During a career spanning several decades, Dr. John Johnston has shown time and again a commitment to caring for the most vulnerable among us, specifically young people from difficult backgrounds.
While in medical school, Dr. Johnston was one of the founders of the Student Health Action Coalition (SHAC), the oldest student-run free medical clinic in the nation. Following his time at UNC, Dr. Johnston completed a pediatric residency at the University of Washington-Seattle. He then returned home to North Carolina and worked 15 years for a successful private pediatric practice.
Dr. Johnston then was drawn to serve when the Mecklenburg Medical Alliance developed a teen-focused healthcare practice. As the medical director of the Teen Health Connection, he helped to create a nationally recognized, free standing, family centered teen healthcare practice that combined both innovative educational initiatives and a strong teaching program for medical students and residents.
Twenty-two years after its founding, Teen Health Connection now stands as the only comprehensive medical and mental healthcare practice for adolescents in the region, offering medical providers, therapists, a dietitian and health educators. It also serves as the medical home for youth under the care of the Department of Social Services.
In her letter recommending Dr. Johnston for this honor, Libby Safrit, MA, executive director of Teen Health Connection, wrote the following: “Loved by patients and staff, admired and respected by peers, he taught by instruction and example what it meant to be a physician who took joy in offering his best effort no matter the patient’s problems, background or means.”
Now retired, Dr. Johnston remains active as a passionate advocate for making certain that every adolescent is healthy, safe and successful. In honor of this passion and commitment, each year Teen Health Connection awards the Johnston-Ziegler Youth Leadership Award, a merit-based scholarship named in recognition of Dr. Johnston and Barbara Ziegler, Teen Health Connection’s founding executive director. The scholarship recognizes a local high school senior who “has demonstrated outstanding leadership, advocacy, or service for adolescents.”
This year, we are proud to add another honor to his extensive list of accomplishments, the Distinguished Medical Alumni Award.