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Johanna Luttrell, Ph.D., CHW


Deputy Director, Programs

Interim Board Secretary 


I am a mom to an awesome 4-year-old boy. During and after pregnancy, I found social support for new parenthood to be temporary and expensive. That experience gave me the impetus to help provide long lasting and low-cost social care and connection to other new parents. 

A year before I was pregnant, I was suddenly paralyzed with a life-threatening immune disorder. I recovered, and a year later, I was at home again, trying to take care of a newborn while recovering from a C-Section. The contrast in support I received from those two experiences was very jarring. When I was paralyzed with a rare disease, I had a team of physical therapists, doctors, friends and family monitoring and caring for my needs. When I had a C-Section, I had one follow up with my OB-GYN, and after that all care was directed to my baby. The cultural messages I was getting was ‘suck it up’ and ‘every mother has been through this’. There was much less support for an experience that was just as hard, if not harder, than being suddenly paralyzed, even though the experience of new motherhood is so much more common!


Those personal experiences of being a patient and a mother changed me and gave me a sense of what was important. I want to help change the experience of new motherhood from one of isolation to feeling as a part of a community and receiving full medical care.  



Dr. Luttrell joined PUSH in 2021 in the role of Deputy Director of Programs and currently serves as the Interim Board Secretary. In 2023, she resigned her position as instructional assistant professor at the Hobby School of Public Affairs, University of Houston to focus her efforts on PUSH. Dr. Luttrell has a Ph.D. from University of Oregon and moved to Texas in 2013. She specializes in human rights, race, and gender, and teaches classes in global feminisms, public policy, and ethics. Her book, White People and Black Lives Matter: Ignorance, Empathy, and Justice focuses on how the white public can have more empathy for and solidarity with Black-led social movements.  She also writes on restorative justice. Dr. Luttrell is a certified Community Health Worker (CHW) and brings her care about feminisms and racial justice to work in maternal and family health support.

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