates Degree in nursing at Rock Valley College, Rockford, IL. She then completed her Baccalaureate Degree in nursing from the University of Dubuque, Iowa and her Masters of Philosophy from University of Edinburgh, Scotland (as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar). Subsequently she completed her Ph.D. in nursing at University of Iowa. Before moving to Missouri, she was a tenured nursing professor at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois. She joined the faculty at University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing in 1999 as the Millsap Professor of Gerontological Nursing & Public Policy and shortly thereafter earned a joint appointment in the College of Veterinary Medicine for her research on human-companion animal interaction. She is a tenured Full Professor in both nursing and veterinary medicine. Her externally funded program of research addresses wellness in people undergoing transitions (e.g. relocation to supportive housing) with the benefits of human-companion animal interaction. Her research shows that companion animals may provide a unique source of social support and facilitate motivation for exercise and other wellness-promoting behaviors among people in transition, including older adults, military veterans, abused children, families of autistic children, and prison inmates.

In 2005, she founded and began serving as Director of the Research Center for Human Animal Interaction (ReCHAI) at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. ReCHAI’s mission is to conduct research on human-animal interaction, educate students and the public about it, and facilitate research of other faculty and graduate students in this topic area.

Author of many publications in peer reviewed journals and book chapters in both the aging and human-animal interaction fields, her two books are published by Purdue University Press entitled, “Health Benefits of Dog Walking,” and “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound.”

In 2001 she was an inaugural inductee into the Rock Valley College Alumni Hall of Fame, Rockford, Illinois. Later, in 2003 she was recognized with the University of Iowa, College of Nursing’s Distinguished Alumni Award for Achievement. In 2005 she received the University of Missouri William H. Byler Distinguished Professor award which is given for “outstanding abilities, performance and character.” In 2007, she was inducted as a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing (FAAN). Later, in 2009, her undergraduate course, entitled “Human-Companion Animal Interaction” won the Humane Society of the US’s 11th Annual “Animals and Society” Distinguished Established Course Award. The course is taken by 110 undergraduate students annually and is cited on the list of “Courses not to be missed at University of Missouri.” In 2012 she was inducted into the Veterinary Medicine Section of the National Academies of Practice. In 2016 she was awarded the Alumni Professional Achievement Award by University of Dubuque, Iowa. Rebecca has presented her research findings on both aging and human-animal interaction nationally and internationally, and served for 6 years on the National Board of Pet Partners, Inc., and as President of the International Association of Human Animal Interaction Organizations.

A lifelong pet lover, she is the parent of a Gordon Setter named “MacCallum” (“Callie”). Her hobbies include service activities with her Rotary Club (Columbia South), collecting antiques, gardening, and participating in the various activities of the Mid-Missouri Corvette Club.